A few tips here and there for the intrepid global traveler err trekker! I'll never take a so-called "vacation"... I go on trips and adventures.
Chances are that you like to save money here and there so that you can use it elsewhere when you are traveling! I have a few basic ideas to share - here goes - don't buy the latest travel guide (unless you have extra cash - then go for it!). I really do not think that you get a much different book by getting last years edition. Yes, sure, people will stare at you in some coffee shop on the other side of the globe and wonder, how on earth is that person going to find a place to stay or find the waterfall with last years edition of a guide book??? At some point, you'll realize that traveling with a guide book is a bit like a safety blanket and tends to limit your experience to what is to be found on the beaten trail which is all fine and good if you are on a short adventure. Assuming you do not have a porter, books are deadweight, better to glean what you need from them before you depart on a trip or simply remove the sections you absolutely must have, put them in a zip lock and go for it. Sure, you can have a guide book that is in digital format, but that is just not the same...
Taking Refuge: So, you're going to some exotic corner of the world to see and experience a different slice of life. Why then do many if not most travelers congregate together in makeshift bubbles that resemble the place you just left behind? If it's for safety, then no problem, but when you are in a secure enough environment, branch out a bit and mix in with the locals if you are really wanting an experience. Okay, so I'm not your 'average' global trekker... I am also not the survivalist sleeping in a hammock in the jungle (well not most of the time) as I do enjoy a locking door most nights.
Shoes: Take less. Do not take new shoes... we've all heard it a million times, but I still did that on a recent trip to Thailand. I was just emerging from the last 1/3 of winter and had some new Teva's which I plied along the Bangkok pavement. It wasn't long before my toes started to suffer as the shoes were cradling my feet in such a way that didn't sit well with the toes. Add to that the humidity and it was a show stopper... Protect your feet/toes with some semi-closed sandals if going to humid / hot climates...
Weapons and self defense: These days, you can barely get a canister of pepper spray through the baggage scanners for your checked luggage. In fact, I didn't attempt it the last time I went on an international flight in March 2010 as I decided the possible penalty and tagging by the 'authorities' might not be worth the risk for my future travel endeavors. They love to keep notes on us... be careful what you say and what you carry on your person. Many places around the world frown upon weapon toting tourists and really, you don't want to get involved with the legal system outside of your home country if you can avoid it. So then what are we left with??? IF you can get non-lethal defensive tools/weapons once you arrive at your destination - I'd say go for it. If nothing else, I've found that a small can of pepper spray really can give you the added sense of security that you need to walk down the street with 5k worth of camera equipment in a backpack that screams - *hey, there's a small fortune on this guys back*... I'd gladly hand over the bag as I keep the gear insured. I really don't want to have a serious 'mishap'. Yes, I recommend trip/travel insurance as well as any special gear that you might have that is worth more than say $500 USD. Peace of mind while traveling is essential.
Impact: Yes, traveling abroad does have an impact on our world. It has it's positives and negatives. You may share wonderful things with strangers, you may cause trees and animals to die, carbon to be emitted from your jet and cars, you may help to feed a family in need of your 'tourist' dollars, pounds, euros, yuan, yen, you may get the point by now! Don't get too caught up with the small stuff - go out and do good things in the world.
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