Tag Archives: travel

Traveling and Pharmacies

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Originally written for and published by Wanderful 🙂

“NOT a sunburn. No sunburn. Sunburn — no! Rash from sun. Sun rash!” I frantically motioned to the “sun” (aka pharmacy ceiling) and then to my blotchy, red legs.

This was me trying to communicate to a pharmacist in Greece — and failing miserably like some idiot American on a sitcom.

Surprisingly, I wound up getting what I needed.

Most of us know that traveling does not come with a guarantee of 100% safety and well-being.

 

No matter how much of a planner you are, there’s just no possible way to pack every single thing you might possibly need for every fathomable emergency situation. I always carry a mini first aid kit when I travel, but nothing in it was helpful in the slightest during the times I needed medical attention.

So, what do you do when you’re in a country whose language you don’t speak, you need medicine of some sort, and you need it ASAP?

This is what you do.

The good ol’ point and show method.

It’s more effective than you think.

 

My aforementioned rash flabbergasted me — I had no idea what kind of cream to ask for, but I knew I needed more than fancy aloe vera or 100 SPF sunscreen.

In Greece, I developed the aggressive breakout that began crawling up from my ankles all the way to my mid-thigh. It was terrifying. Red, blotchy, itchy, and then painful. I later came to the conclusion that I’d developed “Hiker’s Rash” — which was strange because I really wasn’t doing any intense hiking (some people are just more sensitive to walking in hot, humid weather for too long).

And it happened again in Beijing recently. I was bewildered — it wasn’t too hot and all we were doing was walking around a couple of different temples in the city. I was completely unprepared.

Luckily, this is a very visible symptom. Multiple pharmacists looked my legs up and down before displaying two different cream choices before me, which brings me to my second tip.

 

Bite the bullet and buy more than you need.

I knew I didn’t need more than one tube of cream, but I also knew that one would most likely work better than the other because they both had different ingredients, different pictures, etc.

Not knowing which one that was, I bought both and figured it out over the next few days.

Extra medicine is never a bad thing, and your safety and comfort is worth the money you fork over, I promise.

 

Use a translator before you go to the store.

If you don’t have a data plan or phone that you can whip out at the store, see if your hotel, hostel, or accommodations have computers available that you can use. Then, write down a translation of everything you can think would be helpful — things you think your condition might be, products you think could help, products you know will not help, things you’re allergic to (that’s important), active ingredients to look for or avoid, and so on.

Nowadays, however, there are all sorts of apps that allow you to translate even while you’re offline. Google Translate, for instance, has an offline component, or you can check out Lonely Planet’s Offline Translator app.

Alternatively, if you have a friend or tour guide who speaks the language, take them with you.

When I studied abroad in Costa Rica, I got a terrible fever blister. That one was on me — I should’ve known to pack something for cold sores because I get them anytime I lose too much sleep, get overly stressed, or get too much sun.

In Costa Rica — even though my Spanish was pretty decent — a member of my host family went to the drugstore to buy me cold sore cream. She told me that if I went alone, they’d know right away that I wasn’t from there and would try to sell it to me for five times the true price. (That’s a whole other article.)

Closely inspect the box or bottle.

You might be surprised at how many have English somewhere on the labeling. It could be just the active ingredients that are listed in English, but that’s better than nothing! Then, if you have a data plan or wifi available, you do a quick Google to see what they’re commonly used to treat.

 

Most medicines also typically have some sort of visual aid, even if it’s just in the brand’s marketing. Every little thing is helpful. That’s how I knew which creams were for sunburns (which was NOT what I was suffering from); they had pictures of the sun with an aloe vera leaf.

Trust the pharmacist.

It may seem like they’re trying to sell you some quack cream or suspicious pill, but more often than not they’re just doing their job and trying to get you what they honestly believe will help you.

On the same Greece trip, I was casually strolling down from Meteora (the coolest “floating” monasteries, it’s a magical place) when I tripped over a huge nail that was strangely hammered into the ground.

I face-planted. Hard. I mean I really, really ate it. There was a lot of blood. My cute little Band-Aids and tiny packets of Neosporin weren’t going to cut it.

I just wanted to buy the cheapest, most Western-looking cream and bandages, but the pharmacist kept trying to sell me a more expensive cream. I bought it, even though I felt a little robbed. It turned out to be some sort of magical potion that cleared up my scrapes in record time.

