5 tips for Travel Safety

Safety is an important factor in picking one’s travel destinations. You don’t want to put yourself at risk when planning and taking your dream holiday. Whether you are a seasoned traveler with many trips and destinations under your belt or a first-time adventurer… safety is always key.

For myself, I don’t always think about if a destination is safe or not. I personally feel with a little common sense you can make a great holiday in even the most “dangerous” cities or countries. In my travels, I have experienced some of my fondest memories in places that the “First World” would label as dangerous.

If you follow my twitter or have read my blog in the past, you will know that I currently live in Bogotá, Colombia. In the past, I have spent time in Culiacan, Mexico and Cairo, Egypt. These three places have made a name for themselves for violence, and/or unrest. I am here however to say that the perception of danger is perpetuated by media and the so-called “First World.”

Here are 5 tips on safety that I can share from my experiences around the world.

  1. Do your research

It doesn’t matter if this is your first trip or your 100th… read up on your destination. Use materials from more than just one outdated guide-book. Use the internet. Read personal experiences from fellow travelers. Meet people from the location you are wanting to go. Become acquainted with the local culture and customs.

  1. Be aware

Like any place, you should always be aware of your surroundings. As an American, I generally feel safer in a foreign country than I do in the nearest big city in the USA. Keep track of your belongings: Money, Passport, Phone, Laptop, etc. Nothing is worse than losing one or more of these important things… I know this from experience.

  1. Travel smart. Travel light

Before you leave, decide what you absolutely cannot live without for the length of your trip. I prefer to travel as light as possible. I don’t like to be over encumbered with bags and unnecessary things. I like to just wake up and go. Not only is it easier to move with less… it’s also less you need to keep track of. Less likely you will lose something you treasure.

  1. Talk to locals

While you grew up being told to avoid talking to strangers, I find that the best way to learn about a city is by talking to locals. They know the city better than you ever will. They know where to go and where not to go. They can be your safety net. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or directions. Usually people are a lot more willing to help than you would think.

  1. Enjoy yourself

Instead of filling yourself with panic and fear… let go and enjoy yourself. You’re going on the vacation of your dreams. Why waste it fearing the unknown. Embrace it and learn from the vast world around you. There is so much to see and learn that you can’t learn from a guide-book. Take it all in and have fun!

Thoughts on Becoming Bilingual

Here I am in Bogota, Colombia studying Spanish. I arrived on April 1, 2017 and have officially finished 3 weeks of my Spanish course. I went from understanding a few words here and there to now being able to hold a conversation in Spanish. For me, this is an odd sensation.

Becoming bilingual has been a dream of mine for quite some time. However, I have never taken it serious until now. In the past I, have studied German, Italian, and Arabic. But, I have never been proficient enough to use the language with natives.

In Bogota, it is estimated that around 40% of the population does not speak English. Those that do speak English are not fluent. For me, this has been quite beneficial because as an avid traveler, I have learned only rely on English as my language of communication.

Not being able to speak English with the general population has forced me to use Spanish. Because of this, I have easily overcome the usual “shy” factor and “fear” of butchering the language.

The people of Bogota have been very kind, helpful, and especially understanding when I attempt to speak with them. People do not laugh or mock me when I make mistakes, rather they correct me and help me learn the proper Spanish.

Over all, after 1 month in this beautiful country, I feel like my Spanish is improving faster than I could have ever imagined. I can speak with confidence and get my point across. After 1 month… I am becoming bilingual. I cannot wait to see my progress in 6 months’ time.

 

Soon, I will begin posting my blogs in both English and Spanish.

 

 

Colombia: First Impressions

In an interesting turn of events, I have found myself living in Bogota, Colombia. This is a stark contrast to what my life plan was. But who needs life plans anyway? I am all about going with the flow… Just taking life one day at a time and seeing where I end up.

I have moved to Colombia for several reasons. The first and foremost being that I want to learn Spanish. It is high time that this gringo becomes fluent in a second language. So here I am living amongst an amazing culture and beautiful people.

I thought it would be interesting to share my first impressions of Colombia based on the interactions that I have had with locals in Bogota over the first 2 weeks that I have been here. In my first 2 weeks, I have met people from all over Colombia as well as Europe and the USA. My first four days were spent couchsurfing at the home of a local guy. He welcomed me at the airport and took me to his home and proceeded to take me to the historic center of the city and tell me a little bit about the history. He shared meals with me and made me feel at home.

It is always a great way to get to know a culture by staying with locals who share your passion for cultural exchange and travel. So here I will share a few of my first impressions.

