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My very first trip overseas alone was London, England in the 70's. I had this ginormous suitcase, that I couldn't lift or pull very easily. This was before the days of roller bags. The suitcase did have wheels with a strap handle, but because of it being so overweight, it kept falling over. Not fun at all. I ended up staying at the YMCA by the British Museum and that was a big plus, because it was so central. I also met another young woman from Montreal, Canada and we ended up traveling all over Europe together.


1. Bottled water is your friend! Always keep hydrated. Potable water in some countries, may not be drinkable. Hot showers may not be possible, especially in tropical countries.

2. Watch where you're putting your feet. Keep your eyes open for missing concrete, unexpected or uneven ground. My friend Vernalisa just returned from China with a broken pelvis, due to a fall on uneven concrete. She had only been on her trip for 5 days.

3. Strangers talking to you. When you're young, this is usually not a problem if a young man approaches you. But as you get older, become more suspicious of a total stranger, approaching you in the street. Are they trying to sell you something or steal something from you? Be friendly, but cautious.

4. Motion Sickness-Is this a problem, you've dealt with before? Come prepared. I haven't ever had this problem, but I know people who have.

5. Toilets and toilet paper-Is this an issue? Oh Yes! Many toilets around the world do not supply toilet paper. I bring my own tissues, just in case. And you don't know how many times, I have been caught without any coins to tip the madam that cleans the toilet. No coins, no entry. And that still doesn't guarantee toilet paper.

There also many toilets that don't accept toilet paper, be on the lookout for those. You have to place your used tissues in the baskets. Their plumbing systems just cannot handle the waste and the paper.

6. Find cheap, free things to do on your trip. Check online before you go and then in the various travel offices as you travel. Senior discounts are available also throughout the world.

7. Devices-we all have devices that need charging these days. Come prepared. Many times, I have either brought the wrong plug or adapter needed or just forgot to bring anything. In the U.S., this is not a problem, but it can be a big problem overseas. Imagine days, weeks without your phone or laptop charged. Don't count on your hotels having extra chargers available, because they won't. Not even the luxury hotels. Cruise lines same thing-no charger for you.

8. Communication-How many foreign languages do you know? I speak very good English and that's about it. But a smile goes a long way and learning how to say please, thank you in the language of the country does too. Mime what you need, this works as well. Of course, now I have the Translate App and I can use that in 31 countries, but you need internet for that. Sometimes it's handy, sometimes not.

9. Your first day of your trip-you're exhausted, cranky and jet-lagged. Go with the flow, it will be better the next day.

10. New Friends-I'm a friendly person and open to meeting new people on tours. Smile be friendly, make new friends. You're on vacation, enjoy the opportunity to meet new people.

11. Food-I have mentioned this before, when I travel outside of the US, I am pretty much a vegetarian. Salads and French fries are my main foods. Though I will eat eggs in the morning in most countries. But you're braver and a foodie, just be cautious, especially in third world countries. Are the flies enjoying your food as much as you are-I'm just saying.

12. Traveling in tours-check out the age range of those traveling. Do you really want to travel with 20 kids on a bus around Europe.

13. Traveler's Checks-this used to be the best way to travel with money, but not anymore. Many places won't accept them and then you have to wait for a bank to open up and possibly pay more fees to cash them.

14. ATM machines-travelers are encouraged to use these all over the world, but I try never to do this. This is how your information is stolen. Especially in Italy.

15. Fanny Packs & Money Bags-I think they are so American and funny, but they do the work there supposed too. Keep your money safe! I personally don't take a lot of money with me when I travel. If I'm taking a cruise, I can always get more cash from the ATM in the casino, from a protected US bank.

16. Foreign Money-all of my friends exchange their money before travel. Not me, usually I wait until I get through Customs and then find the Foreign Currency Exchange Desk, but that's me. Last May though, it didn't work out for me. In New Delhi,India , the Foreign Exchange Desk had run out of money and the wait would be 2 hours before I could get some. Since I was on a scheduled tour, I just waited till I got to the hotel and exchanged some money there, but it could have been a problem.

I hope I have inspired you to Travel.

Valerie Brown

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