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10 Essential Expatriate Travel Skills

I recently met a woman who heard I have lived in the Horn of Africa for sixteen years WITHOUT AMAZON PRIME. She figured that was probably the hardest thing about those sixteen years. If she only knew…

Being sans immediate doorstep delivery of all the things does not constitute suffering in my worldview. That said, it does make expatriate life a bit more challenging and requires a bit more creativity. There are some important skills to develop. When prodigious amounts of travel are required to see your children, attend a wedding or funeral, pick up your life-saving medications, purchase new running shoes, or simply get a break in an English-speaking country, there are some important skills to develop. When navigating two worlds, there are some important skills to develop.

If you already live abroad, you know of what I speak. If you don’t, but are planning to move, here’s some skills to start developing now.

travel skills

  1. Packing the right amount of peanut butter. How long will you be away from peanut butter? How many children do you have? How lazy are you when it comes to dinner (if you’re anything like me, the answer is: very)? If you’re packing a load of this liquid gold, here’s an easy link to order it. Via Amazon. Because why not just buy the 80 ouncer?
  2. Knowing exactly what 50.0 pounds feels like. Airline staff will be impressed and you won’t have to literally spread your underwear all over the airport floor in front of everyone, re-shuffling.
  3. Accurately guessing what style and size shoes your toddler/tween/teenager will wear eighteen months from now.
  4. Purchasing the right running shoes to get through the next 2,500 miles. My go-to’s lately are Brooks Ghost and Altra trail shoes, nice and wide for my toes, and great for off-road.
  5. Sitting nearly upright for fifteen hours at a time without losing your mind.
  6. Walking off those fifteen hours in preparation for another 8-10 before doing it again, while in a cramped airport lugging carry-ons, purses, computer bags, backpacks, diaper bags, strollers, and 1-3 zombie children.
  7. Filling out visa and immigration paperwork with one hand, the paper balanced on soft-sided luggage which is balanced on top of your thigh which is leaning against the metal bars that hold up those red ropes, so that you can stand in line while filling it out instead of getting stuck at the back of a group of not-from-around-here tourists, while hollering at your children and passing out Cheerios, while holding your pee and ordering everyone else in the family to hold their pee because you are NOT going to the back of the line.
  8. Peeing from any level of squat regardless of the availability of toilet paper or hand sanitizer or bathroom stall doors or bathrooms.
  9. Calling two countries home.
  10. Knowing that ‘home’ has multiple meanings.

What have been some of your essential skills?

*image via Flickr

*contains affiliate links to things you can order on AMAZON PRIME!

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How Travelers Can Prepare for Touring Beyond the Beaten Trail

*sponsored post, Global Journeys

Travel means different things to different people, and for some, it’s all about getting off the beaten trail. It’s about being challenged, it’s about learning, discovering, and expanding horizons. It’s about personal growth and stepping out of that cosy comfort zone.

Taking a guided tour means you have the support to explore the unfamiliar confidently. To do things and go places you may not feel comfortable doing independently. However, while a guided tour facilitates getting off the beaten trail with ease, it can still be daunting and unnerving. Here are some things you can do to best prepare for your exploration beyond the well-trodden path.

Research the Culture

Setting off on a vacation into the unknown is exciting, but it is important to know a little about the culture to avoid making any faux pas and moments of awkwardness. Understanding the cultural etiquette of your destination is a sign of respect and will avoid causing offense. This may be anything from asking permission before taking photos to learning chopstick etiquette, like never spiking your chopsticks upright in your rice. Your tour leader will guide you on what is appropriate along the way, but doing some research beforehand will have you best prepared and at ease on tour.

Pack Appropriately

Researching the culture and climate of your destination will help determine what makes it into your luggage. It is important to pack clothing that is culturally sensitive and appropriate for the places you are visiting and reading your tour itinerary in detail will help inform what you pack. You may need longer and loose fitting clothes to visit places of worship and throwing in a light scarf for the ladies is always handy to cover up if necessary. You may need layers and weatherproof gear to suit the climate, and comfortable shoes are a must. There may also be limited access to laundry facilities, so a travel clothesline often comes in handy. Being prepared to wash along the way also means you can pack lighter which will make your trip easier overall. If you have a long haul flight pack your carry-on luggage just as thoughtfully.

Plan Ahead

Tours that take you off the beaten trail often go hand in hand with remote destinations where access to shops and services may be limited. It is important to be equipped with everything that you need before leaving the well-trodden path into less tourist dense areas. Be sure to pack enough of any required medication (just check it is permitted in the country you are traveling to and accompany with a letter from your doctor) and toiletries. It is also important to consider money matters for your tour, so you don’t get stuck without funds along the way. Check with your bank the best way to access your money overseas and be mindful to carry cash where ATMs may be limited or non-existent. If you are walking a lot or hiking, wear in your shoes or hiking boots before you leave home.

