Travelling solo can always be a challenge and a daunting experience. The sense of nervousness can be heightened when you are a female travelling going solo. While the world is a beautiful place, it can also be scary and you shouldn’t take security lightly as a female traveller.

Nonetheless, when the travel bug bites you need to answer to its call and you don’t need to be too afraid of travelling around the world as a girl. Here are some of the destinations you should keep in mind when looking for places to go.

Reykjavik, Iceland

If you want to see gender equality in action, then you should consider flying out to Iceland. The country has had its fair share of kick-ass women and you can be expected to meet plenty of great people in the Land of Fire and Ice. The natural beauty of this country is just breath-taking, but there are plenty of other things going for the country too. Reykjavik has quite a good nightlife and the culture on display is vibrant and fun. We also like the Icelandic food – don’t worry, it isn’t all about fish either!

Barcelona, Spain

Skyline view of Barcelona, Spain, one of the best destinations for solo female travelers

While Barcelona is a vibrant and big city, which means you need to be careful when travelling alone, it’s such a friendly and welcoming city as well. You simply can’t go through life without experiencing Barcelona. The city has plenty of shopping options from small boutiques to big brands on Las Ramblas. The architecture is stunning; thanks to Gaudi and the Spanish food is just a magnificent experience. The waterfront restaurants offer some fantastic paella, which you can enjoy while taking in the vibrancy of the city.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

You should get in on the latest tourist trends and find yourself in the beautiful coastal city of Dubrovnik. Croatia is a country with a low crime rate and the tourism industry is continuously developing, adding more excitement and opportunities for you to enjoy. The medieval city has plenty of amazing artisan shops to explore, as well as activities to enjoy. For instance, snorkelling is just a fantastic way to take in the crystal clear sea.

Okinawa, Japan

Japan is one of those countries that you just have to experience at some point in your life. While there are cities and town to explore on these magical islands, Okinawa is among the best for a solo traveller. The hustle and bustle is less confusing and chaotic, with the city offering super accessible and safe public transport. The city itself has anything from sandy beach to a market with stunning solo dining opportunities.

Seattle, the USA

Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, one of the best destinations for solo female travelers
Pike Place Market in Seattle via michaelrighi

Solo travel can sometimes seem extra costly, but Seattle is a town that has understood the value of solo travellers. Therefore, you can find plenty of places in the city that offer special deals and entertainment for solo backpackers. There are plenty of exciting things to see aside from the fine dining and going out. You have the Space Needle, the EMP Museum and the Pike Place Market with its fantastic offerings.

Taipei, Taiwan

For technology-lovers Taiwan offers plenty to see. Taipei is a slightly less consuming and overwhelming city to some of its major Asian counterparts and therefore a great destination for a female solo traveller. The city even has a Safe Waiting Zone system on the metro platforms, making travel feel a bit less daunting. The city offers plenty of shopping opportunities, not to mention the amazing cuisine you can explore from street food to fine dining.

Washington D.C., the USA

Another great solo destination for women is Washington D.C. The place of political power has the right amount of iconic and historic buildings and places to explore, as well as modern establishments to visit. The city has a funky atmosphere to it that on its own is worth checking out. The public transport works well and finding a safe cab is never an issue in this welcoming city.

London, England

London, England is one of the best destinations for solo female travelers
London was one of the 14 most popular destinations in 2015

Finally, you could explore the charm of the British capital city. The age-old city should keep female travellers on their toes, but when you know where to be and when, you can explore some amazing things around the city. London offers culture and entertainment. If you utilize sites like Attractiontix.co.uk, you can get the best deals and options without breaking the bank. You must eat out at the 1,000 Borough Market and if you snack yourself through smartly, you won’t even spend a penny for the feast. You also must check out the pub life, which can guarantee you won’t need to sit in a corner all alone.

When you travel alone as a woman, you do need to be smart at where you stay and when you explore the venues around you. But if you keep a cold head and plan your actions in advance, you can explore the world and have fun while doing it. Hopefully, the above destinations will inspire you and help you get over the fear of travelling solo.

Published in Travel Tips

Whether you’re building libraries in Zambia or adventuring around Madrid, any trip warrants a first aid kit. While it’s hardly the sexiest of travel topics, having basic first aid items on hand can mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major catastrophe. Here’s how to build a travel first aid kit for maximum health and safety—no matter where you are in the world.

