Not All Who Wander Are Lost: A Blog for Adventurous Women

Five mistakes to avoid on your next international trip

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jan 13, 2017 9:08:37 AM

We love international travel! We do it not only to see new things and meet new people, but AmalfiCoast.jpgto enrich our understanding of the world and humanity, and our own place in it. But there is no doubt that it takes more work and more preparation. Over the years we've made lots of mistakes and thought that sharing them might help you avoid the same ones.

1. Not looking for your passport until a week before your trip. 

  • First, you want to make sure you can find it. We had a participant miss a long and expensive trip once when she couldn't find it and couldn't get to the passport office in time for a replacement.
  • Obviously you need to make sure it is not expired, but many countries require that you have at least 6 months of validity from the date you enter their country.
  • In addition you need at least one completely blank page for each entry stamp. So if your passport is close to full, save yourself anxiety and renew it 2 months before you leave.

2. Trying to take your trekking poles through security

Our experience is that people have been rarely stopped in security when they have their trekking poles in their carry on in the U.S. However it has not been uncommon when travel abroad, and being stopped at security means you either lose your poles or pay to have them checked. Since most airlines still allow one free bag on international flights, it's better to put your trekking poles in a checked bag to begin with.

3. Taking a long nap or going to bed the morning you arrive

It's so tempting!! Especially if the hotel offers early check in. But the fastest way to combat jetlag is to get on the right schedule as soon as possible. If you have access to your room, take a 20 minute nap (or none at all), then get up and shower, and start exploring your new surroundings. Stay up through dinner and get up at your usual time the next morning. It's a tough day but you'll feel so much better the next day.

4. Thinking the entire world eats meals at the same time and the same way as you do.

  • While North Americans have been taught that a hearty breakfast is important, for many European countries breakfast is a coffee and a piece of toast or a pastry. This is less of an issue in hotels that offer buffets (and many hotels outside North America include breakfast in their price) but if high protein breakfasts are important to you, be sure to bring some cans of tuna and/or peanut butter.
  • All the southern Mediterranean countries (e.g. Italy, Spain, Greece) are known for eating large dinners late i.e. 8 to 11 pm. There are restaurants that cater to North American travelers and open earlier, but the food and experience aren't nearly as authentic because they are also catering to what they imagine are North American tastes. If a large meal late at night doesn't work for you, try eating a larger lunch and then know you'll be pushing away a half filled plate at dinner (or, depending on the restaurant, bring a plastic sandwich box and put your leftovers there to eat the next day). Don't expect traditional restaurants to serve you dinner when you wander in at 6, any more than Spaniards can expect a U.S. restaurant to serve dinner at 11pm. If this is potentially an important issue for you, make sure you know what to expect and how to prepare for it before you go.

5. Bringing travelers' checks or getting foreign currency before you go

Travelers' checks are increasingly difficult to use; frequently, the only place you can use them are banks. If you are traveling to a vcountry with a good ATM system, the easiest thing to do is withdraw cash at your arrival airport (be sure to let your bank kow you're traveling). ATMS associated with banks tend to charge less fees and give better rates than non-bank ATMs. But I've made the mistake several times of relying on ATMs in countries with more fragile banking systems that may have limited ATM availability, limits on how much you can withdraw at once, and sometimes don't work or run out of currency. In these cases, bringing cash as Plan B and either exchanging it at banks or currency exchanges (not the ones in airports, they always give terrible exchange rates). 


 

We're currently updating our EBook on International Travel. If you have any tips or suggestions, please add them below so we can share them with everyone else. 

 

Topics: adventure travel, travel tips

Lodging options for your next active vacation

Posted by Marian Marbury on Mar 6, 2014 4:54:00 AM

So you're planning your next active vacation and, having made your plane reservations, the next question is lodging. While air travel has gotten more expensive, more limited, and less enjoyable, the opposite is true for lodging. In fact the variety of lodging options, and the tools with which to findrooms the one that suits you, has just exploded. Covering all the options would be impossible so this blog is confined to short term stays.

