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Indonesia: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Melissa Chang |

Indonesia, Regions, Travel, Travel Health & Safety

INDONESIA: FACTS & STATS

 Indonesian Ocean

Location: Southeast Asia, archipelago between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

Capital: Jakarta.Map of Indonesia

Climate: Tropical, generally hot and humid, more moderate in the highlands.

Population: 237,512,352 as per July 2008 estimates. About 17.8% of the population live below poverty line and the country has an unemployment rate of 9.1% as of 2007. Agriculture and industry prop up the Indonesian economy aided by reforms in the financial sector and improved investments. Petroleum and natural gas, textiles, mining, cement, chemical fertilizers, wood products, rubber products and tourism are the main industries.

Ethnic Make-up: Javanese 40.6%, Sudanese 15%, Madurese 3.3%, Minangkabau 2.7%, Betawi 2.4%, Bugis 2.4%, Banten 2%, Banjar 1.7%, Others 30%.

Religions: Muslim 86%, Protestant 5.7%, Roman Catholic 3%, Hindu 1.8%, Others including Jews, Buddhists 3.4%. The Constitution grants all citizens the right to worship according to their faith, but restrictions have been applied to some religious activities. The government only recognises 5 major religions and others coming under the unrecognised category and are therefore not protected by law.

Mopeds in IndonesiaLanguage: Bahasa Indonesia, English, Dutch, Javanese and other local dialects.

Government: Republic.

Travel Issues: Nationals of about 62 countries have the facility to obtain a tourist visa on arrival for a period of 30 days at one of the 14 airports and 23 seaports of Indonesia. However these visas may not be converted to another category or extended. All others need to apply for a valid visa at their nearest embassy. All travellers need to possess a passport with at least 6 months validity and documents proving onward or return journey. No vaccinations are mandatory. Travellers from about 11 neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Philippines etc do not require a visa to enter Indonesia but have to enter through stipulated ports. Enquire at your nearest embassy to ascertain your requirements.

Health & Safety: Indonesia is said to pose high risk of infection if precautions are not taken against Hepatitis A and E, typhoid, malaria, dengue fever, avian flu, and diarrhea.

SOCIETY & CULTURE

Children in Indonesia

The People

Indonesia has about 300 ethnic groups each with their own specific cultural patterns and beliefs. A mix of European, Chinese, Indian, and Malay cultural heritages go together to form the Indonesian ethnicity. People of Indonesia are known for their extremely friendly demeanour and welcoming attitudes. However, they have conservative attitudes governing their social behaviour.

The Religion

Indonesia is an Islamic country but is secular in nature. Various faiths are practiced by the citizens without fear. Missionary works have been conducted by North American churches but such activities are restricted in certain areas. The Aceh region is supposed to be an Islamic state and follows religious tenets very strictly.

Role of Family

Indonesians value the extended family structure and draw great support from the interdependent style of living. Families often share the same accommodation or live nearby within minutes of each other. The oldest male is the patriarch and he has the final say in all matters. Women have the traditional role of housekeeping and are the primary caregivers for children. In the cities there is a break away from tradition and nuclear families live in high rises. Women work outside homes but not in any large numbers.

Ancestors

Ancestors are revered and remembered via special prayers and religious rituals during their anniversaries and on special days of the departed. Balinese Hindus believe ancestors to have powers that can protect and help the living members of the family if they are shown ample respect. On the other hand, if ignored, they can turn spiteful and cause destruction and sorrow. Funeral rituals are extremely elaborate and as extravagant as a family can afford.

Recreational Activities

Badminton and tennis are national favourites. Traditional forms of recreation include cockfighting, kite flying, bull racing, and boat racing. Another old favourite is sepak takraw played with a rattan ball. Some forms of martial arts like Pencak silat have avid followers.

Anything else important for this culture

Indonesians have a laid back and relaxed attitude to life and are often taken aback with the hurried lifestyle of westerners. They are a very conservative society and hold fast to religious beliefs. There is a social hierarchy that might not be visible to outsiders, but which nevertheless pays to be followed.