1. Prepare personal medications

If you have a preexisting condition, be sure to pack all medications in their original containers with the labels intact. Pack enough medication for the trip as well as some extra to cover unforeseen circumstances. The CDC recommends bringing along copies of any prescriptions as well as a note from the prescribing physician on letterhead stationery—ideally, translate these materials into the language of your destination. In certain countries, some medications are simply not allowed—contact the appropriate embassy or consulate to find out if this is an issue

2. Consider your needs

Take stock of the length of the trip, the destination, and any planned activities. A remote trekker in the Himalayas will face a very different situation than a Berlin tourist, for example. The more remote or physical the trip, the more comprehensive a first aid kit should be (more on that later). Another big consideration is whether you’ll be traveling solo or going on a family trip, as kids are all but guaranteed to have accidents that may result in cuts or bruises (more on this later, as well)

3. Gather documents

In addition to medications and first aid supplies, a quality kit should include a contact card, proof of insurance coverage, and an immunization record (particularly if traveling in areas where infectious diseases are common) for every traveler. The contact card is meant to be used in case of a medical emergency and should include:

  • The name and contact information for an emergency contact back home
  • The name and contact info for your health care provider
  • The address and phone number for wherever you’re staying
  • The address and phone number for your country’s embassy or consulate
  • The emergency contact phone number from your travel health insurance provider, if applicable

Additionally, people with preexisting conditions (such as diabetes or severe allergies) may want to wear an alert bracelet and carry a card in their wallet that explains the condition—ideally, the card will be written in the language of your destination.

4. Select a container(s)

Choose a hard, waterproof, and durable container for the first aid kit so as to ensure the items don’t get ruined in transit or bad weather. Choose a larger container for longer trips, and a smaller container for shorter trips. It’s also a good idea to pack a small first aid kit in a carry-on and a more comprehensive kit in checked baggage. Once you’ve unpacked at a destination, carry the small kit with you at all times and re-supply from the large kit if necessary.

5. Pack the basics

At a minimum, any first aid kit worth its salt should include the following:

  • Band-aids
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Gauze pads
  • Medical tape
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors (keep in mind that these will need to be packed in checked baggage)
  • Painkillers/fever reducers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
  • Ace bandages
  • Digital thermometer
  • Disposable, latex-free gloves
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (make sure it’s less than 3.4 ounces if transporting it in carry-on luggage)

Other handy items include:

  • Antihistamine medication
  • Anti-motion sickness medication
  • Antidiarrheal medication
  • Mild laxative
  • Cough suppressant/expectorant
  • Cough drops
  • Antacids
  • Sunscreen
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Lubricating eye drops (again, remember the 3.4-ounce rule for liquid carry-ons)
  • Aloe gel for sunburns (ditto the 3.4-ounce rule)
  • Condoms

6. Up the ante where applicable

Remember when you took stock of the trip’s specifics (#2)? Now it’s time to apply that information to your first aid packing list. Anyone traveling to the tropics, for example, should be sure to consider insect bite precautions (such as bed nets) and pack anti-malarial medications. If traveling in a remote area, consider bringing water purification tablets and electrolyte replacements. Spending time in high-altitude areas might warrant packing medication to combat high-altitude sickness. If traveling in a developing country, it’s a good idea to pack oral rehydration salts and medications to treat food poisoning, giardia, and/or amoebic dysentery.

Consult a medical professional to develop the ideal packing list for your needs and destination.

Finally, if traveling with children, consider packing kid-friendly first aid items such as Band-aids featuring popular cartoon characters, kid-sized bandages, a couple of disposable instant cold packs, and a tooth preservation kit. Since children will be exposed to new foods and objects while traveling, read up on how to administer first aid in the event of choking. The ability to respond quickly to any hurts a child experiences may have the added bonus of preventing tantrums on vacation.

A few notes on packing choices

Whenever possible, choose tablets instead of liquids, gels, or creams. If that’s not possible, be sure to adhere to the 3.4-ounces-or-less rule for carry-ons in order to breeze through security.

