Category Archives: Women’s Travel

Why You Should (or Maybe Shouldn’t) Date a Traveler

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Photo by JD via Flickr

Recently a number of stories based on the topic of why you should date a girl who travels have been floating around the web. These pro-dating pieces are on mark but to be fair there can also be counter arguments.

Trust me: I’m all for being with someone who is all about seeing the world. I would want that for the guy I’m with and I automatically expect the same thinking from him about me. Yet the reality is that the people we’re dating might have a hard time with our long-term traveling. Or trying to be a good sport about it.

These realizations should be kept in mind too. Heck, even the best travel writers can relate to the delicate balance between maintaining relationships while being on the road.

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So here are some factors to keep in mind about why you should–or maybe shouldn’t–date a traveler:

  • We need – or feel the need – to keep going. Whether for business or for pursuit, travelers are always in motion: making sudden or long-term plans. If we see a mistake airfare sale or a travel opportunity such as conference or event that’s too good to pass up, we don’t. And like with just about any evolving career, if you work in the travel sector in some way, shape or form you have to stay current on what’s happening. And life is short, so we don’t want to dwell on “what ifs.”
  • We could be a part from you for a while. This is a biggie. From a week or two to even a month, or in between weeks, we might be heading out. Or we might be back home for a few days and then be taking off again. With professional travel writing, our assignments with publications or business agreements with companies require us to get the job done. We don’t mean to sound, well, mean but we have to shuffle off. However, we also know when it’s necessary to stay or come home (much desired rest, catching up on routines and projects or when our loved ones need us).
  • Technology can keep us connected. Just because we can’t be there with you in person doesn’t mean we can’t talk to you. As long as there is a good Wi-Fi signal, the beauty of Skype and FaceChat enable us to have conversations wherever we are. Even IMing through Facebook or Google Chat works fine. If we’re posting pictures, it’s for social media reasons along with a bit of excitement in being there.
  • Please don’t get jealous. Yes, we know it sucks to hear when we’re off to a wow destination like Italy or Australia or any place that you’ve always wanted to go (but can’t or haven’t just yet). Note that in many cases our travels involve a lot of planning (research and financial) and preparing (looking at resources, weather or even availability) on our part. My story: An ex of mine assumed I hit up my folks for the cash I would need to go to London. Nope! I did a lot of budgeting, saving, watching flight/hotel prices, and taking on odd jobs for getting extra cash. With press trips, it’s work. Fun, but still work.
  • Maybe you come join us. Depending upon our arrangements, it might be possible for you to come along on our ventures. But remember, if it’s a business arrangement we there to work. Especially with press trips, daily itineraries are made with set times for outings, departures, and arrivals. It’s not likely or even a good idea for us to blow off our work (don’t even suggest it). If all else fails, perhaps we can meet up when we get back or post-press trip in our destination. Or if timing and location are in both our favors, perhaps you can come meet us.

Be assured that we still go places together, unless you don’t like to travel.

Tips for Your First Stay at a Hostel

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The site of my first hostel stay: Hostelling Interational-New York City

Up until last month, I had never stayed in a hostel. There’s no real reason why I didn’t; perhaps I just didn’t considered using them. Yet as I start to do more solo travel, and realize that my budget needs to better adjust to this fact, I figured it would be interesting to see what a hostel stay is like.

In brushing stereotypes and horror stories aside, hostels primarily have a good reputation as being a safe and affordable option for accommodations. They also attract more travelers from different age groups and backgrounds. Recently, for a work assignment, I spent a weekend at Hostelling International-New York City, the Manhattan location for Hostelling International, a worldwide organization.

Overall, my first experience went well, and I wanted to use it to share some first-time tips for staying in a hostel with other newbies.

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The room I stayed in at Hostelling International-New York City.