I hope you’re not as accident-prone as I am and that you never get injured in any way on your adventures.

But if you do, please keep these suggestions in mind.

Medicine is kind of a universal language, when you think about it. It’s one of many things tying us all together; the fact that everyone — every single person across the globe — bleeds and burns and breaks out into rashes and peels and scabs and suffers from you-name-it.

Happy traveling, wanderful women!

Egypt: Plan Your Trip!

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Originally written for and published by: Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

 

When I decided to go to Egypt over spring break, most people thought I was crazy. “But it’s not safe!” was still ringing in my ears as I landed in Cairo. Well, I promise you, fellow Texans, it IS safe (enough) and it is amazing. If this African country isn’t on your bucket list already, add it! There’s so much more than just pyramids to see.

Granted, I was part of a tour group—escorted by Sherif, our genius and congenial guide. Egypt CAN be a dangerous place, but so can every major city here in the U.S. You just have to be smart—don’t go off alone. Pretty normal, straight-forward travel advice for any third world country. Unfortunately, the impoverished state of the country is hard to miss—but there’s so much beauty to see as well.

We started off in the capital, which meant that the tour of the Great Pyramids (which you can see peaking between buildings as you drive through the city) was up first. I thought this was strange—to do the most exciting thing on Day 1, but I was very mistaken. The sphinx and pyramids where fantastic, don’t get me wrong (we even rode camels around them!), but I enjoyed the rest of the trip much more than expected.

After Cairo, our group set sail on the Nile—in a small cruise ship! The dollar goes far in Egypt—one of ours equaling to about eight of their Egyptian pounds. We wined and dined, lounged on the upper pool deck, and each time we docked, we were met with some of the most gorgeous sights we’d ever seen. Luxor, Edfu, and Aswan each presented their own treasures—temples upon temples upon temples, delicious food, insane markets, hookah lounges, vast museums, belly dancing, and of course, more temples.

Valley of the Kings was a highlight—we even went on a sunrise hot air balloon ride over it before walking through the tombs themselves. We also decided to take a quick flight to Abu Simbel, a massive rock temple that was my personal favorite stop of the trip—it was just simply majestic.

Hurghada was our last stop—we charted a yacht and snorkeled in the Red Sea! The water was brilliantly blue and we saw bright, beautiful fish and even got to hold a pufferfish. We also swam through so many purple Moon Jellyfish—they don’t sting! It was a great way to end the trip, especially since almost every other day had required quite a bit of walking! On that note—be prepared to sweat (it’s respectful to cover up as much as possible in Muslim countries—no short dresses or low-cut tops).

Egypt is such a historical place, but it’s more than just the mummies, gold, and hieroglyphics. It’s such a unique experience—you just have to go!

The DR: the best budget vacation

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

Need a beach getaway that won’t break your bank? The Dominican Republic is the place for you. Mexico is overplayed—not to mention, right next door—us Texans basically consider Mexico as part of our home state, am I right? The DR is cheaper and just as beautiful, if not more. Plus, it’s an entirely new country to explore!

Groupon and Travelocity are ready to book your tropical vacation to Punta Cana—both sites are filled with various DR resort specials. There are so many to choose from—all right on the sandy shore with all-inclusive meals and drinks. What’s not to love?

We stayed at Breathless Resort and Spa, which besides being all-inclusive, is also adults only. That was a nice twist for me—not having any kids around at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. But after teaching ninth graders all day, it’s a welcome change to not have a single child in sight (splashing water on you from the pool, kicking sand on you at the beach).

Picture walking a few feet from your comfortable, spacious hotel room to one of the many pools and soaking up the sun for a few hours, sipping a piña colada (that the waitress keeps refilling) until it’s time to transition to the gentle waves of the ocean. You’ve already had a complimentary room service breakfast (because, obviously, you were too lazy to walk to the buffet), but you still grab a snack from the beachside bar. Later, you shower and get ready for a delicious dinner at one of the many on-site restaurants. You go to the hotel’s nightly show (we saw a couple dance performances, a hypnosis show, a lingerie show, and a Great Gatsby musical). After a couple days of this blissful routine, you decide it’s time to leave the peaceful bubble and sightsee. The DR is gorgeous—the countryside, the coasts, the culture—for such a small island, there’s so much to experience!