To save space in baggage, opt for sachets and flat-packed tablets in lieu of bottles and tubes. Also look for travel or sample-size packaging whenever possible (your doctor may be able to help out).

The Takeaway

No matter where in the world you’re traveling, it’s worth taking the time to build a quality first aid kit that’s tailored to your destination and activities. In an ideal scenario, the kit will remain untouched during the entire vacation. But in the unfortunate event that you or a companion needs first aid? It is really, really nice (and potentially life-saving) to have proper supplies on hand.

  This article was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog on August 28th.

Published in Travel Tips

This coastal metropolis is India’s Gotham City. Home to more than fifteen million people, Mumbai shows extremes of both debauchery and deprivation. Do not be surprised to find a custom-made Jaguar navigating its way through a street saturated with bicycles, foot-traffic and a variety of animals. The disparity of the city is as striking as it is omnipresent.

Formerly known as Bombay, the city was rechristened with its original moniker of Mumbai, derived from the Hindu goddess Mumba Devi, a few years ago. Mumbai has a lot to offer for the eager traveler. The city is full of ancient temples and places of worship for all religions from Judaism to Zoroastrianism. It boasts of striking colonial era architecture, scenic locales, walkways, parks, as well as a wide assortment of malls, bars and pubs.

But one of the first questions usually asked by anyone travelling to Mumbai is how safe the city really is? The city thrives on chaos; like in all metros in India, Mumbai has a vast migrant population often blamed for the ills of the city. The recent spate of rape cases in the country has once again shifted the spotlight on the safety the city offers to travelers. But contrary to most opinions, Mumbai is one of the safest cities for solo female travelers in India.

Thousands of tourists visit the city each year, on business or for pleasure. There are always certain precautions you need to take when travelling to a foreign country. With Mumbai though, these precautions become a little more specific.

Research the City   India can be a sensory overload to a novice traveler. Much unlike other countries India is diverse, ancient and exists in a precarious balance of traditional values and modern understanding. Knowing as much as you can about the culture, traditions and values espoused by the people of the cities you are visiting will hold you in good stead.

There will be places that you will visit, like the Leopold pub and café, made famous by Gregory David Roberts’ seminal novel on Mumbai, Shantaram, which will feel much the same like any pub back home. But a few hundred meters away you will find yourself in dense lanes, packed with people and wares from wall to wall.

Finding out which area the hotel you will be living in is situated will help you get a better idea of measures you need to take. Check out important numbers like police stations, ambulance services and hospitals close to your place of stay or locations you want to visit.

Understanding the city will take time, coming to terms with the disparity it presents, even more so. Doing your research before you land is the best weapon you have against getting any more culture shocks than necessary.

Play It Safe   India is currently on the cusp of a massive change. Centuries old traditional values exist here alongside modern understanding and the latest technology and often find it hard to maintain a balance. This is not a run-of-the-mill tourist destination; you can’t do here what you will do in, say, Italy.

For example, kissing your wife or companion on the street in Bombay may not only earn you a lot of uncomfortable stares but also a reprimand by the police for indecent behavior in public. Avoid wearing revealing clothes and being overfriendly with unknown men. Your nicety might be interpreted as a come on. Something as simple as walking into a temple with your footwear on, or stepping into a mosque without your head covered can get you into trouble.

Mumbai is the safest city in India for solo female travelers

Project Confidence   Many people travelling to India, specifically to Mumbai, have said that projecting a certain amount of confidence in your dealings with the locals will help avoid you getting taken advantage of. Walk briskly and know exactly where you want to go.

Do not indulge beggars or street urchins; ignoring them, while seeming heartless, is the best way to protect yourself against losing your purse or getting groped. This is one of the most basic tips of travelling to Mumbai. Being polite does not work in this city, it requires a firm hand and a confident demeanor to ensure you are left alone.

Learn the Language   Hindi is the national language of India and is spoken widely in Mumbai. Marathi, on the other hand, is the language that is predominantly spoken by the locals. Getting a handle on some useful local phrases in Hindi and, if you can manage it, in Marathi also, is a good idea.

For example, “chalo” means let’s go, “ruko” means stop and “nahi” means no in Hindi. Understanding and learning these few phrases will not only earn you the respect of the locals but also make your task of navigating through the city much easier.

