Behold! My Ankles Reappear! Traveling Tips From The Mite-y Widow

I should have gotten up more and moved around some on that flight from Korea to San Francisco. I really should have. I mean, as a nurse, I know why my ankles swelled to the size of my calves (OK, maybe not THAT bad, but still), but that didn’t keep me from staying planted in my seat for far too long. So after this wonderful, exciting adventure, here are my travel tips that you might or. Might not find useful. You don’t have to be a middle-aged woman traveling alone to take advantage of these tips. I think most of them are broader than that.
So let’s start with edema and airplanes. Edema is just a fancy medical term for swelling. My ankles and feet got all swollen because I didn’t get up and move around enough on a really long flight. I shifted around in my coach-class seat, but that wasn’t enough. Long flights require getting up from time-to-time. Even if you don’t need to use the luxurious airplane bathroom.
Which brings me to drinking. I know there are people who restrict their fluids on airplanes so they won’t have to use the luxurious airplane bathrooms. That’s not a great idea. Make sure you get enough fluids. In the air and on the ground. I know that one of the big reasons I wasn’t feeling up-to-par for my first few days in Hong Kong is that I wasn’t drinking enough. It was HOT. I mean HOT. I mean take a shower and feel good and before you’ve finished toweling off you’re already sweating again hot. I was dripping. Eventually I figured out that I needed to be drinking a lot more than I was. And then I suddenly had more energy and felt better. Funny how that works.
Make sure you know the mane and address of your hotel and maybe some cross streets, and then be adventurous! I know people who travel but who only eat in American restaurants or fast food places, and who only interact with other Americans. They don’t really get to experience the countries they’re visiting. There are some places in the world where it’s dangerous to get lost, but in most places, it can be fun to try to figure out public transportation. Yes, you might get off at the wrong stop, you might lose your way a bit, but as long as you know where you need to be, you can usually get there in the end.
Of course, you do want to stay safe. Pay attention to State Department alerts. If you’re someplace that’s known for a lot of crime, don’t be flashing around a lot of expensive things. Keep your wallet in your front pocket, or in a purse that closes all the way (with a zipper or a latched or snapped flap) and keep your purse in front, not behind.
This bit is specific to Cambodia: hire a driver. Hire a cab driver or a tuk-tuk driver. Do not rent a car, you will kill someone. The rules of the road in Cambodia are – well, suggestions. Let someone else do the driving. It’s cheap.
Also in Cambodia – consider hiring a guide at the sites. Not all guides are created equal, so hire someone who appears knowledgeable and who speaks your language reasonably well. You’re also less likely to be accosted by the hawkers if you’re with a private guide.
If you’re traveling overseas, buy a good electricity converter. Simply buying an adapter will not convert the voltage to 110, and especially for electronics you could end up frying your stuff. Converters cost more, but are worth it. In a few places (Incheon Airport I love you) there are special outlets that are running 110 just for Americans and Canadians, but you can’t count on that. Also, many hotels have converters available for loan, but you can’t rely on that, either.
Consider an international phone plan for your travels. There are a lot of ways to do this. Check with your cell phone provider. But it’s good to have in an emergency. Then make sure your mother knows that it is really just for emergencies, and then have her practice notdialing your number accidentally when she’s trying to call a friend so that you don’t panic at 3:00 am in Hong Kong thinking something horrible has just happened otherwise your mother would never have called. Oh, sorry, um…anyway, where was I? Yeas, it’s a good idea to have a phone these days.
Take lots and lots of pictures. Now, you can do that tourist thing if you want. You know that tourist thing? “This I’ve in front of the Eiffel Tower. This is me in front of The Colosseum. This is me…” You get the picture. I prefer to take pictures of the things I’m seeing. Oh sure, I occasionally get pictures of myself or the people I’m with when I’m traveling, but mostly it’s the stuff I’m seeing. On this trip I did get a picture of myself eating durian fruit. In that instance I really was the subject. And yes, I will post that eventually.
Hang on to your receipts! The first time I traveled overseas I didn’t know about the whole customs thing when you come home. Fortunately, I had my receipts and was able to fill out the form on the plane. This time, I had a little folder that I kept in my purse. Every time I made a purchase, I wrote on the receipt what it was, and I put it in the folder. Then on the plane it was easy to plug into the form. Good plan except for the stuff from Cambodia. In Cambodia I got a bunch of stuff from the street vendors. They don’t take credit cards and they don’t give receipts. I had to estimate the value of the stuff I’d bought. Which also required that I remember all the stuff I bought. In retrospect, I could have made a written note in the little notebook of each purchase, although outside at the temples this would not always have been convenient. But it’s a thought.
Be respectful. This is just good advice in general, but when traveling, you are representing your country to the world. This is how people see everyone from your country. In Cambodia, the Khmer people are not particularly fond of Koreans because of the tours that come through. Yet the Koreans I met at the airport were kind, courteous, and helpful. Our behavior matters. So if you’re asked to dress or not dress a certain way, to not touch or not photograph, please be respectful.
Which brings me to learning some of the basic customs and courtesies. People do seem to appreciate it if you’ve taken the time to learn how to say “thank you” or how to make the proper greeting in their culture. If you don’t know, ask. People are generally happy to teach.
My number one tip: have fun! Looks like my flight home is going to be boarding soon, so I guess I’ll leave you with that. And I think I might get up once or twice this time.
That’s my mite.

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