Zip-lining, fishing, four-wheeling, speed-boating, horseback riding, hiking, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, adventuring through a cave—you name it, The DR’s got it. There’s even an excursion that’s literally just a day of massages and floating in the middle of the sea on giant, padded beds (yeah, I definitely almost booked that one). Your resort will help you book whatever your heart desires—whether you want something a little more physical and active, or just a Dr. Fish pedicure (tons of tiny garra rufa fish nibble on your dead skin—don’t knock it until you try it).

All of this said, however, don’t expect a 5-star European hotel experience. The DR, although stunning, is still a struggling third world country. The people are excited to make money from your tourism—so expect the usual haggling over jewelry, t-shirts, and other souvenirs. Plus, while out and about on the island, it’s always a good idea to travel with a tour group of some sort. Close by to the sparkling blue waters is poverty and crime, not unlike some of the most striking spots in the U.S. The DR is very similar to the nearby country of Jamaica—beautiful, affordable, but not problem-free. It’s just always good to be aware and safe—no matter where you travel.

Again, next time you’re planning a holiday, consider Punta Cana. I barely scratched the surface of The Dominican Republic, but I loved everything I saw. It combined my need to relax in a serene, stress-free environment with my need to see a completely unique place on this earth. Sip a mai tai, reapply sunscreen, and forget your worries.

 

 

 

About the author: Alysha Kaye is a high school English teacher in Kyle, TX and recent author—her debut novel The Waiting Room is available on Amazon and at BookPeople. When she’s not wrangling 9th graders, she’s blogging, reading, or exploring Austin.

For more, follow her on Twitter @alyshakaye7 or check out her website: http://www.alyshakaye.com

Travel Mas

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I am constantly reminded of what travel does–the power it holds.

Even if it’s just here in Arizona, a family Christmas trip. The cold night air clings to my cousin’s bleach blonde hair as we all scream Justin Beiber lyrics and drive around like maniacs, searching for a desert bonfire spot. There’s happiness here, a few states away, in my aunt’s “Reindeer Punch” and my uncle getting us Cardinals-Packers tickets and a cheesy cactus photo instead of a cheesy Christmas tree photo. My little cousins are everything and nothing like me, they keep me young, and I love them ferociously. Even if it’s just for a moment, I forget about all the bad and focus on “the official rules of calling shotgun” and “why I should download Snapchat.”

Traveling is my sanity. I would’ve broken into pieces by now if it wasn’t for the saving grace of a plane ride two to three times a year. I wish I could explain it better.

All I know is that in Punta Cana earlier this month, it was like every salty wave and spritz of sunscreen and “Hola, bee-you-tee-ful lay-dees!” was reviving my entire sense of being, my soul (that’s been a little bit crushed lately, to be honest). I read so much more than I’m ever able to read, we swam up to pool bars and ordered icy deliciousness in fancy glasses, and we basked in the sun, feeling like sandy-footed goddesses.

In California for Turkey Day, I felt like a giddy, ridiculous little kid traipsing around Disneyland, Fastpasses and lunchtime my life’s biggest concerns. I could conquer the world easily, I thought, as I walked down Santa Monica Pier and picked out a Thai restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner. Sipping a beer on Venice Beach, walking around Hollywood, driving down Sunset pretending I was in the cast of Entourage–smiling is all there is to do in times like those. Every time I travel, I wish that traveling could be my entire life–that I could just continue from that place to the next.

Coming home is always bittersweet, but I’m feeling more and more like myself, thanks to the three trips I’ve made in the last couple months. It’s fucking hard to get back to your usual, happy self after someone stomps on your heart, it just is.

Seeing new places, meeting new people, exploring, adventuring, tasting, smelling, capturing…travel as often as you can. I’m counting down until my next trip: Egypt in March! I am fully prepared to cruise down the Nile, pretending I am ancient, pyramid-worthy royalty.

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Marfa, Texas!

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Originally published as an article for Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

This is what I knew about Marfa, TX: They have a Prada store in the middle of the desert that’s not an actual store, but rather, art. It sounded downright ridiculous to me.

This is what I now know about Marfa, TX: That Prada store in the middle of the desert may sound ridiculous, but it’s pretty cool. I mean, it’s still ridiculous and I’m not hipster enough to really “get” why it’s ART…but it’s cool too see, sitting there in the middle of nowhere, black widow spiders crawling amongst the designer shoes.