Plan Your Transportation Carefully   It is never a good idea to be stranded on the streets of a strange city without transportation, especially a strange city in India. Taxis ply through the streets at all hours of the day. The night-time charges though can be steeper than the morning rates, roughly one and a half times more.

Auto-rickshaws, the yellow and green two-stroke wonder of the Indian transport system, are also available at all hours of the day. The thing to take care with autos and taxis is the meter reading; always pay according to the meter regardless of what the driver says. Local trains are one of the biggest means of public transport in the city, followed closely by buses, but are a hotbed for “accidental” touching and theft. There are women special trains and coaches, which you can use for travelling cheaply and safely.

If you are leaving a bar or a restaurant late at night, have someone accompany you to a taxi or an auto-rickshaw. Arriving in the middle of the night can pose more problems; if your flight lands at night make sure you have a pick-up arranged from the hotel you have reserved. Keep your friends and family informed of where you are through the phone or social media. Staying connected will help you ensure that someone is always informed of your whereabouts.

Beware of Pickpockets   Pickpockets are a perpetual nuisance in the crowded streets and public transport systems of this city. Avoid travelling with a lot of cash, and always be careful with your purses and wallets. Keeping your wallet in your front pocket is a good idea. If you have a back pack do not sling it over your back, instead wear it in front where you can see it.

Mumbai is a melting pot of a multitude of cultures, values and modern day thinking. One of the biggest cities in the world it is a much loved tourist destination and has a lot to offer a traveler. But as is the case with traveling to any country, follow the old adage of “when in Rome do as the Romans do.” This will not only ensure you stay safe, but also show you a perspective of the city you may not see otherwise.

  flickr   //   tataimitra   skyevidur

Published in India

Countries where antiques, honey, and goatskin are just as illegal as firearms and explosives.

As anyone who has done any foreign traveling will tell you, it is a learning experience like no other -- the world's greatest classroom. After all, how could it not be when this great planet supports an endless amount of cultures, each with their own unique food, languages, customs and beliefs. But occasionally it is not the local sights that make you stop and wonder, but their customs and immigration policies.

Below are some of the most intriguing ones that I've found, but I'm also eager to hear of any that you have noticed in your travels. Be sure to share your comments at the bottom

Water bottles are forbidden

Nigeria   Prohibited items include mineral water, soft drinks, "textile fabrics and mosquito netting."

Barbados & Seychelles   "All bags, clothing, and articles made from camouflage material are expressly forbidden."

Bhutan   "Antiques" are expressly prohibited along with explosives and narcotics.

Oman   Visitors are allowed to bring with them "8 tapes for personal use. However, Customs may confiscate tapes. Tapes will be sent to the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture for verification (takes about 1 week)."

Zimbabwe   Honey is prohibited along with other dangerous items like drugs, firearms, and "flick and lockable blade knives."

New Zealand   Visitors are allowed to bring with them musical instruments "provided that the goods are taken from New Zealand upon their departure."

Malaysia   Importation regulations include "max. 3 pieces of new wearing apparel" and "max. 100 matches." Official policy states that "customs duties of 30% of the value are due in case of exceeding the allowed quantities," although I'm uncertain exactly how they would properly enforce this.

Iceland   "Fishing equipment, including waders and rubber boots must be accompanied by a certificate of disinfection issued by an authorized veterinary officer."

South Korea   The final item on South Korea's list of prohibited items is: "products originating from communist countries."

Cuba   Expressly prohibits "Household appliances (freezers with a capacity exceeding seven cubic feet, air conditioners, any type or model of electric accumulators and heating/cooking plates, electric and microwave ovens, any type or size of electric frying pans, electric water heaters and showers, electric irons and toasters)."

Singapore   Since 1992 chewing gum has been banned in Singapore, although in recent years an addendum has been made to allow for an exception on dental hygiene gum.

Saudi Arabia   "Nothing can be imported free of duty as passenger's baggage, except clothes and strictly personal effects. Customs charges a fee on photographic cameras, typewriters, etc. Customs charges may be refunded if these articles are re-exported within 90 days."

Borat

Jamaica   Expressly prohibits "all articles made of goatskin (still bearing fur), e.g. drums, handbags and rugs."

