People in My Pictures – Italy

People in My Pictures – Italy

I love people. For the most part. Sometimes I prefer them to be far away instead of “all up in my personal space” like on a seat next to me while on an airplane ride or subway. What I don’t mind are having people in my travel pictures as I feel it captures a part of the everyday “life” and is a bit different than the typical building or landscape pictures.

So, here are some of my people pictures from my first time in Italy around 2007. I suppose this is my attempt at a photo essay??

People in my Pictures

I caught this jolly group walking down the stairs from a Univeristy and it seemed this nice, slightly tipsy gentleman was having a grand time. You can see he caught me taking a picture and right after I put the camera down, he yelled out, “Ciao, bella!” because of course, this is what men do in Italy. This picture makes me smile.

Italian Men at the University - GGA
Ciao, bella!

I call this one: “Newstand Man” not to be confused with “Candy Man” and don’t say it 3 times!  One of my favorites because of all the colors and lines of the magazines. Then we see this man pushing his glasses up…

Newstand Man
Newstand Man

Random snapshot of a group while we were exploring the ruins in Pompei. It seems every time they walked past me they were having some spirited debate.

Group in Pompei
Group in the ruins of Pompei

This lovely lady was surprised that I wanted to take a picture of her. I asked if I could “make” a photo of her in my broken Italian and she responded by pointing to herself and confirming it was her I wanted to take a picture of. I suppose no one takes random pictures of bathroom attendants, by why not? I do. And she was lovely.

Bathroom Attendant - Italy
You want to take a picture of me?? Yes. – Italy

I have no idea what this random conversation was about, but if you have ever been near Termini Station in Rome, it can get a bit crazy.  I can’t think of a caption for this….other than…get back in your car because you are in standing in the middle of traffic?

Men in Traffic
You going that way? No…I am staying right here.

No set of pictures are complete without the mom and the baby and of course, the lost tourist, the nun and other randomness.

Mom and Baby
Mom and Baby

Vatican Museum – two workers having a chat while I waited in line.  I strongly recommend doing a group tour if plan on visiting the Sistine Chapel which is part of the Vatican Museum. You can get to the front of the line much faster.

Vatican Museum
Vatican Museum

See the line? The Vatican Museum gets TONS of visitors each year and it’s definitely worth it. You don’t go to Rome, without going to the Vatican to see the museum plus the Sistine Chapel. If you take a tour, you can get to the front of the line and take pictures of everyone else standing in line.

Line at the Vatican
Line at the Vatican

And for the love of God, go to church.

Go to Church, Rome, Italy
Go to Church, Rome, Italy

…because if you don’t, you might wonder where your salvation went. In your purse, the sky or hell…you have no clue?

Purses
Purses

The End.

 

 

10 Tips Female Travelers Need to Know About Safety

10 Tips Female Travelers Need to Know About Safety

Maaaaaaaaan, do we have some sketchy stories to tell about being females traveling abroad! Like most female travelers, we have found ourselves in some very uncomfortable situations. After all, in a country where not only is the language completely different but so are the culture and customs, we are bound to say the wrong thing or piss someone off.

But hey, isn’t the strangeness and unfamiliarity all part of the attraction to travel? So we’re not going to stop traveling. Although some situations can somewhat be avoided, how can you be safe while traveling?

You can’t entirely guarantee that you will be safe and this applies whether you’re in your own backyard or someone else’s on the other side of the world – and I don’t mean that literally.

We’re trying to avoid actually being IN someone’s backyard, as in 6 feet under…

Pompei, Italy - Girls Gone Abroad
Pompei, Italy – Girls Gone Abroad

See how my my mind automatically goes straight to the morbid ending? I blame my mother for this. She refuses to keep a shovel in her trunk for fear it might be used to knock her out AND to dig the hole (true story).

However, the fact that my mind does acknowledge the possibility that something bad could happen is probably what has potentially saved me from some bad situations.

Here is me sharing some of my wisdom. Some of which I stole from Oprah.