Marfa is one of those bizarre little towns (Texas has so many) that you just can’t help but add to your bucket list for no apparent reason. I knew a little bit more about Marfa than just the Prada store—I’ve heard it called “the art mecca of Texas” a few times, I knew there were a couple big music festivals hosted there, I knew there were teepees to stay in, and I knew Beyonce herself took a road trip there—that was enough for me. I had to go!

First stop: Food Shark. A food truck serving up agua fresca and pork sandwiches. DELICOUS. But honestly, the best part wasn’t the food. The best part was the change I received: a two dollar bill and a Sacagawea coin. I needed that laugh after a 7 hour car ride. Only in Marfa.

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Next up: The Chinati Foundation, a giant contemporary art museum, but definitely not your average gallery. You don’t pay a small fee and walk quietly through rooms of various masterpieces. We paid zero dollars and walked through a field to see huge cement constructions that I can only describe as…kind of eery. That particular exhibit was also going to transform into a concert venue that night (also free). Oh-so-Marfa.

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A quick stroll through downtown was next, stopping in a couple art galleries, including Ballroom Marfa, which featured an old truck embedded with multiple species of cacti.

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We poked our heads in the town’s grocery store, The Get Go, which was like an entire farmer’s market packed into a tiny bedroom. Another store called Freda sold handcrafted jewelry and ice cream sandwiches. Marfa Book Company was a pretty neat place (as are all quirky, independent bookstores, if you ask me, so I might be a little biased). And then…honestly, that was all there was! Sure, there were a couple more tiny shops, restaurants, and museums that we passed by, but all in all, we’d seen the gist of Marfa in a couple hours, tops. A vehicle isn’t necessary at all—you can walk everywhere. I definitely suggest planning your trip to Marfa either a) around a music festival or b) with multiple other stops on the agenda.

However, the main event, for me at least, was the Prada exhibit. Or, as the artists called it, “a pop architectural land art project.” Huh? It was pretty amazing to stand in the middle of the road, not a car or other building in sight, and stare at the petite room of thousand-dollar purses. It’s hard to explain. Just go and see it for yourself!

The only Marfa to-do item that didn’t get to-done was the Marfa Lights—we would up leaving town early and therefore didn’t get a chance to see if the mysterious lights are real or just reflections of car headlights (that’s the theory floating around the interwebs). More reason to go back for another visit one day! Marfa is a sleepy town with the strangest blend of West Texas tranquility and new-age charm—it’s definitely worth the road trip.

About the author: Alysha Kaye is a high school English teacher in Kyle, TX and recent author—her debut novel The Waiting Room is available on Amazon and at BookPeople. When she’s not wrangling 9th graders, she’s blogging, reading, or exploring Austin.

For more, follow her on Twitter @alyshakaye7 or check out her website: http://www.alyshakaye.com

Big Bend: The Perfect Camping Spot!

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*I originally wrote this article for Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

Hey Texans, do you need a getaway that fits your budget? Go camping! But not just any camping spot will do, right? You want something grand, something epic, somewhere that feels like you’re in a different country! Big Bend National Park is the place, trust me.

For $14 a night per vehicle, you and your friends or family can sleep amongst the most majestic stars and magnificent mountains that you’ve ever seen. I didn’t even know that mountains like that existed in Texas!

I should probably make it clear that I am NOT your typical camper. In fact, my usual outdoor preference is lying in a hammock or drinking a beer on someone’s porch. That’s what’s so great about Big Bend—there’s something for every type of camper.

There are a few different campsites, first of all, each with their different surroundings (for a desert, Big Bend is insanely diverse). We chose Chisos Basin, which is engulfed by beautiful rocky cliffs. Our little plot was complete with a covered picnic table and a bear-proof food storage box. Close by, there were very clean restrooms and a dishwashing station. No showers though, which wasn’t ideal, but it IS camping after all.

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The hikes are endless—if you’re happiest when you’re exploring the outdoors, you’re going to be in heaven. There are countless trails—shaded and not, child’s play to extremely difficult, stone steps and rocky treks, flat to crazy steep—you name it. I really enjoyed the Santa Elena Canyon hike along the Rio Grande River. It felt amazing to dip our feet in the water and wave hello to Mexico. The view was gorgeous as well.