Kazakhstan   Better leave your copy of Borat at home -- "printed matter directed against Kazakhstan" are completely prohibited.

Israel   The following items are permitted by visitors only if they're "for their personal use and provided re-exported: one video camera, one photo camera, one movie camera, one tape recorder and, up to a value of USD 250. These articles are subject to high deposits which can be paid in cash or by VISA credit card only." However some item categories are completely forbidden, such as all "fruits and vegetables from the African continent."

Hungary   Visitors are forbidden from exporting any "children and baby articles, underware, kitchen articles," among other less-humorous items.

Kenya   High on the banned list here is "imitation firearms, childrens' toy pistols, etc," but this is actually not that surprising if you think about it.

Fiji   "Pilgrims returning to Fiji with holy water should comply with the following requirements. The water must be: limited to one pint; and - carried in hermetically sealed containers from the country of origin; and - certified by a competent authority to be sterile and free from cholera, typhoid, and paratyphoid germs. The water is impounded for 21 days at Nadi airport if this certificate is not available." This actually raises more questions than it answers -- at least for me.

Indonesia   Visitors may only bring (video) cameras, portable radio cassette recorder, binoculars and sport equipment into the country as long as they are also exported upon their departure. However both "cordless telephones" and "Chinese medicines and printings" are expressly forbidden alonside such obvious items as narcotics and firearms.

Iran   "Holding alcoholic beverages and old books or magazines is prohibited."

Cote d'Ivoire   "For personal use only passengers are allowed to import a video camera. The camera must be declared on arrival and a deposit must be paid, which will be returned to the passenger upon departure. Video cassettes are subject to customs duties."

China   Visitors may freely import all vegetables except for egg plants, red peppers, and tomatoes.

Lativia   All "pieces of art older than 50 years must hold permission from Latvian authorities." I can understand limiting the exportation of art, but the importation...huh?

Mmmmm...pork and beer ;)

Lithuania   "Electric fishing equipment" is prohibited unless permits have been obtained from the government.

Maldives   "Alcoholic beverages, pork and pork products are restricted items and are only permitted to be imported with a prior obtained permit. Any such items imported without a permit will be confiscated and destroyed."

Afghanistan   "The import of film cameras is only possible with a licence."

Kuwait   Visitors are not allowed to bring with them any "mineral water."

Mauritius   Prohibited items include "chewing tobacco."

Angola   Visitors are not allowed to bring with them any postal stamps.

Pakistan   "Warning: import of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited for both residents and non-residents regardless of their nationality." Emphasis included on official site so this must be of great national concern.

  Quotations from the International Air Transport Association (IATA)

Have you encountered any strange customs or airport regulations? Maybe you've even gotten lucky sneaking something past? ;)

  Share you comments below, I'm eager to hear your thoughts and experiences with customs.

Published in Miscellany Articles

So you've decided to hit the road, by yourself – talk about being adventurous and brave!! Congrats! :) Whether this is something daunting or just a walk in the park for you, here are a few thoughts I'd like to share with you...

  1. Have a meal by yourself in a restaurant (before leaving home) – This might not be a big deal to some, however, I've met a couple of women who refuse to sit down in a restaurant and eat alone. Personally, I still have days where it gets difficult to be the only person in the whole restaurant eating by myself – especially during an extended journey and homesickness is setting in. I would look around and every other table is either occupied by a lovey-dovey couple, a group of friends or a family. You will meet new friends as you travel (trust me, you will!) who'd share meals with you but there will always be a meal or two where you have to go it alone and room service isn't an option. So this could be an experiment for you. Take yourself to a nice restaurant tonight. Do not check your smartphone every 5 seconds. Do not plug in your headphones. Do not bring a book / magazine / newspaper. Try to enjoy your meal and the atmosphere of the restaurant. Crack a joke with the wait staff. Surprise yourself.

  2. Familiarize yourself with your camera – Especially if you bought yourself a new one for this upcoming trip. I have done it before and will probably do it again in the future – treat myself to a new camera and not have enough time to learn the functions. Aside from learning how to turn the camera on and off, it's nice to know a few more basic functions. For example the Date/Time setting, I have countless photos taken during the day but the date stamp says ‘pm’ – very silly, really. The camera manufacturers are coming out with very user friendly models, however, sometimes it’s more fun to leave the Automatic setting behind and play around with the other shooting modes. If the User Manual isn't too bulky, take it along on that long haul plane ride.

