International Travel Tips

August is here and summer travel season is coming to a close! I recently returned from two beautiful weeks exploring Istanbul, Greece, Malta and Italy and was inspired along the way to take a few notes on international travel. Obviously not all of these tips apply to every form of travel, or every place you’ll ever go, but they do apply in general and I wrote them to emphasize the difference in domestic and international travel. Please see below for some ideas on how to have a safe, happy international traveling experience.

International Travel Tips

1. STEP Up and Be Prepared

It didn’t matter how many times I told Josh that I would be fine in Turkey, he was very nervous about my trip. So of course he had to be proven correct and we were in the country on the day of the military coup.  We ended up getting out of Istanbul safely and quickly, but I had been prepared in case of such an emergency. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program is a free service that allows Americans to register with the nearest embassy while traveling abroad, before even leaving the U.S. The program updates you on security risks and threats, as well as provides the embassy with both your contact and your emergency contact’s information in case of an emergency. Sign up for it once, and then just add any travel plans to your account in the future. I signed up before my trip and it was very easy and reassuring to know the embassy knew exactly where we were and what our travel plans were, as well as how to contact Josh if something was to happen.

I will never stop traveling, there is still so much to see out there in this beautiful, diverse world and I endeavor to see as much of it as I possibly can… But rest assured, I am also going to take every precaution and will always take my plans and safety very seriously.

2. Pack Your Patience

If you travel to Europe in the summer, you are going to stand in more lines than Disney World. In July. On a Saturday.* You’ll stand in Passport Control and Customs and at tourist attractions and subway platforms and taxi stands and…well, you get the idea.  Any traveling requires patience, but traveling internationally requires an extra dose of patience as you fumble your way through foreign languages and unknown cities. Everything seems a little more complicated and a lot more frustrating when you aren’t sure where you are going and you’re out of your element. But that’s exactly why you’re traveling to the unknown! The adventure!

So put on your Patience Hat and try to relax…you’re on an adventure.

3. Maps (I know, actual hold-in-your-hand maps)

Remember maps? We used to have them if we went somewhere that we’ve never been and used them to navigate? Well bust them out if you’re going abroad, even if you have an international data plan but especially if you do not! We’ve almost become conditioned to just depend on our smart phones, but its a good idea to have an actual map if you are in a foreign country dealing with a language barrier. I had a map in my hand throughout most of Istanbul, Athens and Rome and it saved us a few times when someone’s phone wasn’t working or Google Maps was on the fritz. And I am proud to say I didn’t get us lost once! I like these Frommer’s Day By Day books because they give some ideas on what to see in a city, as well as have a convenient pull-out map in a pocket in the back.

I have quite the collection...

I have quite the collection…

4. Try New Things

Listen, I am all for enjoying the comforts of home…but remember, you’re not home. And presumably you left home for a reason. So logic dictates that maybe you should try some new things while you’re out exploring the world. You don’t have to try lamb innards in Sicily, but stepping out of your comfort zone is a great way to experience a new culture and give you a good story to tell when you get back home! We even made sure to check out the McDonald’s menu in each country, if only to compare it to home and see what was considered local fast food. It was fascinating.

lamb guts

Lamb brains, intestines, etc. Tasted like pork.               Sign me up, MTV’s The Challenge!

5. Understanding

Nothing teaches you how to be more understanding than adjusting to other cultures. Small things such as European air conditioning (not nearly as powerful as ours here in the South, FYI) can become big things if you let them. Adjusting to customs such as a store being closed from 1-3, or a city basically shutting down on a Monday, can be difficult adjustments for those of us stuck in our American ways. But again, you have presumably left your circle of the world to see someone else’s – adjust your expectations, take a deep breath, and enjoy it. You’ll be home to your Normal and missing the stunning shores of Greece before you know it!

6. Be Ready to Have Your Outlook Changed (and let it)

Believe it or not, the rest of the world does not revolve around the United States. I know, I just blew your mind. But I think as a nation we tend to have a very U.S.-centric mindset and I believe it holds us back as a culture. Traveling internationally exposes you to so many new sights and sounds – but it also can expose your ignorance and biases, if you let it. It is much easier to say “Nope, we don’t want your refugees” while sitting at home…and an entirely different experience to watch them line up at the Athens docks, waiting to escape their war-torn country with children and everything they own in the entire world in their hands. It may not change your mindset, but it will give you a level of understanding you simply could not achieve from your couch. Or seeing soldiers with automatic weapons walking the streets in droves and feeling an overwhelming feeling of gratitude that we live in the United States and are not experiencing military coups (insert Donald Trump presidency “that’s an inevitability” joke here) or a police state. I am so lucky to be an American, and nothing hammers that point home quite like exposing my heart and mind to different cultures and countries.

everywhere meme

Alright, that sums it up for now! I know I’ll never be done traveling or learning, so I presume I may need to come back and update this list as time goes on. In the mean time, I encourage you all to travel and join me in a life filled with new experiences, cultural awareness, and adventure!

Do you have any tips for international travel? Any trips planned? What’s on your Travel Bucket List?

 

 

*Don’t go to Disney World in July. That’s just good advice.

Friday Five – May 1, 2015

Friday Five

Happy May! Can you believe it’s already May? It’s my birthday month!