 

Here they are:

  • Of course, do your research. Just like with looking up hotels online, there are a number of websites on hostels complete with pictures, personal reviews and rankings (definitely pay attention to comments on amenities and cleanliness). Search engines such as hostels.com, hostelbookers.com or hostelworld.com provide lists on hostels in your destination. Hostelling International also is a good source, as their brand has hostels in just about every country and throughout the U.S. Another plus with all of these sites is that you can obtain the address of your potential hostel and be able to Google Map it to get specific directions.
  • Weigh what you’re comfortable with. Especially as a woman, I think it’s important to really make sure you’re comfortable with your choice of setup in the hostel you’re heading too — way before you go. Hostels have a number of room options, varying in cost, occupancy and availability (plus an upfront deposit can be required). There can be a private room/with bath but it will cost more than let’s say a shared room with other women. “Shared” can number out to four to a room, perhaps even more than at. In some cases, you could choose to stay in a co-ed shared room. It’s up to you. At Hostelling International-New York City, I was assigned to a room set up for four people. My bed was one of the top bunks.
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The showers at Hostelling International-New York City

  • Bring comforts and essentials. Most hostels will provide lockers or offer additional space for rent. Locks can cost extra. I brought a travel combination lock with me and my suitcase was small enough to be squeezed into my given locker. Bedding is supplied, and often towels are as well (I brought one along just in case). I would recommend bringing along flip flops, just in case, as you can wear them in the shower as well as go back and forth from your room. Earplugs are helpful to block out noises and late-night arrivals. Bring small bills, too, to cover any popup or not-covered expenses from laundry machines to a mid-afternoon coffee.
  • Get secure. As with using lockers, don’t get too casual with your stuff. Travelers often go in and out of hostels as they please, and particularly the rooms they sleep in, so it’s best not to leave your phone or other electronics and valuables lying around in the open. (I had a bottle of water I bought and put on the side of my room taken, but still, it was MINE). With building security, a hostel should have knowledgeable staff that can give you directions and might also be able to book transportation to and from the airport. When I stayed at HI-NY, my keycard doubled for both getting into my room and past the check-in area.
  • Be sociable. Hostels often have communal hangout areas like lounges and café seating areas to relax in or make small talk with other guests. At HI-NY, breakfast was included in the cost of my stay, so during my morning meal I got to chat more with one of my roommates, a Canadian, as well as two girls from England and Fiji, respectively. Check to see if the hostel organizes group outings too. HI-NY has guided excursions such as bar crawls or borough tours. I was there on Halloween night, so I signed up for a group outing to go watch the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.
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A lounge at a hostel is a good place to relax or chat with fellow guests.

Staying in a hostel could feel like reliving your college dorm days. Yet, it’s a place to meet new people or even get some different tips on what’s in your destination. If you’re still going solo, your hostel is a good base to head back to, especially if you need help.

Editor’s Note: As part of my assignment, I was comped for my stay at Hostelling International-New York City.

Taking a Career Break to Travel: a Q&A with Meet Plan Go

Yes, there are days when we want to quit our jobs instantly and leave our cubicles behind. But with some advance planning, would you go ahead and do it?

If you seek to find your way in this world, while fulfilling a dream of seeing it, consider taking a career break or sabbatical. Recently, I had a virtual Q & A with Sherry Ott of Meet Plan Go – a leading career break movement in North America – on planning and taking this time off and about their upcoming conference in New York City.

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How did Meet Plan Go start?
The idea for a career break resource came into my mind when I was initially planning my trip in 2006 because I struggled – a lot.  There was no information out there about how to do long-term travel or an adult gap year from the American perspective.  I found a few books from the UK but it wasn’t the same. I was really frustrated and nervous about taking the leap but felt very alone. I mainly used the only resource out there to help plan at the time – Bootsnall.com.

Meet Plan Go actually started when I met (co-founders) Michaela Potter and Michael Bontempi in New York City after they had also recently finished a three-month career break. We decided to take our passion for the benefits of a traveling break and create a website. It started as Briefcase to Backpack and launched in 2009 and has taken off since then. Via our website and events, you’ll meet like-minded, supportive people, get tools and tips to plan your career break travels, and find inspiration to go by hearing/reading other career breakers’ stories.

How does taking a career break help a person?

Career break benefits are numerous. Most importantly, getting away from of our day-to day-routines is essential for effective thinking. Combine your career break with travel and reap even more benefits. Exposure to cultures that function differently from our own – from language to social customs to public transport – awakens the brain, alerting it to a much broader range of possibilities for being, living, and creating. You will come back to the workforce with skills other peers won’t have.

What factors should a person put into planning a career break?

That’s different for every person. But one of the first things to consider and figure out is budget. Figuring out how much you have to spend or how much you want to spend sets the other decisions in motion; where to go, how long to go, what to do. Next you’ll want to consider what you hope to get out of your break. Are you looking for time away to contemplate a career change, want to knock things off your bucket list, travel before you settle down, etc. All of these things are factors.