  3. Be able to read a city map and/or a transit system map – unless you are comfortable with wandering endlessly. These days with many people dependent on their cars and navigation systems, it is not surprising that people are not able to orient themselves with a map. That familiar robotic voice might not be there, suggesting you make a left turn in 500m. I'm not suggesting you need to know how to use a compass...well you should if you are going camping or hiking. It just increases your independence and confidence when you can get yourself from point A to point B with minimal assistance. [N.B. The free maps they hand out in Paris do not show many of the little streets/alleys. So pay attention to street names instead of just keeping count how many street you have crossed – personal experience.]

  4. Upload photos of your family and friends onto your phone OR carry the prints with you – You never know when you need to look at a familiar face to comfort you. They are great for those homesick days. They are also great as conversation starters. Many times on my travels, complete strangers who are locals have approached me to start a conversation – sometimes they are simply curious and friendly, sometimes to practice their English. It is fun and it's safe.

  5. Take a walk in a park or down a quiet street at night – Find your comfort level. You are still in your "backyard" so you know the area but a street can feel completely different at night and empty. To minimize the potential shock to your system of being alone, test your boundaries beforehand. Take along a small flashlight or torch (waterproof if possible) on your trip, it will come in handy, especially if your destination is known for brown outs.

Sometimes a little mental preparation can help make your journey a lot more enjoyable. Bon Voyage!

Published in First Time Backpacking

Jaipur, also known as the Pink City, is the capital of India biggest state, Rajasthan. The first impression of Rajasthan is reflected by desert, camel and mustached men. The famous Thar Desert is the main cause of this perception, although people often forget that it also is home to the tiger reserved forest and a famous bird sanctuary, as well as the City of Lakes.

Jaipur during the monsoon season

Facts such as water crisis and the dry Aravali Range strengthen the feel of Rajasthan being dry and desert-like. However as soon as monsoon arrives the brown and dry looks of Arvali altogether changes to lush green mountains throughout the state. Every tree, which earlier looked dried up and withered, comes back to life again making the environment lovely.

Jaipur during the monsoon season

Monsoon also brings down the temperature, which drops the summer mercury and makes a pleasing and enjoy environment to go for picnic, outing or travel. Thus monsoon in Rajasthan is a great time to travel! Th20130809_093434e lush greenery and the wonderful atmosphere of clouds touching the low height aravalis sets a feel of being romantic. Jaipur during monsoon season truly nurtures the romance, making a perfect place to trip for young couples.

Jaipur during the monsoon season

The best precaution in the rains, as with anywhere rainy in the world, is to carry your umbrellas along with you -- even if it is only cloudy. The rains will not damper your trip or planning, although it may add some short memories to cherish in the form of little kids playing in water or monsoon rivers that come into action those days, and the feel of charm and happiness on everybody's face. You'll find there are more than a thousand reasons that will bring a smile on your face in the rainy season. The rains here definitely gives you a lot of moments to cherish. The locals wait eagerly for rain and its not strange to observe various poojas or offerings to various gods for getting good rains.

    Things to remember while traveling Jaipur during the monsoon season:
  • Carry your umbrellas, always
  • Avoid cycle rickshaws and walking on street as the traffic may splash the water onto you
  • Drainage in Jaipur is good enough to drain the water in an hours time, so do not worry about flooding
  • Avoid dinner outside after sunset, particularly street food or food on the dhabbas
  • Be sure to visit various dams and hills nearby to enjoy rainy waterfalls
  • Do not ever enter a dry river in rainy season in Rajasthan, as the water may arrive at any time

Jaipur during the monsoon season

Published in India

It was a lazy afternoon in Barbados after a morning of filming kite-surfing and wind-surfing in Silver Sands on the South Coast. A few rum punch at Miami Beach in Oistin’s seemed a fitting way to end the day. Foam and surf were licking the shore line with mellow reverence as I enjoyed the company of some friends from Europe who would be leaving the country soon. They were merely on a vacation unlike my stay-cation, and they were sad to go. The afternoon sky turned to amber and we said our goodbyes, echoed by the mournfulcoo of doves that skittered under our picnic table searching for scraps of fish cakes. Waving farewell and standing to stretch my legs I realized the rum truly did pack a punch!
Dusk settled over the park as feathery branches of the Cassarina trees seemed to whisper caution, but I was drunk and sweaty and wanted to freshen up before the walk home. As so easily happens when one is in a place of pleasure, time slips away on the waves, along with the exotic sounds, smells and common sense. By the time I realized how long I took to ‘freshen-up’, full fledged darkness had consumed the park, shadows were nil, the dark blacker than black and I still needed to walk home.