Learn Some Language

Learning some turns of phrase is a great way to break down barriers and show respect to the people welcoming you into their country, and often their homes. Using the local language, or at least trying to, will not only open more opportunities for unique experiences, but can also circumvent awkwardness and misunderstandings. There are some great language translation apps around, or if you prefer, you can pick yourself up a phrase book before heading off on your vacation. Greetings and expressing gratitude are a great place to start.

Keep an Open Mind

The best way to truly experience a place and a culture is to immerse yourself in it. Sometimes things will catch you off guard and there may be opportunities that present themselves that you may not have previously considered. Keep an open mind and try new things. Your tour leader and local guides have all the insights to keep you safe, so you can boldly throw yourself into your adventure and get the most out of your holiday. Try the local specialties. Chat to the locals. Surround yourself with different languages. Say yes to new experiences and enjoy everything your destination has to offer. Adventure awaits off the beaten trail.

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Creative Travel

Quick link: 7 Travel Options for Airplane-Weary Expatriates

Over at A Life Overseas today, as we head into a season of peak expat travel. Some of us are so.stinking.tired of airplanes. Some of us love them, but the cramped quarters, the sheep-herding mentality, the long immigration lines, the getting yanked from your seat and bloodied, the stress of no Kindles or computers in the cabin, the fear of what if they are in the cabin…it is getting to be a bit much.

We need relief! Thankfully, there are several better options for travel. Here are a few:

Run Fast (1 Kings 18: 45-46)

Tuck your skirt or man-skirt up into your belt and run like mad. You might outrun chariots and you might outrun a thunderstorm. Your swag might be a death threat from a queen. No worries, run on!

Fish Cargo (Jonah)

Get swallowed by a fish, nearly digested, and spit up on the land of your choosing. Er, no. The land you absolutely did not choose. But, there you are, undigested, make the most of it.

Click here to read the rest of your new (old) travel options: 7 Travel Options for Airplane-Weary Expatriates

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How Do Long-Term Expats Stay Well?

Quick Link: 8 Ways for Expats Who Stay to Stay Well

Other expatriates come and go and come and go and we just keep on staying. By choice, by necessity, because of our bosses or because of our dreams or because of our desires…some expats stay and stay. This is both good and hard, like pretty much everything in life. So how can we do it well, make the most of a long-term stint in a foreign country?

Stay Well

How can stayers stay well?

Love the ones you’re with. Most likely, you are not the only long-term stayer where you live. You might not have a lot of options and the people around you might not be people you’d naturally gravitate toward in another situation. Fine. Love them well anyway. Think of them like family, people you are committed to through thick and thin. People who remember your kids when they were in diapers, families with children you have loved from preschool until university. These long-term relationships are invaluable. We need people to reminisce with, to hold shared memories with, people who know us well enough that they can call out our weaknesses and recognize our strengths.

Keep exploring. Keep learning. You’ve been here a long time, you actually know things now, not like you ‘knew’ things when you first arrived. But don’t let that stymy your learning. There is always a new restaurant, a new vocabulary word, a new campsite, a new experience. Stay curious, stay engaged. Go deep.

Click here to read the rest: 8 Ways for Expats Who Stay to Stay Well, there are some hard-earned tips in here. Things I’ve picked over 12 years of staying in one country, after 1 year of blasting through four.

Dad’s Gone? Time to Break the Rules

Quick link: We Break All the Rules When My Husband Is Out of Town

Today I’m at Babble, writing about survival when Tom travels. It is, of course, a lot easier now that our kids are big and independent and can even be left alone but in the days when they were little? It was hard. One tip that I forgot to include: If you have young boys and girls who love to wrestle or fight (like us), hang up a punching bag. Ours was right in the middle of the living room and it was fantastic, well worth the aesthetic sacrifice.

Dad Gone? Break the Rules.

My husband travels often and he goes to, um, interesting places. We live in Djibouti, and he is a professor and director of our development organization who consults on various projects. He has stayed in a hotel in Jordan two days after it was bombed, figuring lightning wouldn’t strike twice in the same place (plus he got an obscenely low price … for obvious reasons.)

He once called to tell me that upon takeoff to Somalia the engine of the plane he was on caught fire … but that now the fire was out and they were taking off again. Phew. I can’t worry the whole time he is gone, I have three kids so I have to keep functioning!

So, how does a mom stay healthy, maintain her sanity, and not worry while dad travels?

Click here to read the rest of We Break All the Rules When My Husband Is Out of Town