We have articles about the various planning choices, a free online 30-day course, and an in-person workshop on September 20 in New York City. But be careful to not get too caught up in planning. We normally recommend that you plan the first third of your trip, then leave the rest open so you can take your temperature and see what it is that you want to do next. Often when people get on the road, their desires and needs change so you need to leave things open to accommodate those changes.

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The current economy might make people hesitant to leave their jobs. Why would one still consider taking a career break?

Look, there’s never going to be the perfect time to leave your job and take a risk. Never. So stop waiting for one. You either have the desire to make change and travel or you don’t. If you have that desire, then you’ll want to check out Meet Plan Go, as we are good at fueling it. But if you want warm fuzzies and security in your decision all I can say is that I’ve NEVER talked to anyone who regretted their decision to take a break and travel – NEVER.

I recently wrote an article about how a career break actually enhances your career and learned a lot by interviewing people who used their break as career defining. You can use the time to figure out a career change or focus, or simply revitalize. You will come back with additional skills and you will stand out in a crowd of applications as someone who isn’t afraid to take risks and someone who knows what they want.

What issues might someone face when taking a career break and what can they do to handle and avoid them?

The big fear is always money. But you don’t need a lot of money to travel.  Where there’s a will there’s a way. Traveling long term is actually cheaper than living day to day in our current lifestyles. And it’s certainly cheaper than taking vacations. If you don’t have much saved up, then you explore ways that you can work on the road – which can be a really rewarding cultural experience. You can teach English, consult, teach yoga, work at a farm, house sit, and even be a tour guide.  Anything is possible, and by traveling slower and more locally, you’ll keep costs down and meet a bunch of people who will connect you to opportunities to make money if that’s what you are looking for.

What to Look for in a Travel Partner

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Photo by dichohecho via Flickr.com

As much as I think people should not be hesitant with solo travel, I have to admit that it’s nice to have a travel partner. But how you pick one is very important.

Drawing from my experiences, here are my suggestions on how what to look for in a travel partner.

1)   Be upfront about your travel expectations before you leave.

It’s exciting to book a trip together to a place you’ve always wanted to see or if the opportunity strikes to go somewhere. However, you and your travel buddy may or may not share the same sense of travel style. While your idea of seeing a tropic destination is pursuing local activities, your travel partner may be more down for a ton of beach time. Or while you plan to visit museums, your friend may want to explore the local scene or the outdoors. Before leaving, talk about what you both would like to do. When I go overseas with my cousin, we email and text each other the names of places and things that we want to see and do—a few weeks beforehand. We also set up a general day-by-day itinerary, with some wiggle room for changes, solo activities, and downtime.

2)   Be honest about what you both can afford.

Slightly or greatly, spending limits and habits can differ, so talk openly about what financial shape you’re in. With making reservations and purchases, I find it’s best for each person to buy his/her airfare. It’s also important for both of you to be very clear, as well as mutually agree, on how to divide up shared expenses like lodging or transportation. Figure out, too, how you both might respond to unexpected costs. For one girls’ getaway, I booked our hotel reservation with my credit card; my friend gave me her half in cash. When we got to our hotel, we found out our reservation had listed us as arriving the following night. We were still able to get a room, but a new and higher price (which I fought against but lost) was charged to my card. So, I asked my friend for the difference. To my surprise, she said no, arguing that she had paid the amount I had told her it was going to be. Whether she was right or wrong, her answer made me leery about traveling with her again. (We’re still friends.)

3)  Make sure you both can adjust to situations, or at least compromise.

Since no travel plans are fully secure, it’s important for both of you to be able to go with the flow—or be open to switching up your schedule. At your destination, you might learn about a great scenic tour or a hit up a locally recommended nightspot. Food can also be tricky, so see what and where each of you will eat—and won’t. I’ve been lucky in that most of my travel partners are pretty open to trying new things or agreeing to last-minute changes. I’ve gotten better in these areas too. A college friend of mine is very spontaneous, especially when traveling, and by doing things on a whim (like driving one night from Chicago to Gary, Indiana for riverboat gambling) we had some great times on the road together.

4)   Know when to let certain things go.