Hotels: Hotels offer predictabilty, anonymity, and freedom from interacting with anyone other than the desk clerk. If all you want is a bed for the night, which is often true at the end of a long day or a long flight, they can be your best bet. Here are three possibilities for finding the right hotel room and which is better depends on where you're going, whether you have a car, and your preference for certainty.

  • If you have a car: Having a car gives you more flexibility. If your hotel ends up being 15 miles from the airport, it doesn't really matter. In this case I use the 'Name Your Own Price' function on Priceline.com. Before I put in a bid though, I go to hotwire.com. Hotwire is also an opaque site, meaning you don't know exactly where you're staying until you've agreed to stay there, but it offers fixed prices. That gives me a feel for what I can expect to pay. Armed with that info, I go to Priceline and put in a bid that is 10 to 30% lower than Hotwire. Be sure you look at the area map so you don't end up in another town.

    I only use Priceline when I have a car because I won't know if the hotel has an airport shuttle; and a taxi fare to a hotel that ends up being 6 miles away can eat up any savings I might have gotten - particularly if I have to return to the airport the next morning.
     
  • If you don't have a car: My favorite website when I want to know where I'm staying is Trivago. Trivago is a hotel metasearch engine; this means it not only lists lots of different hotels, but displays the current rate for each hotel on the date you want on each of the major booking websites (e.g. hotels. com, expedia etc.). It also gives overall ratings as well as the ratings at each of the booking sites. If it's not clear whether they offer an airport shuttle (never assume they do unless it is clearly stated), call them and ask. And while you're talking to them, tell them the lowest price you're seeing on the internet and ask them if that is the lowest rate they can offer.

    If you don't see anything you like, another comprehensive and easy to use booking site is booking.com. It has more options in more places, particularly for international destinations. We've found this particularly useful for international bookings. Checking out Priceline's Express Deals, where you can specify amenities such as airport shuttle and free internet, is also worth it.
     
  • If you have a high tolerance for uncertainty: There are an increasing number of booking sites that offer that day's unsold hotel inventory. The most well known is Hotel Tonight, which is only available as a smartphone or tablet app. You can get some great deals this way! Typically, though, it is good deals on higher end hotels and if price is the only consideration, you may be able to find cheaper on one of the other sites. It also only lists hotels in larger cities, so don't count it for finding you a spot when you're on a road trip in the West. And in the end, the uncertainty might not be worth it.

Hostels: Hostels used to serve only youth and often required chores. Those days have changed! The American Youth Hostel Association has been renamed to Hostelling International, because they don't just serve youth anymore and they truly are international in scope. The kind of lodging you'll find under the name hostel has also expanded, but typically you'll find: 1) all or some of the rooms are available to people who don't know each other (i.e. if there are four beds in the room, you may be sharing it with 3 people you don't know); 2) the bathroom is often outside the bedroom and shared by several other rooms; 3) there are cooking facilities available; and 4) they are much less expensive than hotels. An increasing number also offer private rooms and family rooms, and/or rooms segregated by gender.

We stay in hostels for all of our northern Georgia trips (the Hiker Hostel, owned by one of our guides, always gets rave reviews) and for our Canadian Rockies Hiking Holiday. In both cases we rent the entire hostel. This allows us to cook some of the meals, keep the price lower, and, just as important, gives everyone some common space to hang out together  - all of which make the trip more relaxed and less scheduled.

I often stay in hostels when I'm traveling personally; in addition to being less expensive, the hostelkeepers are usually great sources of local information and offer an opportunity to meet other travelers. I stayed in rifugios (mountain huts that are like hostels except they provide meals) when I was in northern Italy last year and one of my best memories was the evening I spent talking with a young couple from Bavaria and a cook from northern Italy. The two websites I use are HostelBookers and Hostelworld.  However, for people who like having some degree of privacy, hostels are not a great choice.

