International Travel Tips – Part III

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God…” James 1:5

Packing Hints

After my trip to Europe in 1978 with my three outfits as suggested by Arthur Frommer, I decided that was just a little too light to travel comfortably. I’m afraid I could not bear to look at those outfits after I returned and gave them away! All the photos looked like I seldom changed my clothes in 3 weeks. So here goes…

I start with prayer and ask God to bring to my remembrance what I should I take and wisdom to know what to leave behind. I then type a packing list and save it in my computer.  About 1 week before my trip, I copy my previous list into a new file, delete and add things that are appropriate for the country I am visiting, and print it out. I divide it into Purse, Carry-on Bag, Checked Bag, and the outfit I will wear. Then if I need to buy anything, I’m not rushing around at the last minute. I get out my suitcase a few days before and line it with a plastic garbage bag in the bottom and inside the top pocket to protect it from rain and mud puddles. (Once they unloaded my suticase from the plane in a downpour and everything was soaked including a couple books.)  Then I simply check things off as I put them inside.

LL Bean bathroom bag hanging

LL Bean bathroom bag hanging

I leave my LL Bean Bathroom bag hanging in my closet  packed and ready to go at all times. That way I just throw in a few last minute things. I like to use my bathroom bag the day before I depart as if I’m in the hotel so I discover anything I have forgotten. I always carry these items in my bathroom bag: electronic thermometer, extra foam ear plugs, immodium, chewable pepto bismol (prevents traveler’s diarrhea), Char-coal caps (to remove toxins if you get diarrhea), tylenol, ibuprofen, bacitracin, Qtips, cuticle scissors, tweezers, nail file, bandaids, shampoo, conditioner, small bar soap, Sambucol lozenges (anti-viral cures sore throat if taken first 24 hours), small sewing kit.

LL Bean bathroom bag zipped up for travel

LL Bean bathroom bag zipped up for travel

Pack light! (I still struggle with this.) Check the airline’s baggage limits. Usually the international trips still let you check a 50 lb. bag free. Leave room for souvenirs. I take my oldest underwear and nightgown so I can toss them at the end to make room for things I want to bring home. I weigh myself first on my bathroom scale, then hold my suitcase and weigh again and subtract the difference. I aim for 40-45 lb. checked bag going over. They now even weigh your carry on bag and limit it to 8 Kg (17 lb) on the last two airlines I took.

Take your PASSPORT! Show it to your traveling companion BEFORE you leave for the airport. Make 3 copies. Leave 1 at home, give 1 to your traveling companion, and put 1 somewhere in your carry-on bag. One lady drove 5 hours to the airport to go on a mission trip and discovered she forgot her passport. She missed the entire trip and lost all the money for her airfare. Expensive mistake! Enter your passport number in your cell phone contact list.

Print out your email airline ticket and hand it to the ticket agent with your passport. Email a copy to your family who stays behind. Keep both of them handy until you are in your airline seat and then put your passport in the SAME PLACE every time in your purse so it is easy to find. (My friend kept putting it in a different place and wasted lots of time looking for it.)

My travel vest with inside pockets, money belt, shoulder purse to prevent pickpockets.

My Magellan travel vest with inside pockets, money belt, shoulder purse to prevent pickpockets.

Wear a money belt and take 50 single US dollars. They are good around the world! Don’t change any money at the airport before you leave the USA as they have terrible exchange rates. Notify your ATM bank and credit card company before you go or they will shut down your card when you use it overseas because they will think it was stolen. Make copies of the front and back of them and store a copy in your carry-on bag. Put the 1-800 numbers in your cell phone contact list in case they are stolen so they are easy to call.

When you arrive at your destination, go to the ATM before you leave the airport and take out enough cash to last you a week. Your bank will charge you $5-10 every time you use your ATM so don’t take out small amounts. Stuff it in your inside pocket of your travel vest as fast as possible, then go to the restroom and put it in your money belt when you are inside the stall. Also put your passport inside your money belt at this time. Only keep about $50 in your wallet or enough to cover the taxi to your hotel. Some people carry a “dummy wallet” with about $20 and an expired gift card to give a thief if you are accosted.