ETIQUETTE & CUSTOMS

Meetings & Greetings

Greetings take the form of a low bow that is done at a slow pace to show respect. the more the respect the lower the bow when greeting elders. A limp handshake followed by “Selamat” is also acceptable. Others merit a slight bow or even just placing your right palm over the heart.

Courtesy

Often first meetings revolve around getting to know each other rather than discussing anything serious. The purpose is to avoid loss of face to any one concerned. Loss of face or malu is an Indonesian concept that focuses on avoiding humiliation or embarrassment to any one. The use of passive voice, avoiding direct confrontation, denial, or arguing, and generally beating about the bush rather than coming to the point is all a means of avoiding loss of face. Introductions have to be made starting with the eldest person first.

Gift Giving

Gift giving is an accepted mode of showing appreciation or goodwill. If invited to a home it is good to arrive with a token gift. Avoid buying locally available items that may be everywhere. Souvenirs from your land or a box of fancy chocolates may be ideal.

Dress Code

Indonesia is a very conservative society and it is important to cover up, especially for women. Keep shoulders and knees well covered. It is important to don formal suits for business meeting even in hot humid temperatures.

Dining Etiquette

Dress formally as casual attire may be considered insulting. While at the dining table again wait to be seated. Do not begin to serve or eat till the elders have done so. Avoid alcohol and pork products if dining in mixed company.

Visiting a home

If invited for dinner at a home, it is alright to arrive a few minutes late but do not delay further. Bring a token gift for the hostess. Leave your footwear outside and once inside wait to be invited to be seated.

Communication Style

Though not many people speak English it is surprisingly easy to communicate as far as basic needs are concerned. Indonesians are extremely warm and eager to help foreigners who appear at a loss. Do not attempt direct conversation with the opposite gender unless they initiate it.

Dos and Don’ts

The head is considered sacred, so do not touch anyone on the head. If you do so accidently, apologize profusely. Do not use your left hand to hand over things such as business cards, money, or food. Do not photograph people without permission. Foreigners are not expected to know the nuances of Indonesian behaviour, but if you do your attempts are well appreciated and you earn their respect. Avoid causing embarrassment or loss of face to your counterparts by not raising your voice, loud laughter, and poor jokes.

Kid with hat and rice fields by John Yavuz Can

Birds photo by flydive

Traditional Dance by giuseppeportale_cartorange

2 kids by Victor Velez

Ocean by Ilse Reijs and Jan-Noud Hutten

carving by marc_smith

Food stand by Apple Jia

Moped by simminch

Papua New Guinea: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Lizbeth Pereira |

Oceania, Papua New Guinea, Travel, Travel Health & Safety

Papua New Guinea Festival?
Photo by jurvetson

FACTS & STATS

Location: Oceania, the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, between the Coral Sea and the South Pacific Ocean, east of Indonesia and north of Australia.

papua new guinea mapCapital: Port Moresby.

Climate: Tropical, with rainy seasons from December to March and May to October.

Population: 5,931,769 according to July 2008 estimates. Of the total population about 37% live below the poverty line as per 2002 estimates. Close to 80% are unemployed in the urban areas as of 2004. The economy of Papua New Guinea suffers from a lack of proper exploitation of its rich natural resources. The population, especially in the rural areas, is dependent on agriculture which contributes to about 34% of the economy. Export of precious metals such as gold and copper as well as oil, seafood, palm oil, cocoa, and coffee is another form of revenue for the government. The country also benefits from substantial financial aid from Australia.

port moresbyEthnic Make-up: Melanesian, Papuan, Negrito, Micronesian, Polynesian.

Religions: Christian 96% (including Roman Catholic 27%, Evangelical Lutheran 19.5%, United Church 11.5%, Seventh-Day Adventist 10%, Pentecostal 8.6%, Evangelical Alliance 5.2%, Anglican 3.2%, Baptist 2.5%), Bahai 0.3%, Indigenous faiths 3.5%. The Constitution guarantees freedom to practice all faiths. Missionaries of various denominations freely preach their faiths and convert people.

boys swimming papuaLanguage: Melanesian Pidgin, Motu, and about 820 indigenous languages. English is spoken by about 2%.