AirBnB: AirBnB has absolutely revolutionized the options available to travelers. Originally Bed and Breakfasts were homes of people who rented out a spare room to supplement their income. Especially in the US, they have morphed into more elaborate and expensive enterprises that are often more like small inns, although still offering great breakfasts, local knowledge, and the potential for connecting with other travelers.

AirBnB started by returning to the original concept, using the internet to connect people who needed a room with people who had one to spare. In the last couple of years it has exploded: people may choose to rent out a room or a whole house or apartment; it has even become the platform of choice for some small hotels. Both hosts and users can leave reviews, thereby helping to weed out the bad apples. There have been some legal issues in New York and other locales that forbid short term rentals (laws that are usually passed at the behest of the traditional hospitality industy), and critics who say that this provides a way to get around health laws and licensing. But most peopel who write about the travel industry think it is the wave of the future and in most places the issues will be resolved.

This is one of the most rapidly changing areas in travel, withnew ideas, websites, and apps appearing every day. The ones here are all likely to be around for awhile and, depending on what you're looking for in accomodation, all worth checking out.

Topics: active travel, travel tips, lodging

Buying airline tickets for your next adventure vacation - Part 1

Posted by Marian Marbury on Feb 3, 2014 7:00:00 AM

I've written a blog post about this previously but there are some new considerations and some new websites that make it worth updating. This advice is oriented towards the person who is considering or has booked a specific adventure vacation and therefore is locked into specific dates - perhaps you have a day or two of flexibility but you're not in the position of being able to go anywhere or anytime.

There are three issues to consider: 1) when should you book your airline ticket; 2) should you use a travel agent; and 3) if you book your own tickets, what sites are most useful? I'll look at the first 2 questions in this post and consider the third one in a second.relaxing in the Caribbean

When should you book your airline tickets?

In the original blog post, I suggested you start looking not earlier than 4 months and not later than 3 weeks. Those are still not bad guidelines, but it's not that simple. Airlines have gotten very sophisticated at projecting demand and basing their pricing on that - the cost of your ticket has virtually nothing to do with how many miles you're flying. If you are going to a popular destination at a popular time of year (e.g. the Caribbean in February, Florida during Spring Break, Europe in July, or home for the holidays), you might start looking 6 to 8 months in advance and you should definitely book early while there are still lots of seats. As planes fill, prices will go up. That is particularly true if you are flying from a small airport, on a route with limited competition, and/or to a place of high demand for your particular departure city. For example, if you live in Michigan and want to go to Florida this March, hopefully you already have your tickets booked. If instead you're going to Minneapolis, you can probably wait a few more weeks. 

Of course if seats don't get sold the prices may go down (one website reported that on average, the lowest price was 3 weeks before the departure day); but you take the risk that seats will be sold out and/or prices will go up. You also have to factor in your time and anxiety level. If you think you found a good price, just book it and don't look again. If you don't find a good price, then set up a fare alert. Maybe the price will never come down but at least you will have had time to adjust to the fact that you are going to pay more than you hoped.

Warning: if you haven't flown recently, be prepared for sticker shock. Prices have gone up significantly on many flights in the last couple of years. With continuing consolidation of airlines, this is not likely to improve soon.

Should you use a travel agent?

Travel agents charge a fee (the one we work with charges $35 for domestic tickets and $45 for international flights) and may or may not be able to find a flight that is cheaper than you can find on your own. But in addition to saving you time and relieving you of the paralysis that sometimes descends from looking at too many booking sites, a huge advantage is that you have someone to help you when your flight is delayed or cancelled. Rather than trying to get through to your airlines' call center which is being inundated by 1000s of other stranded customers, you call your agent and she takes care of it, finding you the best alternative there is.

The major disadvantage is that, if you're like me, it's hard to know what the optimal itinerary is until you actually see all your choices. Price is the single most important determinant for me, but it's not the only important thing. I might be willing to pay an additional $50 to get home four hours earlier or go a day earlier to save $120. But maybe I won't  - I don't really know until I see exactly what the choices are.