1. Never let your guard down.

Just because you are blissfully frolicking through the fields of “somewhere city, somewhere country” doesn’t mean you won’t be a target for a sniper. Maybe this is drastic, but there is no such thing as a “I’m a tourist and therefore untouchable” cloak of safety that magically shroads you when traveling. You don’t have to walk around with your face smeared with Vaseline and earrings taken out ready for a fight just don’t let your guard down.

You are a tourist and will be a target for something. This is the mindset you need to have.

2. Pretend to be married.

This means either wear a fake wedding ring or be ready to slip one onto the appropriate finger if you run into an awkward situation.

While walking on a very busy Istanbul street, I was followed by a man who suddenly appeared by my side and a little too close. Michelle was with me so I wasn’t even alone so sometimes it just doesn’t matter if someone is with you.

As he asked me a series of questions, I could feel his hand slide up to the back of my arm. Quickly, I put my hands behind my back and moved a finger from my right hand over to my left ring finger. He was too busy talking and looking at my (covered) breasts to notice…

I quickly flashed my (newly) married hand in his face and I told him we were meeting my Turkish husband who was waiting at the corner and to please go away before he got me into trouble. Worked instantly and he actually panicked a bit.

Wedding Ring - Girls Gone Abroad
Wedding Ring – Girls Gone Abroad

Side note: He actually did walk up to a man on the corner and started talking, but Michelle and I picked up our pace and got lost in the crowd. Also know as “stealth mode”.

3. Don’t be afraid to be rude.  

I learned this from Oprah.

Back in my teen days, my mom would always be watching Oprah around the time I got home from school. I would watch the show with her as this was our way of “bonding” and her way of “parenting”. See…back in those days, Oprah covered some informative and controversial topics and many times, those topics would trigger the start of many conversations.

On one particular show, Oprah was interviewing a woman who had been brutally beaten and raped. The victim talked about how something felt “off” about this person who showed up at her door asking to use her phone, but she didn’t want to be rude so he let him in against her “gut” feeling. Does this surprise you?

Think about how many times you just smiled and were polite as possible in an uncomfortable situation because you didn’t want to be viewed as rude or bitchy.

Side note: Back in my younger years, before cell phones, it was common for someone to knock at your door asking to use the phone.

Oprah talked about how women are conditioned to be nice and how we need to learn that being rude is okay.

Do NOT be afraid to be rude – it could save your life.

4. Trust your intuition. 

Women have it. It’s a gift. If you feel like something is off, then it is. Don’t try to find an explanation for how you feel, just trust it. And see # 3 – don’t worry about being rude or feeling like you are crazy – just go with your intuition.

Check out this YouTube video by Gavin de Becker – The Gift of Fear.

5. Walk and stand like you have confidence. 

Walking straight, head up and with shoulders slightly back which not only helps to make your boobs look bigger, but also makes you appear like you have confidence.

Hey, I know you have confidence, but make sure it shows in your body language. Walk and stand like you own that place and that you will f&%# someone up if you need to.

Walk like a boss - Girls Gone Abroad
Walk like a boss – Girls Gone Abroad

*This also means you don’t walk while fidgeting with your smart phone. Especially because your eyes diverted down makes you a target and someone will stab you for that phone (not kidding).

Side note: If you are lost, find a safe location to check your phone or ask for directions preferably from a store owner or other employee. Not the dude on the street who could be a Ted Bundy copy cat killer. He’s either going to want money for helping you or he’s throwing you in his nearby vehicle.

Here’s some cool stuff about Victim Selection posted on Protective Strategies, but before you click on that, read on.

6. Do not accept drinks from anyone, including women

One night, while at a popular club in London, I was approached by a few women who were super friendly. They poured on the compliments and asked where I was from and all those other standard questions. One girl tried to tell me she was from Kansas – yet she had a British accent. Go figure. They proceeded to escort me to the bar to “buy me a shot”.

Something definitely didn’t feel right and before I could even say “no,” my friend came up and very bluntly told them to “fuck off.” Suddenly, these women changed their demeanor and scurried off.

Bizarre. But my friend, a London local, explained that these “friendly” women are part of a sex trafficking ring who are paid to deliver drunk, preferably lesbian women to men. I’ll cover more of this in a future blog.