Government: Constitutional parliamentary democracy.

Travel Issues: Travelers to Papua New Guinea need to own a passport that is valid for up to a year since date of arrival, a valid visa, documents to prove return or onward travel, and proof of sufficient funds to support their period of stay. It is possible to obtain business and tourist visas for up to 60 days on arrival at Jackson International Airport but this might prove more expensive.

papua volcanoPNG Customs have strict regulations against bringing certain food and animal products into the country. Dairy products, wooden objects, exotic animal products, fruits and vegetables are some of the banned items on a list that includes fire arms, pornography and drugs.

Health & Safety: Travelers to PNG require a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate and need to watch out for outbreaks of cholera and malaria. It would be wise to drink only bottled or boiled water and use it for personal ablutions as well. Eat well cooked food and fruits you have peeled yourself.

Political turmoils are often a cause for concern and it would be a good idea to get a picture of the current situation before setting out. Ethnic violence happens even in the urban cities and can break out unexpectedly. Adhere to curfew times and stay away from trouble spots. Security issues such as pick pocketing, armed robbery, car jacking, and similar petty crimes may happen in peace times too and should be guarded against by dressing casually and not drawing attention to your self.

papua boy in boat?
Photo by JennyHuang

SOCIETY & CULTURE

papua airThe People
PNG has a culture that is a melange of about 800 different varieties all of which still retain vestiges of its ancient elements that go back about 10,000 years. One striking feature that seems relevant to all is their lifestyle which is close to nature and a part of it rather than apart from it. This means there is no exploitation but a sharing that returns to nature a part of what came from it. Boiled food, stone-baked bread, and palm leaf abodes are some instances of this life style.

boys in papua new guineaThe Religion
About 96% of the population of PNG are Christian and include almost all denominations from Roman Catholics to Anglicans. A small percentage practices their indigenous faiths while new faiths such as the Bahai have made their presence felt in the urban areas.

Role of Family
The extended family is the norm, and they live either under the same roof or in clusters in communities. Children consider aunts and uncles as parents, and adults do not differentiate between their offspring and other youngsters in the family. Infertile couples are often given a child by relatives to rear as their own.

papua new guinea marketMost societies are patriarchal with the exception of a few who are traditionally matriarchal. Men take care of heavy work such as construction of houses and boats, clearing land and farming. It is also their responsibility to uphold family and tribal honour for which they often take up arms. Women take care of the home front, children, and domestic animals. In cities, small numbers of women work outside the homes but in restricted fields.

Ancestors
Ancestors are revered, and they follow all rituals such as the Day of the Dead and other relevant anniversaries. Older relatives are taken care of within the extended family structure and it is normally the duty of the female relatives to offer physical care while the males ensure financial help.

papua new guinea tree houseRecreational Activities
With the missionaries came rugby, basketball, volleyball, and soccer. Game hunting is a traditional sport and this is done with sling shots and bows and arrows. Playing cards and stori, which means “sit and talk,” are other strong favourites. Music and dance are enjoyed by all ages and form an integral part of all get togethers.

Anything else important for this culture
A long history of western acculturation has left its mark in the urban population. But such concepts as eating out, buying ready-made clothes, and other forms of consumerism are generally steered clear of by the local people mainly due to prohibitive prices. Traditionally, violence plays a ritualistic part in PNG society when it comes to protecting tribal honour but in recent history this has paved the way for vicious ethnic conflicts powered by deadly modern weapons that cause mass destruction. It is never a good idea to bring this up in conversation.

 Woman at Port Moresby market
Photo by ximenatapia

ETIQUETTE & CUSTOMS

Meetings & Greetings
Shaking hands is an acceptable mode of greeting along with a pleasant Yu orait? or Yu stop i orait? (How are you?) to which the typical response would be Mi orait. Na yu? which, of course, means, “I’m fine, and you?” depending on the time of day, your greeting could be Moning (Good Morning), Apinun (Good Afternoon) or Gutnait (Good Night).

png riverCourtesy
When addressing seniors or important people you should use their full title and full name. It is considered correct to address senior citizens as papa and mamma. Once relationships have been established, it is alright to drop formalities and use first names.