  1. Colombia has a beautiful landscape:

Nestled high in the Andes Mountains, Bogota is surrounded by picturesque views. A mix of tropical and mountainous forests lay on the fringe of the city. A beautiful lake offers the perfect weekend relaxation at Simon Bolivar Park. Here you will find Colombians taking in the sun and enjoying food, family, and a friendly game of football. Bogota is a green city with parks interspersed throughout the busy streets and skyscrapers.

  1. The locals are friendly and helpful:

My Spanish is not very good at the moment; however, I am here to study and become fluent. The locals are very patient and willing to speak slow to me so that I can understand their Spanish. People are very excited and eager to speak with me and happy that I am trying to speak with them in their native tongue. Here English is not widely spoken so it is necessary to try and speak Spanish and I have found that people will try very hard to understand and make themselves understood even with my broken Spanish. I have been met many locals who introduce me to their friends and family. I have also had the opportunity to speak with some local merchants who are thrilled that tourism in Colombia is on the rise. They are happy to see foreigners coming and enjoying the culture and family atmosphere that is so ingrained in this society.

  1. Bogota is a city filled with history and culture:

Bogota is rich with culture and history. IT has many music festivals, street performers, artists, and musicians. History in Bogota stretches back to Spanish colonization. This city has seen fighting from the War of Independence to the Guerrilla fighting and insurgency by the likes of M-19. This is a resilient city that keeps moving forward despite its past. Plaza de Bolivar offers insight into a brutal history. Here you can see old cathedrals as well as modern government buildings rebuilt. To one side you can also see the extravagant presidential offices and residence. Just a short walk from the plaza you can find the Gold Museum and Botero Museum.

  1. On a budget? Come to Colombia.

Bogota is an economical city. Here you can find entrance fees, public transit, and food prices quite low in comparison to other popular destinations. This is a city easy to navigate by the Transmilenio (bus system), Taxi, Uber, or bike. Walking is also an effective mode of transportation here.

My final thoughts… My first two weeks have been outstanding. I have been welcomed to the country and shown great hospitality. It is well worth the visit. My advice is to not let the historical violence and unrest of Colombia deter you from coming and enjoying this beautiful country. No matter where you travel in the world, there will be some issues… come experience true Latin hospitality and culture in Colombia.

Just Breathe: revelations during travel

When you travel often it’s easy to take the little things for granted. On a recent trip to Hong Kong, I often found myself growing frustrated at the simplest things.

I was not thrilled to be in Hong Kong in the first place… during this trip everything just seemed to go wrong. You can read about that more soon! While I was there, I always had somewhere to be and little time to get there.

This thought come to mind as I was rushing to catch my flight from Hong Kong to Taipei. Now, I had shown up to the airport 13 hours before my flight- plenty of time one might say for someone who was always in a rush. Well, I got done with my business and wanted to catch an early flight back to Taiwan. I was scheduled for a 9:30 pm departure; I wanted on the 1:30pm flight. China Airlines thankfully gave me the last seat available on the flight and informed me that boarding would begin in 15 minutes. Continue reading “Just Breathe: revelations during travel”

Around the World in 2 Minutes

We all have that dream… that goal to go see the world. If you have ever stepped foot out of your own homeland and experienced something new, you know what I am talking about. For many of us who travel, we end up getting bit by what has been deemed the “Travel Bug.”

So, today I will share with you a video of my friend Abdullah who has taken this affliction in stride. He has been an inspiration to many through his travels. As an Egyptian, it’s not always easy to get out and travel due to restrictions and visas, but this guy has managed; he has taken traveling head on and does what it takes to see the world.

Check out his Facebook and Instagram and follow Abdullah on his latest adventures.

My advice to you today is to follow your dreams. Get out there and see the world. Do whatever it takes. There is no reason to let go of your dream to see the world. If there is a will there is a way. Don’t let people tell you no. Don’t let people tell you that it is too expensive, that it’s not worth it. Traveling will change your life. It will open your eyes. It will light a fire in your soul. What are you waiting for? Get out there and see the world!

Don’t forget to share your stories with me! I love to hear from my readers about their journey.

5 tips for your first trip abroad.

 

In a recent job interview, I was asked, “How would you prepare or put someone at ease before their first international trip?” This question was an interesting one for me because I have actually given it thought in the past. I have had people ask me for advice on traveling as they know that I have done a fair amount of it. On some of my recent trips, I have become very spontaneous and do the bare minimum planning. Continue reading “5 tips for your first trip abroad.”