So what websites do we use when we're booking flights? I'll cover that in the next post. There are a couple of new entrants to the crowded field of airline booking sites. And the most surprising thing is that you can't rely on just one!

Our EBook will help you get ready ready for your next interational trip

Topics: active travel, travel tips, preparation, how to

A New Year's Resolution Worth Making

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jan 1, 2014 6:30:00 PM

If you make New Year's Resolutions about diet, exercise, or general self-improvement, the odds are you won't keep them. Don't be discouraged, breaking old habits takes time. But here is one that doesn't require you to sweat, make radical changes, or deprive yourself. Implement it and I guarantee it will change your experience of travel this year.

Disconnect from your electronic devices (smartphones, tablets) when you travel for pleasure. 

In the last 10 years I have too often seen peoples' vacations mentally ended by getting news from home or the outside world that they could do absolutely nothing about - but that took their attention from the present and diverted it to needless anxiety.

While cellphones without internet connectivity (i.e. dumb phones) can be distracting, the problem is much worse with smart phones: we not only risk getting interrupted by phone calls, but most of us, as long as our phone is on, will also check email, get text messages, and maybe even surf the web. All those activities shift our focus away from where we are and who we are with.

John Muir said "Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." 

So let's look at the most common objections to going without and examine some possible solutions.

1. Work has to be able to reach me! Really? Yes, expectations have changed. But mostly we are complicit in allowing those changes to happen and it's time we started fighting back. Twenty years ago, work couldn't contact you and the economy was doing just fine. Would they refuse to allow you to go on vacation if you were going someplace without cell reception (there are still places like that). Of course not. If that's really not possible, then either get a cheap dumb phone just for incoming calls or vacation some place that has a landline and tell them to call you if it's urgent. If your boss or coworkers can't just shoot off a quick email, you are likely to find that all those crucial matters can actually wait for a week.

2. My family has to be able to reach me! Particularly if you have aging parents or kids who are still at home, this can be important to your peace of mind when you're away. But that doesn't mean you have to leave your smartphone on. If you are part of a group tour, leave the phone number of the company running the tour and tell your family to call them. Or ask for your guide's phone number and leave that. If you're traveling with friends, set up a rotating schedule for who has their phone on and leave that with your family. Or get a dumb phone just for your trips. Even just having a few days without connectivity will be refreshing. 

3. I use my cellphone for a camera! Two possible solutions here. One is to turn your phone to Airplane mode so you can't get calls or emails. If you know you don't have self-control, buy yourself a camera. Really, decent digital cameras are so inexpensive these days. Your mental health is worth it!

Bottom line: The purpose of vacation is to break clear away from your every day life. Electronic devices, particularly those that are internet-connected, get in the way. Leave them at home. If you can't do that, leave it buried at the bottom of your pack and check it once a day (max). Decide how to minimize your use, even if its only for a day. You'll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Happy New Year!!

Topics: outdoors tips, travel tips, health and fitness

The unspoken fear about women's travel groups

Posted by Marian Marbury on Mar 25, 2013 5:47:00 AM

There are several common fears about traveling as a member of a women's travel group: Will I be the oldest? Will I be the slowest? Will everyone else want to spend a lot of time shopping? (Answers: maybe, could be, possibly but not likely). We get asked these alot either before or after women sign up for a trip. But there is another largely unspoken fear and its time to get it out in the open.

Snoring.Woman plugging ears

Yup, after we get to a certain age, a majority of women snore. Sometimes its a delicate little snore and sometimes its a steam engine. But its pretty common. Some women are afraid that their snoring will keep their roommate awake. Others fear that their roommate's snoring will keep them awake.

On our health form, we used to ask 1) do you snore? and 2) does snoring bother you? But both questions have problems. Many women simply don't know - if we don't share a bed with someone who is willing to tell us and we don't wake ourselves up, we have no way of knowing whether or not we snore.