Gift Giving
There is no formality attached to gift giving, but it is normal for visitors to drop in with some form of eatables. If you have received some gift, it is considered proper for you to return the favour when you visit.

Dress Code
In the urban scenario it is usual to don suits for business meetings and other formal affairs. Women are expected to dress formally and keep shoulders and knees covered. This is essential if you are to be taken seriously as women are generally considered less competent by the average PNG male.

PNG boat celebrationDining Etiquette
Dining consists mainly of two large meals—Kaikai bilong moning (breakfast) and kaikai bilong apinum (evening meal). In rural areas you may be seated on the floor, be served on large leaves, and eat with your hands. In the city areas you will have dining furniture and cutlery. Food is served by an important member such as the elder, a parent or even the guest. It is normal for guest to eat some food and take the rest with them for others. Second helpings signify that you’re not satisfied and so this should be avoided. If dining at a restaurant do not leave a tip as it is considered insulting. A polite thank you is all that’s expected.

Visiting a home
It is usual for visitors to drop in unannounced and be welcomed warmly. They eat whatever the family is having or just share a smoke and chew tobacco. They might even stay for days and be part of the family for that period of time. However, in the urban areas this style of visiting is rare and guests find it convenient to confirm their time of visits. This may not apply to relatives. It is a good idea to bring a token gift in the form of candy or toys if there are children in the home you’re visiting.

Communication Style
English is spoken by a minority in the cities and so, it would be of immense benefit to you to learn a few basic terms. There are about 800 ethnic languages, and so, this should apply to the area you intend to visit. Locals do not use their local language in the presence of others who may not understand as this is considered rude.

PNG Tribesman
Photo by 710928003

Dos and Don’ts

Carry drinking water with you wherever you go. Ensure you have adequate supplies of malaria and cholera medication. Always take advice from trustworthy sources such as hotel travel desks regarding best places and times to visit. Certain areas are best avoided. Do not take advice from quack tour operators, taxi drivers, and strangers. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid falling for scams. Foreign tourists have been targeted and robbed of valuables and documents by smart operators.

Volcano, swimming photos by tarotastic
Two painted boys, yali tribesman by 710928003
Air bldg by  Global Integrity
Boat festival by jurvetson
Port Moresby photos by ximenatapia

Peru: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Lizbeth Pereira |

Cultural Sensitivity, Facts and Stats, Peru, South America, Travel, Travel Health & Safety

snow mountain peru
Photo by Rick McCharles

FACTS & STATS

map of peruLocation: South America, bounded on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil and Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean.

Capital: Lima.

Climate: Tropical in the east to dry desert weather in the west and temperate to frigid in the Andes.

Population: 29,180,900 as per July 2008 estimates. About 44.5% of the population live below poverty line according to 2006 estimates. A 2007 statistic puts the rate of unemployment in Lima at 6.9% while the rest of the country faces widespread underemployment. Peru’s economy is affected by a lack of modern infrastructure to support investment leading to overdependence on traditional avenues of income such as metals and minerals. However, the period between 2002-06 saw some stability with a growth spurt in 2007. Other than metals and minerals, Peru’s economy depends on exports in agriculture, textiles and newly developed natural gas projects.

peru manEthnic Make-up: Amerindian 45%, Mestizo 37%, White 15%, Others including Black, Japanese, and Chinese 3%.

Religions: Roman Catholic 81%, Other Christian denominations 2.2%, Others including Judaism, Baha’i, Islam, and Hinduism 16%. The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and citizens may practise their faiths unrestricted. Evangelisation ministries and charity works are carried out by various Christian denominations all over the country.

Language: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, other Amazonian languages.

Government: Constitutional Republic

peruvian marketTravel Issues: You require a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity to enter Peru. North and South American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and most West European nationals can obtain a visit visa on arrival for up to 90 days stay. You will be given a tourist card which has to be kept safe and returned when you leave the country. It is very important to not lose or misplace this card as it can cause quite a lot of grief if you do so. For a period longer than 90 days for a tourist visa you need to exit the country for at least 2 days, possibly to a neighbouring country such as Chile or Ecuador, and obtain another 90 days validity. You may also renew at the Department of Immigration in Lima or Cusco for a period of 30 days and a maximum of 3 renewals.

