Tag Archives: travelling

Traveling and Pharmacies

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beijing-medicines

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!

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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

Marfa, Texas!

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prada

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.

food shark

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.

art

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.

ballroom

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

That Time I Went to Europe

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One of the best decisions of my life occurred after I got accepted into TFA: I decided to quit my terrible cubicle job early and book a trip of a lifetime. I seemed to have blinked and suddenly been in Europe, surrounded by sexy Australian men. This was definitely a dream. Oh wait, that’s right, I was on a Contiki.

Now, on the days when living in the paradise of Oahu are bleak and exhausting, filled only with the frustrations of 7th graders, I think of these things:

London: Here’s where the streets were so cold and wet, but invigorating, like New York. Here’s where coats and boots walked past Westminister Abbey like it was nothing, while I snapped photos like the crazed tourist that I was. Here’s where Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor Castle were a surreal, tiring day trip. Here’s where I went off on a red bus adventure by myself, finding it hard to leave Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. Here’s where I first met the insane and amazing group of people I’d be spending the next few weeks with, packed onto a bus.

Paris: Here’s where I ate bread and cheese and meat on the grass outside the Louvre and felt oh-so-sophisticated. Here’s where I walked what seemed like hours from the Arc de Triomphe, just for the highlight to be a divine banana crepe. Here’s where I was satisfied just photographing and waving to the Eiffel tower, because wasting time waiting in a line would’ve killed the temporary Parisian me.

Beaujolais Region: Here’s where I could’ve kissed under the stars for literally days. Here’s where a “gender bender” in a château sounded like the worst idea ever and quickly became the best. The picture says it all.

Nice: Here’s where I got sunburned but didn’t care because it was a French sunburn.

Monaco: Here’s where I fancied up like a Bond girl and pretended I was one at the casino; lipstick, heels, and poker chips.

Pisa & Florence: Here’s where I started finding it hard to breathe from all the beauty. Here’s where I took illegal pictures of the statue David with the friend David.

Rome: Here’s where I learned how lovely crumbling, ancient rock can be. Here’s where I dropped two pennies in a fountain and begged with all my existence for both of them to hold true to tradition (one for love, one to return to Rome one day). Here’s where we all wore I ❤ Rome shirts and wrote all over them with sharpies, drinking and dancing and then heading back to our cabins for showers and mischief and sleeping bags.

Venice: Here’s where I was enchanted by the movie-esque gondolas and prosecco. Here’s where I ate the best lasagna of my life, wide-eyed, wine-filled, wishing I could sing in Italian. Here I could’ve died happy, surrounded by pasta and tipsy smiles.

Dachau: Here’s where I felt the most sobered and grateful that I’ve ever felt.

Munich: Here’s where I genuinely enjoyed swinging a beer around, scarfing down pork knuckle, and yelling things in German that I didn’t understand, watching blondes in short green dresses prance about (here’s where I was a “real man” for a little while).

Amsterdam: Here’s where no amount of vodka or coffee shop muffin could prepare me for the things I saw at a live sex show, or in the red light district. Here’s where the Van Gogh museum reaffirmed my love for him. Here’s where I laughed in a taxi harder and longer than I knew physically possible.

Here’s where I could write a novel about each city, each person, and each meal. But instead, here’s where I leave out a few stops, a LOT of fantastic details, hilarious details, inappropriate details, and definitely a handful of significant details (there was not one single insignificant moment on this trip).

Can’t wait to go back (after all, I did spend a whole penny making sure that will happen).