The problem with the second question is that snoring bothers almost everyone, including women who snore. The only people who aren't bothered are those that sleep deeply (not so common once we're over 40) and those with hearing problems (increasingly common as we age but not usually so profound as to completely muffle everything). It seems unfair to "punish" women who snore by making them sleep with other snorers if snoring bothers them. As irritating as snoring can be, there is absolutely nothing an individual can do to control it.

Fortunately there is another solution and this is the one we're suggesting now: earplugs. I first really learned about earplugs when I was on our Tour du Mont Blanc trip about 9 years ago. One night 12 of us were sleepig in one large room without too much space between our mattresses (it's a very unusual trip that way). I just happened to be sleeping next to someone who was a big fan of earplugs, and most importantly, knew how to use them. She taught me, I followed her advice, and the next morning woke up after a good night's sleep. Several people started commenting about how much noise there had been in the room and how much snoring had occurred. I hadn't heard any of it. Now earplugs are part of my toiletry kit. And whenever someone tells me that earplugs don't work for them, I make sure they are using them correctly.

The trick is to make sure they are compressed before you insert them and then to straighten your ear canal as you slide them in. Since this is a bit difficult to explain, watching this excellent youTube video will help. If snoring bothers you but you don't like having to pay extra for your own room to assure a peaceful night, this will be the best 5 mintues you spend this week.

Topics: womens travel, travel tips, how to

Adventure travel and the beaten path

Posted by Marian Marbury on Jan 15, 2013 10:35:00 AM

Like many travelers, the first time I went to Switzerland I read Rick Steves "Switzerland Off the beaten pathThrough the Back Door". His guidebooks often have suggestions you don't see in others so they're always worth looking at. In the Lauterbrunnen Valley he recommended staying in Gimmelwald rather than Murren, both car-free villages perched high on cliffs above the valley floor. Gimmelwald, he said, was an unknown gem, off the beaten path, much less crowded than Murren. We walked through Gimmelwald on our way to Murren and what quickly became apparent was that there was nothing there - maybe a restaurant that closed at 5, a self-service store for cold drinks and souvenirs, a hotel or two. But the hikes out of the village were very limited and frankly, there wasn't anything to do. We stay two nights in this area on Hiking the Swiss Alps Alpine Pass Route and there is no way we would choose Gimmelwald over the much livelier town of Murren with its restaurants, shops, and multitude of hiking paths. It's interesting that Rick Steves' tours don't either.

Just  the phrase "the beaten path" conjurs up a destination mobbed by hordes of tourists who have been delivered by big busses, long lines, human noise, pushing and shoving -  crowds that make appreciating the destination incredibly difficult. Especially in adventure travel circles, getting off the beaten path is what we should all want to do - there is even a guidebook series called "Fill In The Blank off the beaten path". And there is always the intimation that if you are a sophisticated and discerning traveller, these are places you want to avoid like the plague.

There's only one problem with this mindset: you're going to miss seeing some pretty cool things. There is a reason crowds beat a path to certain places or sites. Do you really want to visit Rome and not see the coliseum or the Vatican? Skip the Grand Canyon, the most visited National Park in the US? Avoid the Louvre in Paris? Of course not. What you want to avoid, if possible, is having such a crowded experience that you can't appreciate whatever it is that you want to see.

Sometimes that just isn't possible, particularly if the event is time-limited. For example, if an art exhibition is going to be in your city for 6 weeks, you know its going to be mobbed the entire time. There's not really much choice here (unless you're a major donor or have another inside connection). Nope, you just have to decide how much you want to see it.

But often there are steps you can take. So the next time you are thinking about a visit to some place on the beaten path, consider whether any of these strategies can work.

  • Can you go in the off season? Every destination has a time of year where there are far fewer visitors. Reservations are easier to get and prices are often less. Generally the weather is not as good and some attractions may close in the off season. For example, some countries' low seasons coincide with their monsoon season. But I remember going to see the Crown Jewels in London in February. It was clearly set up to whisk large crowds of people quickly by. When we went, it was virtually empty and we could linger as long as we chose.