Health & Safety: Visitors to Peru need to watch out for and be immunized against high risk of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis A, cholera, malaria, typhoid, dengue fever, Oroya fever and yellow fever. An International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever is required if you are arriving from an infected region.

machu picchu in fog
photo by kudumomo

SOCIETY & CULTURE

girls with lamas peruThe People
There is a distinct difference between the various cultures, none more so pronounced as the one between the white creoles of Spanish descent who inhabit the cities and the local indigenous people of the mountains. Cities such as Lima have most modern conveniences suited to a western lifestyle while the rural areas continue a more traditional life. Most families are dependent on farming for sustenance.

dancers in peruThe Religion
The population of Peru is predominantly Roman Catholic due to their Spanish colonial history. Other religions such as Buddhism and Baha’I have established themselves due to the influx of migrants from the East. Modern day missionary works have resulted in various Christian denominations such as the Seventh Day Adventists, Lutherans, and others taking root in Peru society.

lima slumsRole of Family
Family structure is distinct in the indigenous culture and the European people of Peru. Among the Inca people, for instance, social duties such as work, marriage, and property ownership are focussed within the members of a large extended family. They perform as a unit with the onus being on interdependence rather than individuality. Among the European Creole culture, the values are more along the lines of the modern nuclear family living in the cities.

Ancestors
Ancestors are revered and worshipped by all indigenous people. Burial grounds are held as sacred grounds and elaborate rituals are held in remembrance of ancestors. Respect for the dead and all of life is an integral part of their beliefs that are based on the need to assure enqa, or the eternal life force, that ensures fertility and harmony.

ancient peru maskRecreational Activities
Football (Soccer) is a national passion enjoyed by all ages. The dramatic landscape of Peru naturally encourages outdoor sports such as hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, white water rafting, surfing, paragliding, and sandboarding.

Anything else important for this culture
The culture of Peru dates back 10,000 years and is still rooted in it to a large extent. This is a vibrant society that celebrates about 3000 festivals a year and has a huge variety of indigenous arts, crafts, music, and dance. Spanish colonisation and Asian immigrants have added elements to this ancient culture that give it a universal appeal. It is wise to avoid discussing ancestry with people, especially with indigenous Indians.

 schoolgirl in peru
photo by tinou bao

ETIQUETTE & CUSTOMS

Meetings & Greetings
Handshakes are an acceptable form of greeting; however, there is a difference when greeting an Amerindian and a Peruvian. The former are less extroverted and may not actually shake hands but rather brush hands with minimum of contact. Peruvians are more exuberant in their greetings and shake hands on meeting and taking leave. The common form of greeting is a cheerful Buenos dias (good day), buenas tardes (good afternoon) or buenas noches (good night) depending on time of day. Conversation on first meeting should hover around light, non-controversial topics such as health of family, the sights you’ve enjoyed seeing, or food you liked particularly.

smiling woman in peruCourtesy
In a country that has various cultures there are many local names for the different cultural groups that may have connotations not obvious to the outsider. For instance, the word indios refers to Amerindians but is not considered as polite as indigenas which is the acceptable form. Gringos denote any foreigner and need not be considered an insult. Cholos refers to Peruvians of colour but is racist. To be on the safe side refrain from using any of this sort of descriptions to address people or refer to anyone.

Gift Giving
Peruvians are very friendly hospitable people and have no qualms inviting friends to their homes. If you receive such an invitation, it is acceptable to arrive with a gift. This gift should not be too expensive or flashy. Rather than going for local fare it would be a better idea to gift some souvenir or packaged goodies from your own country.

Dress Code
Dress code hovers around neat casual for business and formal occasions. Show of skin is considered unclassy, especially when visiting churches, museums, and other sacred or historical places.

peruvian train
photo by  exfordy

Dining Etiquette
If you’re invited to dinner, it’s wise to remember that this could be rather late. Have a little snack to prevent hunger pangs till meal time gets underway. If you initiate an invitation to dinner, it is your turn to pick up tabs. If on the other hand you have been invited by a Peruvian friend, you could offer to pay your share but this would inevitably be turned down.

