LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT
Carrying supplies of the basics saves having to go into a pharmacy in Turkey, for instance, and explaining neomycin sulfate, or antibiotic cream to spread on those blisters multiplying like rabbits all over your feet and ankles.
- Imodium or the equivalent – The chances of any international traveler having a bout of something gastrointestinal are better than 50/50 – odds that demand preventive planning. The trots, vomiting, and excruciating spasms can be brought on by a number of things: tap water, unclean hands, unwashed vegetables, and ice.
- Ointment – the above mentioned neomycin is handy for any cuts, blisters, scraps, or open sores.
- Bring a packet of 30-40 wipes. You will be touching lots of handrails and other very public appliances, so being able to disinfect regularly is advised.
- Kleenex purse packs, by whatever name will serve so any purposes that they are a must rather than a suggestion. You never know when, for example, that bathroom you’ve been hunting for won’t have toilet paper.
- Bandaids (12 or more) – Think blisters.
- Analgesics – Ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, whatever your drug of choice, take it with you for headaches, backaches, and general malaise.
- Bug Avoidance and Remedies – Whether the bug has attacked out of annoyance or bitten you for dinner, be aware of how to treat these occurrences. First, do your best to avoid any stinger/skin interactions. Combat buggy behavior with a repellent, something with 30% DEET if you can tolerate it, or, permethrin. Both discourage all anthropods (mosquitoes, ticks, etc.). Should you be bitten, ibuprofen gel is effective and fast, as are hydrocortisone cream and xylocaine gel.
- Ear plugs – There have been many occasions when having ear plugs meant the difference between restful sleep and its tossy-turny opposite. My preference is Hearos.
- Chapstick or lipstick – The sun can burn lips as easily as it can skin. Protect them!
- Plastic zip bags – So many uses there ought to be a grant and a yearly contest.
Buy used guide and tour books whenever possible because they are most effective when you can rip them apart at the seam. Why? Guide books are heavy and if, as a diligent traveler, you are out sight-seeing all day, any extra weight, even a few ounces, is tiresome. Instead, pull the book apart into sections, and then, just the section needed for the day will go into purse or backpack.
Several authors are writing Walking Tour books for various cities and regions. I have experience with both Paris walk books and Venice walk books, and have found they offer a combination of manageable walks, fascinating information, and tours of parts of the city not frequented by every traveler. Even better, rest stops, bathrooms, great coffee and pastries are usually a part of the itinerary.
Strangely, research indicates that pictures do not help you remember your journey more easily. The more pictures, in fact, the dimmer the memory. Apparently, because people focus so often on getting a picture, they forget use their five senses to experience the view. However, travel journals are another matter. From my first trip to Italy in 1991, volume after volume of little journals have recorded special scenes and adventures. Though I have the drawing skill of a gnat, I have even put pencil to page in an attempt to capture something that strikes me profoundly – an artistic expression, or even a person. Most of my journals are 3″ X5″ or a little bigger so that they fit in a pocket or purse. I use either pencil or erasable ink to take notes and draw.
These notebooks, perhaps because they are more personal than a picture, are able to transport me back to particular moments and specific places with ease.
Two years in the Peace Corps, walking from place to place under the unremitting blaze of the Moroccan sun, should have changed my skin from lovely to leathery. That it didn’t is thanks to a baseball hat that accompanied me from Ouarzazate to Tangier. Any hat is a necessary partner for your SPF 30. It helps to shield your face and protects eyes from intense sunlight. For people traveling in groups, I suggest baseball or other hats in unusual colors – It makes it easier to spot your tour mates in a crowd. Otherwise, a neutral color “goes” with anything.
I come from Washington, a state where the tap water rivals anything you can find in a bottle, but the same can’t be said for many locales in the US and certainly not overseas. Buy bottled, it’s better, largely because it has gone through filters and other stages of purification. An extended stay in a foreign city may mean your system can adapt to the specific microbes in the local water supply, but wait several weeks before you gradually start to make the change.