  • Can you go either the moment it opens or shortly before it closes? These are almost always the quietest time. If you go as soon as it opens, see if you can start at the most popular part of it - particularly if it isn't the recommended order of things. For example, in Rome we met our tour guide at the Vatican before it opened and she took us immediately to the Sistine Chapel; we got there before any of the other groups arrived. Or go at the end of the day. In some places they shoo you out the moment it closes, in others they simply stop letting people in. Make sure you know what the policy is so you have at least some time.

  • Can you get off the beaten path at the beaten path destination? At the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the average visitor stands on the rim and gazes at the Canyon for 15 minutes before going to eat at a restaurant. If you hike below the Rim, particularly if you avoid the Bright Angel and South Kaibab, you will see very few people and experience the true wilderness nature of the Canyon. Alternatively, avoid the South Rim and go to the North Rim that has many fewer visitors and still offers amazing vistas and great hiking.

  • Can you mix a little beaten path with a little off the beaten path? Just like I don't think you should visit Italy without seeing Florence sometime in your life, I also don't think you have seen Italy if you only go to the cities. Walking the countryside of Italy will give you a completely different perspective on Italy's history and culture.

The bottom line is that the beaten path leads to some pretty amazing places. Using these strategies hopefully you can enjoy them without the crowds!

 

Our EBook will help you get ready ready for your next interational trip

Topics: adventure travel, travel tips, preparation

Travel Tips: Surviving Holiday Air Travel

Posted by Katie Flanagan on Dec 14, 2012 5:00:00 AM

Neck Pillow resized 600

If you are leaving on a jet plane this month to spend time with friends or family, then airports are likely a part of your holiday plan. Planning ahead with these five airport travel tips can bring a bit of cheer to your holiday air travel experience, turning long days in airports and airplanes into productive and peaceful periods when in route. 

  • BYOWB. That’s Bring Your Own Water Bottle. By now, most of us know that liquids are a “no, no” when going through security lines. But empty water bottles are not! On the other side of the body scanner, you can fill your bottle up FOR FREE (as opposed to the $2.00 or bottled water costs from vendors). It is easy to get dehydrated when flying, so having a water bottle in hand can help you water your body. If water doesn’t satisfy you – pack a few Crystal Lights to go packets. And if HOT beverages make you smile, bring along a packet of hot chocolate mix or a tea bag; Starbucks (and most airport vendors) will give you a cup of hot water for FREE – no questions asked.

  • Sleep Easier. I may look silly with a bright red cushion wrapped around my neck – but waking up rested without a kink in my neck is worth a little awkwardness. I swear by neck pillows. I have literally slept for multiple hours on planes using mine. I have a fluffy red one that deflates (for easy stow). At about $10 a piece, they are worth the small investment. Two other items that help me sleep easier on planes are ear plugs (we’ve all had crying babies on our flights) and sleep masks (not sure about you – but I snooze better when it’s dark). At takeoff – when you’re decked out in your sleep gear, you may look a little funny – but the other passengers will envy your preparedness and ability to arrive at your destination rested.

  • Food. It’s no secret that airport food is expensive and offers few healthy options. And News Flash – airlines have drastically cut back on free inflight food. So bring your own! Suggestions include – dried fruit or trail mix in a Ziploc bag, string cheese, beef jerky, an apple, banana, or a JIF peanut butter “to go” cup. These are healthy and inexpensive snacks to hold you over until a sensible meal is in reach.

  • Move. So you have a two hour layover? Explore the terminal via foot. Your travel day does not have to be completely sedentary. Wear a comfortable pair of shoes (or keep a pair of sneakers in your carry on). Instead of plopping yourself down at your gate for a couple hours – people watch while walking. You may even tire yourself out a bit… making it easier to catch some zzz’s on the plane.