Visiting a home
When visiting a home it is proper to arrive with a suitable gift. This could be a box of chocolates or a good bottle of wine. Punctuality is not a virtue in Peru and people may be late by a better part of an hour. So be prepared to dine late.

 peru town square
photo by 00dann

Communication Style
Spanish is widely spoken and so it would be helpful to learn a bit of useful phrases to get you through. Use greetings to break the ice an start conversations. Peruvians are very friendly and helpful and any effort you make at conversing will be appreciated and encouraged.

Dos and Don’ts
Do not discuss politics, drugs, or indigenous groups unless you have developed close relationships or understand the culture. You are bound to cause offense without even realizing it if not. Amerindians do not make eye contact when communicating unlike the less reserved Peruvians. Do not use your index finger to motion to people, rather use your palm facing downwards and beckon with all fingers sweeping down. Do not discuss money, wages, financial prowess or status with locals. If faced with such questions deflect them diplomatically and talk in general terms.

kids with lamas by Phillie Casablanca
slums by James Preston
map by  thejourney1972
dancers by  Miguel Vera
smiling woman by quinet
market girls tinou bao
mask by
rosemanios

8 Tips to Finding the Cheapest Airfare

by admin |

missions Fundraising, Planning to Go, Travel

airplane wingOne of the biggest challenges a missionary may face is funding, and a huge part of the expense is the airfare. If your organization isn’t purchasing the tickets for you, then finding the best airfare will be up to you. However, it takes more than just searching on popular airline booking sites. There are certain strategies for finding the most affordable price.

1. Shop Around
The price of your flight will mainly be determined by factors like the number of stops, seat quality, destination, date of departure and return, and flight duration. Think of that song with the lyrics, “My mamma told me, ‘you gotta shop around.’” Indeed you do.

2. Try Destination Specialists
These are brokers that specialize in providing tickets to specific locations. Examples are Travelspears.com, destinationcebu.com, cheapflights.com, and travelsense.org – this one provides a directory of travel specialists. These destination specialists often have more buying power for specific locations over traditional booking agencies.

3. Check Airlines Directly
Traditional online booking sites like cheaptickets.com or expedia.com may, at times, have the cheapest price.  However, these sites often tag on a booking charge for just buying it from the carrier that will be sending you on your mission. These sites can still be used to your advantage by using them as a search engine. When you input your departure and return flight information you’ll notice they have multiple carriers with multiple prices. You can simply note the cheapest airfare, go directly to that site and find it cheaper there. 

4. Be Flexible with Dates
If you can be flexible with your dates of travel, your savings will be heavy. Cutting your trip a day shorter or even longer can save hundreds of dollars. Prices also differ for the time of day the flights depart. The flights that leave during the week are cheaper compared to weekend flights.

5. Buy in Advance
Buying in advance is another way to save money. Ideally the best time is 2-3 weeks in advance. I find that buying too far in advance is actually more expensive as ticket prices fluctuate like the stock market when departure time comes near.  I’ve seen tickets drop suddenly the day before the flight when they want to fill the plane. However, when purchasing an international ticket, you don’t want to risk not getting a seat. Therefore, it might be better for peace of mind to go ahead and get it much earlier.

6. Try Neighboring Airports
Don’t stick to only one international airport. You may find neighboring airports, even a city or two away, are incredibly cheaper. Sure, your trip might take a little longer, but think of it as quality time to have a nice talk with someone or to chat with God about your upcoming journey.

7. Use Multiple Airlines
Airline prices are really tricky. Roundtrips are sometimes cheaper than one-ways. Don’t automatically stick with roundtrips with one airline. You may find a cheap one way ticket with one agency or airline on a specific day while finding a cheap flight with a totally different agency and airline for the return trip. You would think the agency would find the cheapest price both ways, but sometimes they can’t outprice their competition.