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Not much of a backpacker? The scenic drives alone are worth the trip! I couldn’t seem to stop snapping pictures.

There are also multiple visitor centers and a large lodge if you’re having first world problems—complete with cabins, a restaurant, a gift shop, a little grocery store, and Big Bend beer!

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And if you’ve just had enough of the great outdoors and need a little break, you can always drive an hour to Lajitas, TX to see Clay Henry, the town’s mayor and famous goat.

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Add Big Bend to your Texas road trip list—it’s fantastic year-round. Even in the summer heat, the park cools down so much at night, making for an easy slumber under the pitch-black sky.

Misguided Ambition

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photo cred rebloggy.com

My dad drove us to San Antonio a couple days ago and we talked about…life. That’s kind of how me and my dad are—we either talk about ridiculous, trivial things like, I don’t know, “Decent Honey Mustard and Where To Buy It” OR super deep topics that stick with me forever like, “The Time A Man Died In My Arms.” We don’t have much of an in-between. Fart jokes or how mistakes can shape your future. The importance of washing your vehicle or the importance of family, friendship, and love.

So when careers and ambition came up, it started off as Dad casually listing every job he’s ever had (before, during, and after his 31 years in the Coast Guard). It was like a game—because the things he’s done are absurd. They sound like pure fiction. Movie-stuff.

Mowed lawns|Ranch laborer|Roofer|Tugboat oiler|Rode rodeo|Convenient store night manager|Seaman|Wrestler…yes, wrestler. I’ve seen the photos. Don’t tell him I wrote this, it’s supposed to be a family secret hahaha|EMT|Boat coxswain|Aviation structural mechanic|Search and rescue air crewman|Special agent|Chief warrant officer|Bailiff

Yeah, now you get it. Like, I’m sorry, what? How have you been all of those things? How have I never heard the word “coxswain” before? And how many people out there have had this many titles in one lifetime?

What I really started realizing though was—wow…Dad has done SO much in his life, traveled to SO many places, saved lives, earned awards—but his true happiness came from marrying my mom. Kind of crazy, right? To think that all those sappy cards, cheesy movies, and romance novels are *gasp* RIGHT about LOVE being the true purpose of life?! Ahhhhhh my life is a lie!

Except, oh yeah, that’s right, I’ve been a hopeless, disgusting romantic since maybe…second grade? I’ve always wanted the meet-cute, the traveling the world hand-in-hand, the poppin’ out babies…you know, that whole gross thing. When asked my CAREER AMBITIONS and LIFE GOALS I say things like, “I want to publish another novel and travel to a new country every year. Maybe get my PhD. Maybe teach college one day instead of high school.” And then in my head, I add, “Meet a lovely man and have a giant family and a really noisy house.”

My ambition has been a little misguided over the years. I think it’s a generational thing. Our parents had no problem stating their goals of settling down. They are content with “average lives” because that means love, family, friends—bliss. They have no qualms with “ordinary” or “mediocre.” This means happiness. Whereas my generation sees a conventional life as a failure—you’re not rich, you’re not famous, history books won’t talk about you, you’re not a household name, you didn’t shake the world? Oh, well then you’re a disappointment.

Everyone my age wants to be EVERYONE’s everything, instead of “settling” for being someone’s everything. It’s kind of sad. And it’s weird because we admit it, freely. I would LOVE for my novel to take off one day, landing me a publishing deal that I could skate on for a lifetime, sipping coffee by the beach and typing a few pages a day.

But do we really believe THAT’S what will lead to fulfillment? I think it’s far too easy to get caught up in that line of thinking—solely focusing on how to make your life more meaningful, exciting, memoir-worthy—constantly comparing yourself to “the average Joe.”

Having ambition is amazing—it shows confidence, it proves work-ethic, it displays creativity—it’s sexy. But if you let career ambition define you…and nothing else…what will you have when you’re wrinkly, sick…dying?

If all I ever have “to show for my life” (ugh, even that expression is a terrible tactic used to make people feel bad about…what exactly?) is a few students who thank me or a guy who digs my quirks and flaws or a kid who calls me Grandma and likes to read my old poetry notebooks, I’ll be pretty damn happy. That kid might be the last person to ever even remember my existence, but that’s OK, as long as I’ll be able to say that I did what I loved (I wrote, I taught, I traveled) and I loved who I wanted to love and they loved me back.