That's the Miami Beach in the distance. Miami Beach in Barbados, not Florida.

Miami Beach is a place one shouldn’t venture at night. People sleep in trees and military usually monitor the area packing some pretty heavy artillery. As I made my way from the beach, sitting directly in front of me were two men. One, I had met previous, I regarded him as harmless though I was still a little distressed by the situation and my imagination. The other man was brown skinned with blond dread-locks and bare, weathered feet; a spear fisherman. His blond locks tell-tale of the profession. Time spent underwater and the hair becomes laden with salt, easily bleached by the low lying sun. He was agitated, his eyes locked on mine and the other guy scurried away in a half-shuffle leaving me alone with a street person, vagrants the locals call his type, who exuded nothing but anger.

He started to ramble Bajan dialect thinking I didn’t understand. The Bajan tongue can enunciate words faster than a feral cat can lick up milk. It is sing-song and I love it. But I didn’t love what he was saying. He was complaining, well raging really, that earlier on in the day I had polluted his air-space with my cigarette smoke and I was some kind of bitch! Apparently, unbeknownst to myself, he had been napping under a table behind us. So he knew me, and he waited to see if this moment would arise.

By this time nerves were dancing like jitterbugs to Elvis. I was hyper sensitive and my brain kicked out of panic mode into survival mode. I took a step forward, leaned down to his eye level, pointed an accusing finger in his face and spat out, “Excuse me asshole! I’m pretty fuckin’ sure I breathed in your dope smoke  so I think we’re even!” I suppose I figured if I adopted attitude it would (proverbially) either kill me or cure him. The words came forth without forethought and I was merely guessing he smoked pot.  I held my breath, he made no move but his chin dropped a little in surprise. I grabbed his hand and gave it a firm shake, “Truce?” I say with a forced smile. “Walk with me.”  The man rose, my same height and I thought that good at least. “Follow me,” I croak, and I start to walk. He is now a few steps behind, probably not good. But I’d confused him for the moment, seems I had temporarily rendered him harmless out of curiosity.  My mind was reeling with scenarios on how this was going to end. I turned so abruptly he bumped into me and I asked  if he would like to share a bottle of rum and some Marlin; I don’t know where that thought came from but I know it saved me grief.

With suspicion now in his eyes he agreed and we headed off to Oistin’s Fish Market, to civilization I was thinking. We pulled up a seat, with dirty hands he set down a tattered bag and a spear gun. I handed him thirty dollars, told him it is all I had and can he get us some rum, coke and some food with that amount? He scurried away like a ghost crab and I wondered for a split second if he had truly even been there. But the shiny tip of his spear reminded me he, and the situation were very real.

As is the norm, eyes are always on you in Barbados. I particularly stand out as I have some large and unique tattoos. As I waited I could hear a rumble of conversation behind me. Men were betting over something. I ignored them until I felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice whisper in my ear, “Baby girl, you  know that man you carry here? He ain gine come back, hear?”  ”He will,” I determined. And he did. Just as I began to think I was wrong he returned with everything I had asked for, and my change. We ate out of the same container, each drawing forkfuls from the single-serving portion of food that we had subconsciously divided by an invisible line. We polished off the rum and we talked. The food in his belly dispelled his anger and he became pleasant.  He then leaned in to me and disclosed he had had intentions of mugging me earlier as he was hungry, and he apologized. He explained he sometimes gets tired of tourists on his island. Many flaunt their wealth while the locals work for a local dollar but have to pay out a tourist dollar to eat. How many won’t even say hello when they pass vagrants on the street but simply turn up their noses.