In following Tip 4, remember that people react to issues in different ways and reactions can change the course of your trip. When tensions get high, and depending upon what’s happening, remember to not take it personally. If possible, step away for few seconds or more, or just stop what you’re doing, so you each can calm down. It will also help you both out in addressing the problem better without initially responding with your emotions. During stressful scenarios, I’ve discovered that some people I’ve traveled with can get “tough” on others and I learned quickly when to ignore them and when to push back. And don’t be afraid if you or your travel partner needs alone time. If you’re both comfortable about splitting up, just check in with each other about where you’re at and if everything is okay, and set a certain time and place to meet up later.

In all, remember that with your travel partner it’s the journey that should really matter. Make sure you’re both on the same route.

 

Meet the Ladies Behind WHOA Travel

whoa1When Danielle Thorton and Allison Fleece met while planning a trip to Kilimanjaro in 2012, the ladies realized that they had two major things in common: a zeal for adventure and a high energy level to pursue it. After going on their life-changing excursion, these fast friends founded WHOA (Women High On Adventure) Travel, a boutique business that brings women together through Bucket List itineraries to provide transforming travel experiences.

Recently, I had a virtual Q & A with Allison about WHOA travel and how females can venture more into adventure travel. Here’s what she said to say.

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Why does WHOA focus on adventure travel?

There is something very exciting about adventure travel, that forces you to physically and mentally step outside of your comfort zone.  We believe in the idea of women coming together to meet challenges that sustain other women.  Our model has been  to connect women to take on adventures together while simultaneously connecting with and giving back to women locally in the regions we visit.  This has been an amazing way to combine physical activity with culture and sustainable travel all at the same time.

From your perspective, how does adventure travel appeal to women? Also, what misconceptions do you think women may have about it?

Women want adventure just as much as anyone.  Sometimes people are held back from taking on adventures that are outside their comfort zone because they may not have friends or others to adventure with or there is an innate fear of the unknown.

But, WHOA really brings together like-minded women, women who should know each other, but their paths haven’t crossed and that makes these adventures more comfortable for people.  Some misconceptions that we’ve heard women have about adventure travel is that they don’t think they are fit enough to do some of the trips we do.  But in actuality, we stand by the notion that our trips are 90 percent mental.

You don’t have to be a marathon runner or a triathlete to hike Kilimanjaro or to hike to Machu Picchu.  You just have to have a little drive and will. We love the expression, “Mind over Matter” because that really is what it’s all about. Where there is a will, there really is a way.

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What advice would you give women interest in giving adventure travel a try?

 You have to go for it.  If you have any desire to push yourself and experience the world in a new and different way, you just have to do it! We have a really supportive group of women who come together to take on adventures, and that creates such a positive energy on our trips, we promise you it will be worth it. Also, there may never be the perfect time, but you have to make it a priority and try…Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back, because you will regret the chances not taken.

How can they physically prepare themselves for these types of trips?

 We always say the best training is to just get out there and walk, hike, run, do anything you can to get on your feet and stay on your feet! Break in your boots, and wear your backpack (daypack) that you will be using on our trips.  Stairmasters are great and taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a plus too, to get used to the vertical trekking.

What’s next for WHOA Travel?

We are heading to India at the end of the year to do research and exploration for a WHOA trip in 2015. We have big plans to turn WHOA into more than just adventure travel, but for now we are looking to have an adventure on every continent… and we are almost half way there!

 

How to Choose A Guided Tour

Going on a guided or escorted tour can be a good thing. If you need a confident boost about being alone abroad or nervous about handling your airfare or other arrangements, a guided tour can help you feel a bit more at ease while getting you closer to seeing your destination.

While many tours often include stops at major attractions in the country you’ve heading to, these companies can differ in many ways. Based on my experiences with them, here is my advice on what to keep in mind while choosing a tour company.

155911_4615225371361_22542242_n1)  See Who’s Going
Group tours can have quite a mix of travelers in age and background: older, younger, couples, families and solo. Depending on how you feel or your approach to travel, and if it makes you feel better about fitting in, check out what types of travelers often go on the tour company you might be interested in.

For example, Contiki is more ideal for college-age/twenty somethings while Trafalgar often attracts retirees and many from the UK and Australia as well as the U.S. Tour companies also center on different travel styles. G Adventures is suited to outdoor types and offers locally-owned accommodations and physical activities. More general tour companies like Gate1Travel cover key points and often have a broad spectrum of customers.

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2)  Judge Your Free Time
A planned out itinerary can be nice but pay attention to what’s included – and particularly what’s not. Tours may cover brief visits to major museums and monuments (perhaps hour-two hours) where you have to make quick choices about what to see. Or just a quick stop for a photo opp. Some areas may be seen only through your tour bus window, often while in route from one location to another.