  • Lists. Call me crazy but I love making lists. My brain is less cluttered when my “to dos” are written down. And while I love traveling/vacationing – my flight home can be clouded by all the things I need to do when I get home. So when I am in route out of town – I start making a “When I get back list” – that way as things come to mind I jot them down and they STAY on the list for the duration of my trip instead of nagging me throughout.  It also passes time – you can get really wild and make lists for home, work, people to call, fun things you want to do, places you want to visit, Christmas lists, or New Year’s Resolutions (extra bonus if your New Year’s resolution is to be more organized). By the time you are done – your mind is clear, and your post vacation life is planned out (at least on paper).

Topics: travel tips, health and fitness, food and drink

High altitude adventure trips for women: what you need to know

Posted by Marian Marbury on Oct 8, 2012 4:50:00 PM

Should you even consider one of our adventure trips for women that involve high altitude (for example, our Kilimanjaro Climb and Safari or Trekking to Machu Picchu)? If you're like most people, you may never have been over 8 - 10,000 feet and you have no idea how you will respond. There are alot of myths and misinformation about altitude so the first step is to get some basic information.

  • There isn't less oxygen at high altitudes. But there is lower barometric pressure, which means there is less pressure to force those oxygen molecules out of the air and into your blood stream. Your body has both short term (faster breathing and heart rate) and long term (more hemoglobin) ways of helping you adapt up to a point. 

  • Most people do not have trouble at altituStanding on top of Kilimanjarodes below 8,000 feet, other than perhaps a little breathlessness and rapid heart rate the first day or so (e.g. this comonly occurs when we go to Bryce Canyon). Beyond that, our response to altitude is largely determined by our genetic makeup. Those people who climb Everest without oxygen? It isn't that they are super athletes or follow special diets (although those may be true too); it's just that they chose their parents well.

  • You can have trouble adapting to altitude one time and no trouble the next, or vice versa - because it isn't all genetic. Nonetheless, it isn't a hopeful sign if you have problems twice in a row or routinely have more trouble than other people when you are over 8,000 feet.

  • People with a long history of heavy smoking and/or chronic lung disease are mor elikely to have trouble at altitude ebcause their lung function is already affected.

  • Being in top physical condition won't prevent altitude sickness.

  • People do not get more susceptible as they get older - in fact, there is some evidence that the reverse is true.

  • The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to build in adequate time for acclimatization, preferably never sleeping more than 1,000 feet higher than the night before.

  • Staying well hydrated, eating more carbs and less fat, avoiding alcohol, and getting more rest can all help you adapt.
  • If slow acclimatization isn't possible or if symptoms of mild altitude persist, then the drug acetazolamide (Diamox) is very effective for most people. Fortunately the symptoms many of us typically get - headaches, nausea, fatigue - often resolve in a day or two.

  • Occasionally people don't adapt, and then altitude can be deadly.  Once you develop any of the forms of altitude sickness (Acute Mountain Sickness, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, High Altitude Cerebral Edema) the most important thing is to descend to lower elevations. Fortunately at altitudes of 20,000 or less, these are not common.

    In the end, there are no guarantees. You can do everything you need to do to get ready for a high altitude adventure trip and then have altitude problems. People with known chronic lung disease or demonstrated sensitivity to altitude probably shouldn't even bother trying. But if there is something you have been wanting to attempt and all that is holding you back is your uncertainty about how you will respond to altitude? If you don't try, you'll never know.
     

Topics: active travel, hiking, safety, travel tips, health and fitness

How to sabotage your next adventure vacation

Posted by Marian Marbury on Aug 28, 2012 4:59:00 PM

Sometimes your adventure vacation goes wrong all by itself - your flight is delayed or cancelled, you get sick just before you were supposed to leave, there is a flood or fire in the area you were supposed to visit, etc. These are all things you can't control that you just have to accept. But if you want to make sure that your adventure vacation doesn't live up to your hopes and expectations, here are five methods you can use to guarantee that you won't come back as refreshed and rejuvenated as you might have.sabotaging your vacation

  1. Wait until the day before you leave to pack. This works particularly well if you have an early morning flight, or if you are doing something that is quite different from what you usually do so you may need new clothing or equipment. There is nothing quite like starting off your trip already stressed and tired!