Items I carry in my purse: Colgate disposable toothbrush  (doesn’t need water & has paste on it), Sea-Bands (prevents motion sickness-CVS), Zofran (by prescription) or Bonine (over the counter) for when the motion is severe, Ear plugs on a string so I don’t lose them (Walmart hunting/camping section-$3), gospel tracts in English and the language of my destination country, 2 or 3 teabags.

Items for my carry-on bag: tablet (great for checking emails and taking videos), Kindle (good for reading-battery lasts longer than the tablet), charging cords, batteries, language phrase book, small Bible, flashlight,  3 pair underwear, 1 or 2 tops, swim suit (impossible for me to find in another country if my checked bag doesn’t make it), personal medicine, collapsible water pouch ($1 Walmart). After you go through security, fill it up at the drinking fountain in the USA to save a few dollars. You can’t do this after you leave the USA because the tap water is not potable.

I carry an airbed (Coleman slim twin- Walmart $20 in the camping section) in my checked suitcase.  I put it on top of the hotel mattress after inflating it since I am most comfortable on a soft mattress. It really makes each new bed feel like my airbed at home and I sleep so much better without a backache. If you take a battery pump with you, put the batteries in your carry on bag. I forgot to do this when I went to Israel, so they leaked all over and ruined the pump. I couldn’t find any D size batteries in Israel, so blew it up by mouth the entire trip! My lungs had a good workout:)

Coleman slim twin airbed

Coleman slim twin airbed

If I am going to a hilly country, I put my collapsible LL Bean walking poles which fit perfectly diagonally in the bottom of my checked bag. They were great in Israel! The others on the tour group said they wished they had brought theirs along. They have many steps without handrails and few elevators in many countries. No country I have visited is as handicap accessible as the USA.

Jet lag prevention: Nothing works very well for me, but this is what the experts say. Set your watch to the new time zone when you board the plane. Eat a healthy dinner at the airport after you go through security. If it’s an overnight flight, skip dinner on the plane, put in your earplugs, throw the blanket over your head, and try to sleep all night.  Eat breakfast when they serve it. If you land in the morning, try to stay out in the sun all day to reset your internal body clock and don’t nap! Go to bed at the normal time in the new time zone. Take melatonin or a prescription sleep aide the first couple nights to help sleep. It takes 1 day to recover for every hour of time change. My best flight with the least amount of jet lag was when I flew all day to England, landed at midnight and went to bed immediately. I’m a very light sleeper, so I only catnap on the plane no matter what I have tried. I have to admit, I envy people who can sleep on a plane!

Stay hydrated since you lose 8 oz. of fluid for every hour you fly. Also, do leg exercises and stand up and walk hourly  to prevent blood clots. I’m high risk for clots, so I also take a baby aspirin and wear Jobst compression knee socks. I like to walk to the rear of the plane and ask the flight attendant for a glass of water in between their service times.

Ask God to bless your trip, use you for His glory and honor, trust in Him, rest in Him,  enjoy meeting people and making new friends! Remember He is the good shepherd and goes before you. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27

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International Travel Tips – Part II

Europe – 1978

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“Pam, international travel is really hard work and exhausting,” said my Dad. At that point I had only seen pretty postcards of Europe which made it look like heaven on earth to me. My Dad was a World War II veteran and fought in Germany the last few weeks of the war, and then was stationed in Austria until 1946. He had been back to Europe on business trips numerous times. “How difficult can it be to get on a plane and go see pretty places?” I thought to myself. I would find out my Dad was right!

I spoke a fair amount of German since I studied it in high school and college and I was eager to try it out in Austria and Germany. French was another matter, as it was never my strong point. I dropped it after one year of it in the ninth grade.