8. Pick up the Phone
With some effort, you may be surprised at the amount of money you can save on international airfare. Good research does take time, however. Also be aware that prices can change from one minute to the next. If you find your internet searching is making your bubble burst, calling the agencies and airlines may be the way to a cheaper airfare. You may even find that customer service reps become more helpful when you mention the purpose of your flight.

Photo by Freakland – ???????

Travel Tip: Healthy Travel

by admin |

Travel, Travel Health & Safety

Crowded TrainNo matter how healthy your lifestyle at home, traveling can be your #1 bane. Your routine immediately becomes non-existent, your menu consists of new and unusual foods, and your stress level has a tendency to blow through the roof. As impossible as it may seem, there are a few really simple ways to keep your body – and your mind – together in one, healthy piece.

Exercise

Travel almost always includes long periods of sitting,  during which your blood circulation can slow and your risk for blood clots increases. This is commonly referred to as “economy class syndrome.” This risk is easily and significantly reduced by standing and stretching every hour or so. If you are flying, just wait for a time when the seat belt sign isn’t lit and the aisle is clear, then stand up and walk around for a minute. If you have room while you are sitting, stretch your calves a bit, and if you have time to spare when you change gates, avoid moving walkways and trams. If you are in a car, make a point to pull over at a rest area or at an exit and do the same thing – walk around for a bit.

Food

Chicken Feet SoupOn the flight there, the airports are teeming with bright signs for McDonalds, Wendy’s, Taco Bell – you name it – but you shouldn’t feel as if your only option is to consume your daily calorie allotment in one meal. It may require some thinking ahead, but pack a meal or two – like sandwich, an apple and some crackers – in your carry-on or in the car with you. Not only is this healthier for your body, but you will feel better than if you had scarfed down a burger, fries, and a 32 oz. soft drink between flights.

Once in the new country, it might be a good idea to have packed some beef jerkey or trail mix for the trip in case there is a lack of protein – or in some cases, any food at all. I once went on a trip to Cameroon where meals were not readily available, and we were too remote to find any supplies.  The snacks I brought were all I had to keep up my energy. I did bring some granola bars, but they all completely melted.  If you are going to a hot culture with no electricity, stay away from anything that could possibly melt.

Water

Bottles of WaterIt’s a great idea to keep a water bottle with you while you are traveling. Dehydration causes your blood to thicken, again increasing the risk of blood clots, and can also intensify the effects of jet lag. Don’t feel like you have to chug a bottle at a time, but rather continually sip throughout the day. Do yourself a favor and avoid caffeine and alcohol also, as they speed up dehydration.  In the new country, it is imperative to keep your body hydrated with water.  In order to keep up your electrolytes, and enhance the taste of the water, it is a great idea to buy flavor packets to add to the bottles. On a recent trip to Africa, many of the team members got very ill, and those electrolyte packets really came in handy.

Please remember to keep enough water with you not only for hydration, but taking medication and brushing your teeth. Tap water in other countries can make some visitors extremely ill. Please check ahead before going if the water is safe for you to drink. 

Germs

I am far from “germaphobic,” but when I travel I am extremely conscious of what I touch, and wash my hands as much as possible. The last thing anyone wants it to end up at their destination with a cold, the flu, or possibly something worse. Carry (and use often) a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but remember to keep it less than 3 oz. and put it a zipper bag. However, please use it discreetly to as not to cause offense to anyone in your new culture.

To further assist my immune system I like to carry a few packets of a powdered vitamin  supplement. If you mix it in a little water in your water bottle and drink it down every so often, you will not only help your natural germ and bacteria defense, but will receive a noticeable boost in energy.  Cold Eeze or Zicam are also great, because you take them right when you are getting a cold, and they help you ward it off.

Sleep

Asleep on the planeBesides the extreme stress of travel and how that affects your body, the changing time zones and jet lag can really push you over the edge and lower your immune system.  Your best bet is to try to get as much sleep as you can, whenever you can.  Some people I have talked to actually start adjusting to the new time zone a week before the trip.  For me, I am too busy packing and getting ready to be that prepared.  However, once on the plane, I try to sleep on a schedule that coordinates with the time zone I am heading to.  I also just try to sleep anytime I can fit it in, because once there, sleep is sometimes hard to have time for with all the early wake-ups and in-country travel. 

