Epilogue to Sabbatical

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Below are some observations, opinions and advice that I think are good to pass on for anyone considering long-term travel.

The more I traveled the more I realized that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends. – Shirley MacLaine

Observations

  • People are kind and generous
    • I can’t even begin to name the ways in which strangers were unexpectedly kind to me during my travels.
    • We all care about the same things and want the same things for our loved ones.
  • It was with great sadness that I learned Turkish Air no longer gives Turkish delights upon boarding
  • Oral hygiene is very different in parts of the world that are not the U.S.
    • I was told by a dentist in Greece that he would have known I was American just by looking at my teeth.
    • I also quickly realized, by just observing, that many countries and cultures do not place a priority on dental perfection.
  • People love my hair
    • In the U.S. I always get comments about how tall I am but in all the places I visited, I received comments about my blonde hair. Many people could not believe that it is naturally this blonde.
    • In Egypt, I was asked by several teens to take a selfie with them – to the point where I had to just walk away at one market or I would have been there all day.
  • The intricacies of religion and culture are so nuanced
  • The short A sound in my name is not something that translates well
    • I found myself saying my name with a short A sound – “Amber”, getting a response of “What?” and then changing the sound of the A to a short O and immediately receiving a smile and “Oh! Omber!”
    • Even in countries that traded in amber spices and stones, it was still somehow misunderstood.
  • Most foreigners know D.C. as “Washington”
    • When I was asked where I was from and I said “Washington, D.C.” I always received a “Yes – Washington!” response. When I answered that question with “D.C.” I received a blank look.
    • I don’t think that most foreigners know that there is a state called Washington in the U.S.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. – Helen Keller

Opinions

  • IST (Istanbul Airport) is the most improved airport
    • ADD (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) was, by far, the worst airport I’ve ever been to
  • Getting excited about meeting someone else from your home country while traveling is not unique to any one country
    • At every hostel and tour group, no matter where they were from, if there were two strangers from the same country, they could not contain their excitement.
  • I have so much of the world to see and do still
    • Even though I visited 6 new countries in 2016, after meeting all the people whom I did and talking to them about their travels, I feel like I have so far to go. There is still so much to do – I can’t wait for my next big adventure.
  • My least favorite city was Casablanca
    • Read the post for the full story – but in short, the street harassment was horrible.
  • The country I’d like to return to first is Egypt
    • There was so much that I didn’t get a chance to do and see.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s life. – Mark Twain

Advice

  • When budgeting for expenses, don’t forget the taxi/train costs to and from the airport
    • Those costs were something I forgot to count on when I did my original budget – don’t make the same mistake I did.
  • Never fly Ryanair
    • Seriously, they are the worst airline I have ever experienced. I cannot stress this enough – they are horrible, their customer service is a joke and their massive fees for ev.er.y.thing. is beyond egregious.
  • Buy vacuum sealed bags
    • I suggest these from Amazon. Mine lasted my whole trip and are still useful.
  • Pack less than you think you’ll need
    • The exceptions are socks and underwear – I bought a couple more of both while I was away.
    • I could have left about a quarter of what I brought back at home.
  • I was given so many clothes from other people while traveling
    • A friend I made in South Africa gave me one of her shirts after buying some things while she was there and didn’t want to pack it.
    • Another Airbnb host gave me some clothes that a previous guest had left behind.
  • Off-line Google maps is a life saver
    • Once you connect to wifi after landing, open Google maps and it will be available without a data connection as well as track your location while the app is open.
  • Be rude with taxis if needed
    • If the price doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.
    • Always ask the driver to turn on the meter.
    • There are taxis in some cities that will only take tourists so they can scam them.
  • Listen to the arrival announcement when landing
    • It is worth it to take out your earbuds for the landing announcement – I was not aware that my flight from ADD to CPT included a stopover in Durban where I exited the plane while continuing to listen to my podcast. I was in line for passport control when I realized we were not in Cape Town yet. Thankfully, the plane was still there and I was able to re-board.
  • Buy travel insurance
    • I suggest World Nomads – they are affordable and electronic.
    • I had two separate medical issues while abroad and am so glad I had insurance. Although I haven’t received reimbursement for those expenses yet, I do expect to be fully reimbursed.
  • Save receipts & airline boarding passes
    • Any receipts connected to medical care, business meetings and airline fees should be kept.
    • Also, boarding passes – I am in a situation where my reservation number was only printed on my physical boarding pass, which I threw away. So now I may not be able to claim those miles.

In conclusion – if you ever have the chance to take a trip like mine, do it. Plan, organize, pack and budget but always do it. It was incredible and amazing and I will cherish my experiences for the rest of my life and love every minute for what it taught me about the world, myself and others.

To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world. – Freya Stark

All my Sabbatical posts below:

  1. South Africa Part 1 & Part 2
  2. Casablanca & Tangier
  3. Greece & my birthday
  4. Jordan
  5. Egypt
  6. UAE
  7. Turkey

The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready. – Henry David Thoreau

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