I researched the flights and found a charter flight from the Midwest to Frankfurt for $389. This was a lot of money for me considering my monthly take home pay as a new graduate nurse was less than $1000. I bought a 21 day Eurail pass for $220 which would take me on the train or boat anywhere in Europe. I studied Frommer’s travel book called “Europe on $10 a Day” until I had it practically memorized. I carefully tore out the sections on Germany, Austria, and France where I would be visiting to cut down on the weight of the large paper back.

Traveling light to Europe for 3 weeks!

Traveling light to Europe for 3 weeks!

He said only take three conservative clothing outfits, a small bottle of Woolite soap, and a 10 foot clothesline to put up in your room every night, so that’s what I did. I bought a new pair of walking shoes 3 months before and broke them in just like he said. I had a German and French phrase book. I was traveling alone for 3 weeks to see what it was like as I was asking the Lord if I should go to Germany to work with a local church. I was visiting missionaries in Austria and France, and the cousin of a friend in Germany. In between visits, I would be on my own.

I don’t have time to give all the details, but it was the trip of a lifetime. My Dad was right. It was exhausting and hard work. It’s hard to read the signs at the train station and a boat dock in a foreign language, avoid being accosted by drunken high school students, find a hostel to stay in at night. It was also difficult to work the pay telephone and figure out the correct coin to use, and change my money as I entered a new country.

But the blessings were innumerable as I asked the Lord to guide and protect me every day. I had wonderful opportunities to meet dear believers, share the gospel with others, experience God’s wonderful protection, see the starlit skies at night in the majestic Alps, enjoy a concert in Mozart’s house in Salzburg, visit Beethoven’s house in Bonn, and take a boat ride on the Rhein River.

Beethoven's House in Bonn, Germany

Beethoven’s House in Bonn, Germany

Salzburg Austria

Salzburg, Austria – Mozart’s home and where Sound of Music was filmed. My favorite city!

Katz Castle on the Rhein River

Katz Castle on the Rhein River

French girl's drawing of me as a nurse-my favorite souvenir!

French girl’s drawing of me as a nurse-my favorite souvenir!

I realized that there are poor people in Europe just like in the States, and everything doesn’t look like a postcard. You have to pay to use the restroom.  You can’t drink the tap water, but have to buy bottled water. There are no drinking fountains. The bathtub is down the hallway a floor below and you have to pay to use it. There is no washcloth or hand towel in the hotel room. They charge you for each refill of your coffee cup. The cobblestones wore out my walking shoes in 3 weeks. Some of the people were friendly. Some weren’t. One woman shouted at me derisively in German, “American, Go HOME!” late at night as I walked down the street.

Was I glad I went? Absolutely! God taught me so much about Himself and was so precious to me in the times of loneliness. But I decided after that trip that I could not be very effective alone in Germany, so remained in the Midwest.

Reflection – 2014

Since that first trip abroad, God has allowed me to visit 21 more countries over the years.  I treasure the friends I have made all over the world, missionaries I have met, and opportunities I have had to share the gospel in so many places. After September 11, 2001, air travel security changed dramatically which is cumbersome.

As soon as the Lord leads me to visit a country, I learn as much of the language as possible. I read the history, learn the customs, and research different blogs of people who live there. I always try to find a local church to worship at on Sundays. I have taken tours to China, Israel, and Costa Rica. Because I find the long flights so exhausting, I arrive the day before the tour starts to give me a day to recover and adjust to the new time zone. In 1978, I arrived home from Europe at 1 a.m. and went to work at the hospital at 3 p.m.! I barely made it through that busy shift on the medical-surgical unit. I learned from that experience to schedule a few days at home to recover before returning to work.

To strengthen my gastrointestinal tract and immune system, I take a daily probiotic (such as Align). I would suggest starting it a month before your trip. Since I began doing this, I haven’t caught a cold or had traveler’s diarrhea. When eating fruits and vegetables, the rule is “Wash it, peel it, cook it, or forget it!” Avoid lettuce, ice, and ice cream also. Carry tissues and hand gel as many countries don’t have toilet paper or soap in the “free” restrooms. If malaria is present, check out the most recent guidelines at http://www.cdc.gov  Some of the medications to prevent it need to be started 2 weeks before you leave.

