Many of you ask how I travel, mostly solo these days. Sheri and Mike seem to mastered the couch potato movement in all of its pandemic glory. But for me, I would rather go, like Eddie Aikau, only I translate it to “Gerry would go.”
Many of you ask about how I go about making these trips. Some are set in stone before I go, some are done “on the fly” when visiting new and unknown places. And some are combinations, with only a round trip flight sandwiching the lack of a set itinerary.
As I have gotten older, hopefully, aged somewhat gracefully, the great unknown has become more challenging. I don’t seem to have the stamina for more than three weeks on the road. And I do not pack as much into each day as I did when I was younger. But don’t let that fool you. I still plan to cycle down the famous “Death Road” in Bolivia!
So, here are a few basics:
Always leave an itinerary with someone back home, and check in periodically so they know you are OK. Back on my first trip to Europe (without cell phones or internet), my Mom had a very difficult time locating me. She thought I was in Germany, but I ended up in Switzerland. She tried to contact the Red Cross to find me. Why? She had to tell me my Father passed away.
Make sure to have photos of your loved ones, either hard copy or on your phone. The people I meet along the way always want to know about my loved ones back home. They always love my little Lexi! More is better!
Use STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), the State Department program to help in case of an emergency. STEP also provides great information about the safety at your destination. Right now, during Covid, they include the limitations on travel, both within and into the country I want to visit. The CDC also has helpful information about required immunizations, and general health and safety.
Always buy some trip insurance. I hate it, but I buy it.
You know I try to do a decent amount of research before I visit a new place, or even a place I have visited. It just helps to understand the culture, and get a running start on what to see and do in a new place. And avoid unnecessary expense, and wasted time. I always buy a guide book to bring along, but there is a plethora of travel information and advice online. Use it!
How about a little secret? I try to find a local, in the age group that most likely fits my personal travel style. Then I have a reasonable chance at finding “insider” information about places to eat, see, and experience. Once in a while, I end up slightly off course!
Try to walk everywhere, and use public transportation whenever possible. If my group has increased to two or more, Uber is often a good option. Walking, buses, and trains allow me to see more than I might see from a busy street.
I know my limits. When I get tired, or reach sensory overload, I know it is time for a cold beer, nap, or quiet park bench. I have been lost before, in Patagonia, when I have been tired, hungry, and cold. It is definitely not fun.
Know your comfort zone. I enjoy meeting new people. And I am not shy about talking to strangers. After all, that is how I met the great Barry the V (from Cape Town) in Santiago, Chile. And Jason and Chun (from Penang) in Langkawi, Malaysia.
Find a safe place for valuables, things like extra cash, credit cards, passport, and tickets. I use either the safe in the room, or the hotel manager’s safe in the lobby. Personally, I think hiding stuff in dirty underwear works best, lol!
Every now and then, I try to get out of my comfort zone. Of course, easier said by a man, right? It might be sand boarding in the Atacama, or a cooking class in Vietnam.
Stay aware of your surroundings at all times. If it looks too dark or sketchy, pick another route. Or just grab an Uber.
Try to blend in when you can.
Join a “free” walking tour in the city where you are staying. Somehow, these groups tend to make for the best conversations. After all, you get to pick who you want to talk to in a group of about a dozen fellow travelers. I actually found my new hero, Katy, in a free walking tour of Bucharest, Romania with Dirty Pat.
On the brighter side:
Fewer large travel groups enable solos like us to get into popular venues a little easier and faster. I don’t know about you, but I hate getting in line behind a group of fifty Chinese tourists who all need a photo at the one place I want to see.
Desirable hotels and lodging might be available, and at a lower price. I am not sure about this, maybe just wishful thinking on my part. Same for airline tickets.
Fortunately, these big groups do not travel by train, which is one of my preferred modes of transport. I find it more relaxing to ride the train than to fly or bus. And both the scenery and the company are better!