I often go with tours that include a reasonable amount of free time. It’s good because you can check out maybe a place not included on your schedule. In the case of a change of plans or have some solo time, you still have the opportunity to see something quickly.

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3) Judge the schedule.
Like No. 2, see about the schedule. As common as tours are to stop at must-see attractions, it’s also important to look at overall what’s included on your itinerary. I get leery of tours that seem to push places where there is a lot of shopping to do but some people might like that.

It might be good to first read up on the destination you’re looking at going first, and then do a comparison against the itinerary of a tour company you’re interested. Also, some tours will make stops and/or stays all at major cities in Italy but maybe one or two might also include time in a town like San Gimignano – which is beautiful – that is along your route.

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4) Look at Features
Tours are now offering a lot of optional side choices or experiential activities. While you don’t have to necessarily do all of them, see which ones stand out to you. I like doing ones that seem to replicate the area (like musical locations in Nashville) or may get you to a place that is off your route but definitely will get to (like a stop at a famous beach side hotel in Coronado, California).

Also consider getting airfare through your tour company. Some offer this choice, others leave getting there entirely up to you. If I’m maybe traveling in the U.S. — where I live — I might be opted more to book my own fare if I find a lower rate. If you’re going overseas, and a bit nervous about getting from the airport to the hotel on your own, in most cases your tour company can take care of that transfer for you. Or you can book your airfare through them instead of having to do it yourself.

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5) Read Their Reviews
From review sites like TripAdvisor to even Facebook, checking up on personal reviews can firm up your decision. Some may have had snags in their trip while others just have their own good things to say or general gripes about trips, but the more opinions you need can give you a better sense about what you might be getting into.

Also, consider signing up for e-newsletters, as tour companies from time to time offer special discounts or price breaks. Some even may give you a discount for everything from early booking (six months in advance). Unfortunately, solo travelers can get stuck with a single person fee (due to hotel rooms) but some companies might have a room-sharing program where if you can be paired with another single passenger then that fee is waived.

In all, enjoy your tour.

The Single Traveler’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

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Photo by Richard Elzey via Flickr

Valentine’s Day gets a lot of hype. Even in the travel sector.

Granted, it’s a holiday push. Hotels create theme packages, special deals and savvy promotions. Article topics extend dreamy destinations, hip restaurants around the world, and many sources — even uses — for quality chocolate.

Yep, travel can be romantic.

So as February 14 rolls in again, I thought about how travel can give even the most self-conscious singleton a boost on a day like this. Here it goes:

1) Many Go Solo
Although having a travel companion is great, going solo can be even better. It’s brave too. Perhaps your potential significant other might not want to go to that place you’ve dreaming about. Or due to different reasons, can’t go.

Plus, who knows who you might meet on your adventure?

During a night in Athens, I was trying to figure out what transit line to take to get to the Acropolis Museum. Anxious about making the right stop, I asked a Greek male waiting on the platform with me if I was in the right place. He confirmed it, and while on the train, he was nice to notice me checking off each stop. And then suddenly, at the right stop, he said, “I’ll go with you.”

Instead of just walking me to the museum’s front, he bought a ticket as well. We ended up having a good evening out. He not only explored the museum with me but also walked with me to the Plaka, had dinner with me, and then brought me back to my hotel.

2) Everyone Can Have Travel Issues
If it makes you feel better, couples travel is not always as pretty as a picture. Even the best of them have had to adjust to traveling together.

People have different approaches to travel, and, like traveling with friends and families, you have to make compromises. You might encounters issues beyond your control: cancelled flights, missed trains, food poisoning, you name it. From planning to budgeting, to styles and interests, couples travel can really teach you how you work well in good times and bad.

My once significant other was a good sport about going places with me, and I was in turn with him. Thanks to him, I got to see more of New Hampshire (including a great pancake place) and he met up with me in Las Vegas after my work’s conference ended. On the contrary, he had his quirks such as always having to take an interesting choice of hotel souvenir.

3) It’s Your Choice
On Valentine’s Day, go out. Look at event calendars like ones at museums to see if you can drop in a public program. One good source is Eventbrite, a ticketing website where you can see event listings in or close to your area and then directly purchase a ticket if available. Avoiding mixers? Head to a concert or a fundraiser instead. Or even a chocolate shop.

Happy Valentine’s Day.