I think this is enough for this week! Next week I will give you my packing tips.

The Lost Suitcase – International Travel Tips – Part I

Honduras – October 23, 1988

“Jesus came and spoke unto them,…..Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

I have just arrived in Honduras to join my first medical mission trip. We changed planes in Miami, but my suitcase didn’t make the transfer, so all I have is my carry on bag. I put in an extra pair of underwear and an extra blouse, my Bible, and little else. Dr. Paul, our medical director, led our group in devotions this morning before we boarded the old school bus to travel over muddy dirt roads 70 miles through the mountains to the villages where we will hold free clinics. We all sang joyfully, “This is the day that the Lord has made!” He then read Matthew 28:20 and encouraged us to remember Jesus was with us, be flexible, and smile! He then led us in prayer, and we committed the day to the Lord.

We bumped along about 5 miles per hour and enjoyed getting acquainted with one another. I never appreciated the smooth paved roads we have in the USA so much as I did today! At the top of the mountain, our bus started leaning and became stuck in about 12 inches of mud! Everybody got out to help push! We managed to push it out, but the mud was like quicksand and sucked my only pair of shoes (loafers-big mistake) right off my feet! I dove down in the mud and pulled them out. I climbed back on the bus in my stocking feet totally covered in mud.

Honduras bus stuck in the mud! Everyone helped push it out, and I lost my only shoes. 1988

Honduras bus stuck in the mud! Everyone helped push it out, and I lost my only shoes. 1988

We arrived at a boarding school where  I took a cold shower and we slept in bunk beds. It’s about 50 degrees tonight. Someone loaned me a pair of scrubs and clean socks. One of the dentists gave me a toothbrush, and a nurse gave me a pair of ear plugs. She kindly brought a whole bag for us newbies. I found out the countryside is noisy because the dogs bark until 2 a.m. and roosters start crowing at 5 a.m!

I check each patient's blood pressure and share the gospel with them.

I check each patient’s blood pressure and share the gospel with them.

I traveled the next day in a small pickup truck with a kind man who hauled the luggage to the clinic site. We did lots of pantomime since I only know a few words of Spanish and he knows no English. Smiles go a long ways!

Only one doctor and I arrived at the clinic. The rest of the team is in a cattle truck and apparently delayed. So I began checking blood pressures and triaging the throngs of patient waiting for us at the village school. This continued to be my assignment the rest of the week. I shared John 3:16 in Spanish with each patient and gave them a gospel of John while the village pastor shared the gospel with the crowds while they waited.

My lost suitcase amazingly showed up in the Honduran village after one week!

My lost suitcase amazingly showed up in the Honduran village after one week!

I had been borrowing scrubs to wear all week and the village ladies kindly washed them out for me and hung them up to dry. Friday, I looked up the dirt road and could not believe my eyes! Our mission director was walking down the road with my red suitcase! I never thought I would see that suitcase again. I was amazed how I had survived an entire week without it, and how God had wonderfully provided for me. I then realized how little I really needed to survive. “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Reflection – 2014

I just returned from a two week vacation in Ecuador with a lady from my church who is fluent in Spanish and very well traveled. She said she learned many travel hints from me and encouraged me to share them with you, which I will do next week.

I was rereading my first travel journal from 1978 which has a leatherette cover embossed with “Trip Abroad”. The first few pages give general travel hints and carefully explain how to take Traveler’s Checks in small denominations and Letters of Credit from your bank to prove you have sufficient funds for large checks. Thankfully, those days are past and ATM cards work around the world giving you cash in the local currency. Until next week… Hasta luega!!

Ecuador Pacific Sunset, Puerto Lopez - 2014

Ecuador Pacific Sunset, Puerto Lopez – 2014

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