  2. Bring an electronic device that lets you check email (SmartPhone, IPad, Ipod etc) and then be sure to check it at least once a day, if not two or three times. This method works particularly well if there is some difficult issue at home or work that you can do absolutely nothing about while you're away.

  3. Pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV in your hotel room and watch the news. This works particularly well if you are someone who follows current events closely and frequently finds yourself upset by what is going on in the world.

  4. Look at your packing list and then take twice as much as it suggests. After all, if 2 t-shirts are good, 4 are even better. Or better yet, don't even look at the packing list and just bring everything you could possibly need. This method works particularly well if you are frequently changing lodging and/or are taking public transportation from the airport.

  5. Bring a book you really need to read for work. For example, if you are a computer programmer, what better time could there possibly be to learn a new programming language? The only rule here is to make sure that it isn't a book you would read if you had a different career or job.

Of course you may do all these things and still have a great time. But next time- just try doing any or all of these things differently and see what a difference it makes.

Topics: adventure travel, travel tips, preparation

International adventure travel and low fat diets

Posted by Marian Marbury on Aug 10, 2012 10:02:00 AM

A couple of years ago I had to start restricting my intake of saturated and trans-fats for health reasons, and I wondered how it would impact my international adventure travel plans. I've a cheesey mealdefinitely made some adjustments but it really hasn't been that difficult.

Two caveats: Personally I don't worry about overall fat intake, it's only saturated and trans fats that I try to minimize. And while I am often a vegetarian at home because low saturated fat diets and vegetarian diets are very easy to combine, I am not a commited vegetarian.

When I travel internationally, I feel like a guest in that country. Like any guest,  I am not going to have the same control over my food that I do at home. And I do not want to quiz my host closely about what exactly is in each dish. I also want to try local dishes because I think cuisine is an important part of culture. Nonetheless I do not want to go home with my cholesterol 100 points higher. So here's what I do:

  1. Airlines still feed you on international flights and they still offer "special meals" if you order them ahead of time. Don't just order a vegetarian meal, because most likely it will be cheese-based. I had a delicious Asian Vegetarian meal on my last trip. Special meals also have the advantge of being delivered before the rest of the cabin is served, so they're still hot.

  2. Bring "natural" peanut butter with you. Even if you can find peanut butter in a local grocery store, it will be U.S.-made hydrogenated peanut butter that is high in trans fats. As long as you have your own stash to put on whatever the local breadstuff is, you are well fed.

  3. If you have a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian option, make sure you know what the specific meals are. The non-vegetarian option is often lower in saturated fat than the vegetarian option.

  4. Find other people in the group who like swapping bites or sharing desserts. I'm not going to order cheese fondue when I'm in Switzerland, but I'll hope that the person who does is interested in trying a bite of my fish. And while some people prefer to focus on one dessert that they don't share, others prefer to have one bite of four different desserts. You'll find me in that latter group.

  5. Do 5 minutes of internet research to get an idea of what low fat local cuisine might be available. For example, I googled "low saturated fat Italian food" and found a recipe site that listed over 800 recipes for foods meeting both criteria, which reminded me that minnestrone soup is a great option. There were also other general reminders that the food in Italy is usually much healthier than the Italian food we eat in U.S. restaurants. Since I enjoy cheese, I also want to know if there are local cheeses I might never have heard of that are lower in saturated fat.

The whole point of travel is to try new things, open yourself to new experiences, learn about new cultures. You don't have to completely ignore how you "should" eat, but with a little advanced thought and preparation it doesn't need to be a distraction or an obtacle to enjoying just being there.

8/12 Update: Just to be clear, I am not suggesting people need to give up being vegetarian or any way of eating that is based on health or values. But I do think you need to be flexible in what you eat and come prepared to supplement what is available. I bring peanut butter; vegetarians might choose protein bars and gluten-free folks could being gluten free snacks.

Topics: travel tips, health and fitness, international destinations