Ever since Facebook introduced email contact through fanpages, I’ve received a ton of them. Maybe you sympathize or despise my popularity, but what I normally do is delete these pesky messages. Typically it’s a spammer or some aggressive business demanding I ‘like’ their page. Thank god for that delete button.
About a week ago a woman named Andrea contacted me, asking some general travel questions. She’s starting to plan her own journey and was seeking advice.
I usually pay attention to these messages and answer them privately, hoping to help ease concerns.
Then a eureka moment sounded off in my head. I decided that answering her questions directly on the blog might also help others.
I’m not so advanced in this field that I believe questions of this nature are stupid. No question is stupid and it’s best to remember that at one time, I was an Andrea.
I had a wide range of questions and concerns, from safety issues to packing efficiently. The unknown of what a country can bring, plagues us along with the logistics. It’s only human.
So Andrea, this is for you!
Q: How do you deal with loneliness?
I think lonely has garnered a bad reputation. When I first started out in 2010, I did struggle with always being by myself, having to navigate everything solo. It can be exhausting. Once I settle into a place, being alone gives me the opportunity to reflect on my surroundings, even process what’s currently happening to me. The biggest bonus? You learn who you are intimately and realize the beauty of self-love and self-reliance. I think women aren’t allowed that opportunity, thus solo travel gave me this knowledge, which I carry with me as a second skin. To give you some practical answers, journaling is a great way to flesh out your thoughts. Seek out people in hostels, engage them in conversation and soon an invitation might spring from these encounters. If you’re a shy sort, taking part in day tours are prime circumstances to meet other people. These short friendships can sustain those lonely moments. Finally, I cannot emphasize this enough, maintain your close friendships with those who knew you before blogging or your travel life through Skype and Facebook. I regularly speak to my girlfriends who know me well and know my dirty secrets. None of you will ever meet them, by the way. Skype has a cheap plan that allows you to call any landline or cell phone, so if they don’t have Skype, it doesn’t matter! You can still keep in contact. And I don’t mean just your mother. You can’t vent or share in the same vein that you can with your besties.
Q: How do you find medicine overseas, particularly birth control pills?
Dependant on what you need for medication, try to research some of the countries you plan to anoint with your greatness and see if you can re-supply at those spots. If you know you’ll be in a challenging country, try to refresh before you leave, so when the next stop arrives, you might be in a better situation to refill medication. When I went to India, I supplied up on ciprofloxacin in preparation for that pervasive Delhi Belly, but managed to find some there (usually through prescription though) without a problem. Some medicines can be purchased without a prescription — India and Thailand are a bit flexible. The perception that all developing countries are not medically advanced is inaccurate. I’ve had state of the art treatment in India and China. Also, countries like Thailand are well-known for medical tourism. Now, for birth control pills, that is more challenging. Before your trip, investigate options like Depo-Provera shots (only required four times a year) and an IUD. For example, an IUD doesn’t need insertion and can last 3 to 5 years. Or visit a western European country if you really want birth control pills. A good place to find them are at family planning clinics or even some General Practitioners might assist you.
Q: I have curly hair, what can you recommend for hair products? And do you have curly hair?
I don’t have curly hair, but I do have wavy hair, so can sympathize. Curly hair is a restless bear trampling over your camp ground and driving you up a tree. Or in real terms, trampling over your good looks if it goes frizzy. I swear by Lush products. They have 830 stories in 51 countries. Their Curly Wurly shampoo is good and the Coolaulin conditioner takes to curly hair well, according to online reviews. Their products are expensive, but have never misfired on me. Don’t pack a hair dryer and let your hair air dry. You gain healthier locks and drop over processing. Over processing makes hair pissed off. Another way to control it is braid it wet and when it’s half dry, release your gorgossity. What really makes curly hair call a mutiny is over washing. Every two to three days is sufficient and helps your head build natural oils.
Q: Should I get medical travel insurance?
YES. Medical insurance is a must. It’s your back up plan, the best friend you bring along who’ll call your dad if you get in trouble. I’ve used quite a few in my time, but let me highlight some here.
- When budget travelers are embarking on a round-the-world-trip many decide to use World Nomads. They are affordable for the frugal minded backpacker.
- I used Atlas America (HCC Medical Services). Their plans are higher than World Nomads, but I made a number of claims after my India trip and was paid out without much fuss. It was also easy for me to extend the plan during my travels. I simply clicked a few buttons on their site and a new card was emailed to me. I printed it off and was set for another six months.
- Another option is IMG. I’ve heard great things about them and they offer a wide range of medical insurance, from student insurance to adventure insurance.
- A last one is Travel Guard. They’ve been in business 20 years and were even recommended by Rick Steves.
Medical insurance is something you shouldn’t scrimp on, it is your health after all! In ranking order, I’d review Atlas, IMG and then Travel Guard as possible choices.
Andrea, I hope these answers made you feel more comfortable and excited about your trip.
And if the rest of you found this post useful, I’d be happy to answer questions again. Just email me through my contact page!