Besides these ideas, make sure that if you need to take medication throughout the day that you keep them accessible and that you keep track of the time. This can be especially difficult if you are changing more than a few time zones, so plan ahead.

There is no reason you should have to fall victim to any of the potential health-related set-backs associated with travel. Don’t be paranoid, but always be wisely cautious. The planning ahead you do will pay off not only when you reach your destination, but you will be more likely to enjoy your travel as well.

Train photo by jim snapper
Soup photo by malias
Water photo by shrff14
Sleep photo by huong-lan

Travel Tip: The Perfect Carry-On

by admin |

Planning to Go, Travel

The ideal carry-on will be small, lightweight, and serve two purposes: provide you with anything you need during travel and anything you will need if your luggage makes a detour through Boston while you are on your way to Amsterdam. When packing a carry-on, keep these things in mind:

Size, Weight and Number

I know you’ve probably seen people rolling huge suitcases through the airports with their laptop bags strapped to the top. Sometimes the combined size of these bags rivals that of a small child, but I do assure you that however seemingly unenforced, airlines do have size restrictions Carry on Baggagefor carry-ons luggage. All airlines have their own policies, but generally maximum size is measured by a single number – the sum of the total dimensions (L x W x H). For example, a common size limit is 45″ on domestic flights, which could be any combination of dimensions (eg. 24 x 14 x 9). Most airlines also allow for a single “personal item” in addition to one piece of carry-on luggage. Personal items would include things like laptops, cameras, umbrellas, purses, etc. Bear in mind that international airlines tend to be less lenient when enforcing their policies – which are often times more strict to begin with. Airlines also reserve the right to adjust their policies as they see fit, at any point in time, so be sure to check their website prior to each trip, noting their guidelines for size, weight and number of carry-on pieces. The last thing you want is to end up frantically unpacking and repacking on the floor of the airport to meet their airline’s restrictions.

In Case Your Bags Don’t Keep Up With You

It happens sometimes; you’ve landed in one city and your bags in another – if they even left the ground in the first place! While you may be sure this couldn’t happen to you, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, right? So when you pack your carry-on, think about what you couldn’t possibly go without if you had to live out of only your carry-on for a few days. Pack one change of clothes, or for the sake of your team mates / family, at least pack a change of underwear! Make sure you include all medications you take; the last thing you want – on top of losing your luggage – is a health crisis. If you have any important documents or information (is someone meeting you at the airport? or do you have an address of the place you are going?) that you will need upon arrival, pack those as well. Chances are, everything goes smoothly, but you won’t regret being prepared.

During Travel

Yes, it is important that you maintain sanity during travel – especially if you have a day or more to spend between various planes and terminals. With any extra space and weight you have left, put in some things to keep you occupied – books, iPods, games – whatever you would enjoy. Unless you are particularly fond of airline food or can survive for long periods of time on peanuts, you may also want to throw in some snacks. Think: non-perishable items. Granola bars, dried fruit, and crackers are all great options. And just to be safe, make sure to travel with some cash. You never know when you’ll end up needing something you didn’t plan for, and sometimes a credit/debit card company will flag an out-of-country purchase as “suspicious” even if you let them know that you will be traveling.

DO NOT Pack These in Your Carry-on:

  • Sharp Objects
  • Flammables – No lighters. One book of safety matches allowed.
  • Explosives
  • Snow globes – No, I did not make this up. Check your snow globe or leave it at home.

If you are packing any kind of liquid, lotion, gel, etc. it must be in a bottle 3 oz. or smaller, and each bottle must be inside a single, clear, quart-sized plastic zipper bag. Only one is allowed per traveler. Traveling with a water bottle is a good idea, but leave it empty until you pass through the security checkpoint. Check out TSA’s website for updates and more detailed information.
If you keep your passport in your carry-on make sure to keep it easily accesible, yet well hidden – and never let your carry-on out of your sight.

When packing keep all of this in mind and also remember that you will be carrying this with you for the duration of your travel, so even if their is no weight limit, keep it light. You’ll thank yourself 20-30 hours into it.

Photo by mil8

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