We gained respect for each other that night and any time I saw him after, I would ask him how he was and buy him a chocolate bar and a coke.  At Christmas, while shopping at a local market I ran into him at the checkout and paid for his chicken dinner; which he accepted with tears in his eyes. If ever I needed anything he became my go-to man and my caretaker. It was no longer dangerous for me to be at Miami Beach at night. We had both learned a hard fast lesson. A little food, a lot of love and even more respect  shared among strangers, goes a long, long way; because things are never what they seem to be. Food for thought.

Published in Barbados

Are you traveling to Tanzania any time soon?
Here are 5 ways you could accidentally give your phone away for free, know them and out-smart them!

1.   Gold doesn't come easy...don't lose your phone out of greed.

Recently a friend of mine came to me distressed, saying that he lost everything for a watcher of rocks. What happened to him is, he met a stranger who told him that he had gold to sell and a buyer is waiting for him in town. He would give him 10% if he lends him his phone because he had lost his that very morning. Sensing his resistance the con man suggested that they take a taxing seeing that they were both going to town, my friend hold on to the sachet of gold and give him the phone so he may talk to the buyer.

So it was done, when they reached town the con told him to wait in a certain area while he went to meet the buyer. My friend waited for hours with the gold which was actually gold colored gravels in his pockets thus he lost his phone. They play with your inner greed so check your greedometer and keep your wits about you.

2.   Goods in hand are broken or stolen...don't trade your phone for a hand deal.

While sitting in the bus a fellow passenger engaged in a bargain with a vendor through the window. The vendor was selling a Nokia smart phone almost 50% lower than the buying price and offered to take the price 25% lower if my fellow traveller thrown in his old phone into the deal. He obviously did. Concerned about the functionality of the phone he asked to check out the phone first.

It seemed to power up so he sealed the deal only to find out later that the phone had been exchanged for a similar dead phone when boxing! He had no time to recheck the phone when it was boxed because the bus was leaving.

Yeah, dishonest vendors can do quick swaps. Check, recheck and recheck before you make a purchase from a street vendor better yet stay off deals where you are in some kind of pressure, time, crowd, etc.

3.   People are poor and troubled...save your cellphone.

A few years ago, I gave away my phone to a con. A young boy who seemed troubled approached me and asked me if I was going to the hospital. Sure enough I was that's why I was queued on that side of the road. So any ways he tells me that his mum is seriously sick and needs surgery. He had got part of the money but has to go see his uncle for the other part. The surgeon has agreed to commence with the OP if he pays the first half but he must pay the second half before noon so he needs someone to deliver the money to his brother who is with his mum at the hospital while he goes to his aunt.

He hands me an envelope with the supposed money. Because its too crowded and in fear of attracting attention I just take a quick gThat's how they do it, creatively play with your emotions so be careful when helping strangers. If you feel charitable then find legit organization to offer your help.

4.   When in the club...don't give your cellphone to a stranger.

A friend of a friend came to visit him in the city and they hit a club. After they had a few drinks a chic looking female spots them and joins the meriment over. In a couple of hours she suggests they move to another spot where she guarantees is happening but asks for his phone to call her roommate because her phone is out of credit. Because the music is loud she asks if she can be excused to talk outside, he reluctantly agrees. She disappered into the dark and so did his phone. Appearances are deceiving, your mum's advice of not talking to strangers is a valuable lesson to hang on to.

5.   If it's your phone...you couldn't possibly have picked it up from the gutter!

A few weeks ago, a woman called and claimed that the phone I was using is hers and I must have picked up where her daughter had dropped it. She begged me to meet her and talk about it and that she would pay me 100,000 Tshs for it. The story was sbdurx because I bought the phone from abroad and I have proof so I told her so. When she couldn't get me to fall for it (I'm wiser now) she got her partner to call me posing as a customer care personnel from my service provider and asking me to return the phone to it's owner. I asked him when was lost/stolen claims addressed by customer care services and suggested that if the claimnant has proof of purchase then she should go to the police and let them do their job and that's how years of experince helped me save my cellphone! Don't accept suggestions for a meetup when the situation is obviously absurd.

Have you or anyone you know fall for these or similar tricks? Share the experience with us so that others may travel smart :-)

Published in Tanzania

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