1. Oodles of Zoodles

I have been spiralizing up a storm since getting my Spiralizer last week and I’m happy to report they’re delicious! This tool is both super easy to use AND clean which means I think it’s the greatest thing ever. I am way less likely to use a kitchen gadget if it is hard to clean, I hate that. And I am happy to report that Josh enjoys zucchini noodles, though we’ve been easing them into the menu by combining them with a few cheese tortellini! Keep an eye out for an all Spiralizer themed List in the future!

20150422_182804

Here’s the one I bought:
Paderno World Cuisine A4982799 Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer

2. The White House Correspondent’s Dinner

President Obama gave his usual speech to kick off the dinner and he did not hold back! Honestly, watching the entire thing is worth it. It’s hilarious, self-deprecating and the satire is spot on. But it’s 21 minutes so I completely understand most people don’t have the patience for that length of a video so here’s a two minute highlight reel. Everyone’s got two minutes:

View the entire speech here. It really is worth your time.

3. NFL Draft Day should be a National Holiday

I love Draft Day! It means football is creeping closer and that’s always a good thing. Plus, I root for a team that manages to always do great things on draft day, which is nice. If you didn’t stay up for the last first round pick yesterday, the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots selected defensive tackle Malcolm Brown. Great pick.

NFL

4. Cat friends vs. Dog friends

This YouTube has been around a while, but in case you missed it…here’s a look at what it’s like to have a friend that acts like a dog versus a friend that acts like a cat!

5. Shut up and Dance!

I love a good dance movie. It all started with Save the Last Dance, which Megan and I saw at least three times in the theater in high school. But the love continued with Center Stage, Step Up and the cinematic classic You Got Served. Below is a mash up of scenes from different movies (not just “dance” movies) where the main characters dance. I guarantee it will make you smile!

 

Are you ready to jump on the Zoodle wagon and buy a Spiralizer?

More importantly, are you ready for some football?!

Sandwich Kids Understand

TWHS

Josh and I were discussing the possible bathroom options during our long runs on the Creeper Trail.

Me: “Around the four mile mark there are two Bouse Houses. That’s always an option.”

Josh, staring: “What.”

Me: “I mean, worst case scenario, obviously a Bouse House isn’t preferable…”

Josh: “I don’t understand the words that are coming out of your mouth. Are you speaking another language?

Me: “Which words?!”

Josh: “I seriously don’t understand. Boose Hoose?!”

Me: “A Bouse House? You know, a Porta Potty? A Blue Room? Is ‘Bouse House’ a Northern term? Are you messing with me?”

Josh: “I have never heard the term ‘Bouse House’. Ever.”

Me: “Huh. Maybe it’s a Northern thing. Let me Google it.”

…Googling…

Me: “So. My bad. It’s not even a Northern thing. It’s a SANDWICH thing. It’s totally the name of the Porta Potty company in Sandwich. Ha. I had no idea that wasn’t common slang. I’ve always called them that. I guess it’s not the first time I’ve been speaking my own language.”

Josh: “Clearly.”

You can take the girl off of Cape Cod, but you can’t take the Cape Cod out of the girl.

Anyone else call them that to a non-Cape Codder and be met with puzzlement? Or is this just me? 

Do Turkeys FLY?!

It’s Throwback Thursday y’all! And today’s #TBT will feature a #countrylife story going back to my VERY FIRST day on the farm:

It was my first morning in our new home and I was alone and eating breakfast when I started to hear a knocking. The following internal dialogue took place:

“WHAT IS THAT? Who could possibly be knocking? Our driveway is a mile long! It’s not like someone could have snuck up on me!”

…cats go scurrying under the bed…

…I consider also scurrying under the bed…

“Ok. Must investigate. Here we go. I can read the newspaper headline now: ‘City girl gets killed by weird serial killer that claims his victims in broad daylight and after insistently knocking.’ …Do they have a newspaper here? Maybe we should get the Sunday delivered for coupons… I bet they don’t deliver down our driveway. I’d have to walk two miles on Sunday mornings for coupons…Ok, focus, I still hear knocking.”

…check the front door…

…check the side door…

…grab my cell phone and a broom so I can simultaneously call the police and beat the serial killer with a broom…

…finally tiptoe out onto the deck…

“This is how horror movies start. I’m the girl that gets lured outside and investigates the noise. I hate that girl, I can’t be that girl. I’m holding my cell phone like I’ll have time to make a call to the VOLUNTEER police services in this town of 1,456 residents. I am SO that girl…”

…and look over the rail at the basement door…

“…WHAT IS THAT. ARE THOSE FEATHERS?”

turkey2

“Oh my gosh I think that’s a turkey. Could that be a turkey? Knocking? I’m confused.”

…creep back inside, down the stairs, and slowly open the door so I can see where the turkey/serial killer would be standing…

turkey

“THAT’S A TURKEY. KNOCKING ON MY DOOR. I should try and record this. No one will ever believe me.”

This story ends with a short voice mail that I left after going back upstairs, out onto the deck:

:whispering: “Hey Josh. It’s me. Sooo I think a turkey is knocking on our back door…

…turkey hears me on deck and starts to fly away…

:suddenly shouting: “OH WAIT. DO TURKEYS FLY? It’s flying away?! Maybe it’s a vulture? I don’t know, but it flew!

:shriek: “Ahhh I just walked into a spider web.”

:slightly ashamed: “Call me back.”

I may or may not have needed to edit the language of my voice mail transcription. Which Josh STILL has saved on his phone since he thinks me almost being murdered by a polite, day time serial killer is hysterical.