I started this blog in Africa in 2009 with the sole purpose of keeping those who donated to my mission updated on what their money was contributing to. I wanted to tell stories of progress within Sara Fox Children's Convalescent Home & how vital our presence was in helping infants achieve milestones in their mental and physical development.
After a 4 year hiatus, I decided to document my European adventures just for the fun of blogging (and because my Mom says it lets her know that I'm alive and well). During the past few months of travel I've received countless messages from family, friends and perfect strangers about everything from travel reccommendations to thank you's for the motivation to explore. The majority of these messages are from young girls who, like myself, think there's more to see than their own spot on the map. To me, that absolutely rules.
Keeping first-time-travelers in mind, I would like to share some experiences of my recent trip that my 25 year old self wishes my 18 year old self was more aware of, in terms of safety.
1. If you wouldn't do it at home, why would you do it abroad?
I'm not talking about skydiving or great white shark cage diving. If those opportunities arise, by all means jump out of that plane or into that cage. Im talking about getting in cars with strangers, taking sips from drinks you didn't purchase or taking advice from someone who doesn't have to deal with the consequences.
Example: When I arrived in Paris a man approached me and asked if I needed a taxi. Sleep deprived (per usual) and unwilling to take a train and walk miles to find my hotel, I told him that I did indeed need a taxi. When we exited the airport and approached his SUV, I saw no signs of proof that this man was an actual taxi driver. Before getting into his car I asked him to show me all of his licensing & credentials. Not only did this gentleman produce every document instantly, he called his boss over to introduce him to me.
Richard, my driver, checked out as a legitimate private car driver & the fact that he didn't put up a stink made me much happier about spending a little extra cash on his services. In the past I've been much more carefree about these kinds of things and luckily the only bad thing that has happened is spending an unnecessary amount of money.
2. Keep backups of EVERYTHING.
If you're traveling for a long period of time it's not always easy to remember flight times, carriers, hotel addresses, telephone numbers, etc. For me the 'little details' don't become a big deal until the moment they're needed. For that reason, I am the queen of backup copies. Before taking off in Boston I make sure I have my passport, a copy of my passport, give my family a copy of my passport AND take a photo of my passport. Overkill? Maybe...but it's better to be overprepared.
I store ALL of my travel details in my ipad/iphone using Tripit. This app was created by Richard Branson (founder and chairman of The Virgin Group). I learned about this incredible FREE app after taking a Virgin America flight from Boston to Los Angeles. It is ingenious. - My favorite feature is the 'sharing' option. After you fill in all of your travel details you can choose to email the itinerary to as many recipients as you'd like. Your worried parents will appreciate it.
On top of Tripit, I screenshot every booking I make during my travels incase I don't have wifi to access my email. This has saved me many a time at hostels, train stations, bus stops and airports.
3. Just because you're traveling alone, doesn't mean you need to broadcast it.
I've been in many situations where the first question a person asks me is, are you traveling alone? My instant response is, "No I'm here with friends." If I get to know a person and feel comfortable telling them that I'm flying solo that's fine. Most people in hostels are doing the same thing and it makes for some interesting conversations and adventure planning. Save solo travel stories for those people, not the lonely man in the pub.
4. Buy travel insurance.
Don't avoid travel insurance and give the excuse, "But I never get sick!" It's not just about catching a cold in a rainy, damp climate. There is an endless list of reasons travel insurance is vital and you would really screw yourself over by not spending the money on it. I've heard horror stories about the need for medical attention, from bicycle accidents to capsized boats.
I left Croatia with whooping cough, ear infections and a sinus infection. Luckily, I was nearing the end of my trip and I was able to seek medical attention in Boston. It was comforting to know that If I did visit a hospital in France, I was fully covered by World Nomads travel insurance.
Traveling alone is bold.
At this very moment I'm loving the USA.
Next stop, Toronto, Canada.