So please, do not accept drinks from anyone and be mindful of the quantity of booze you are drinking.

Drinking - London - Girls Gone Abroad
Mind the Drink – London – Girls Gone Abroad

7. Learn Krav Maga

My girlfriend introduced me to Krav Maga and out of all the self defense techniques I have studied, this is the best – by far. Krav Maga is the official hand to hand combat system of the Israeli Defense Forces. You are not taught just a series of moves that will help you win a tournament, you are taught usable moves and techniques for real life situations. It seriously is life (and body) changing.

Warning – this class is not for the dainty types. Only those serious about protecting themselves should join.

8. Know the culture and customs of the country you are visiting.

Come on ladies…do I even need to elaborate on this one? No brainer.

Blue Mosque - Istanbul - Girls Gone Abroad
Know the Culture – Istanbul – Girls Gone Abroad

9. Act.

One time, in Morocco, Michelle and I found ourselves in the back of a van. A tour van. See where your mind went?? Good, you’re learning.

So while in this van things got awkward. Intuition vibes were going and being rude was not going to work so plan C went into action. Which was me “answering” a phone call from a friend who was waiting for us. A future blog will go more into this – but the gist is, if you need to: act. Act like you have people waiting for you, like you’re a nut, act confident, act like you will slice a throat, if necessary. Throws them off, every time.

10. Share your plans. 

Just because you have wanderlust doesn’t mean you just up, leave and fully disconnect. Even if you are going on a solo – “find your mind” trip, share your plans and check in every so often even if it’s just on social media. Your family and friends should know where you are at all times.

Last but not least, don’t let your loved one read this because then they freak out and worry about you when you are traveling. Then you will be lectured about how you should not go to <insert country>.

But hey, you can’t blame them. They watched a LOT of Oprah.

Be safe and enjoy the world.

Confessions of a Female Solo Traveler

Confessions of a Female Solo Traveler

I’m in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by myself and I was just attacked. I followed all the “do’s” that I was supposed to…walked in a well lit area with plenty of pedestrians and cars and kept my eye out for anything strange. I saw him walking towards me and could tell he was inebriated beyond sense…but instead of choosing to cross the street (which I couldn’t have done given the traffic), I chose to walk cautiously pass him.

My gut was right. In the blink of an eye, he grabbed me by my shirt and tried to pull my sling bag off…jibberish came rushing out of my lungs and thankfully strangers came to my rescue. I was left with a bruise on my side, his spit on my face and a couple of cops to console me. This is now the second time I’ve been attacked abroad…and I was much luckier this time around.

Now, safely back at my hotel and a fifth of tequila, I’m wondering…what the hell am I doing here? Traveling solo was never something that I aspired to do.

But after years and years of dreaming about traveling, I finally had the resources – specifically money – to do it but couldn’t get calendars to work with my partner or friends that wanted to travel with me. I had to make a decision: continue to wait until someone could travel with me or do it on my own. I chose the latter because life is just too short to wait.

As an acknowledged introvert, I was pretty anxious about this decision and decided to start small. In 2009, I booked a trip to Seattle where I met up with friends then went solo to Vancouver for a few days. I pumped up the bass in my PT Cruiser rent-a-car and drove across the border, checked into my hotel and did exactly what I wanted to do each day. Whether it was sleeping in or walking in circles through Stanley Park in search of a mysterious totem pole…my agenda was 100% me.

I learned that it didn’t kill me to go to a club alone and I was not the wallflower I had feared I would be. I learned that asking strangers for help was okay and not a sign of incompetence. I learned that it wasn’t the end of the world if I was lost because I was capable of figuring things out on my own. And I think the most important realization I had was that it was indeed, okay for me to be selfish and focus strictly on me.

Since then, I’ve traveled solo all over Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, North America and most recently booked a trip to Antarctica. It is liberating. Self-fulfilling. Intoxicating. Extraordinary. It’s pulled the extrovert out from inside of me. It has made me realize my limits and allowed me to meet amazing people across the globe. I’m still addicted even with this incident. And considering that I’ve traveled to more than 300 cities…twice attacked is actually less than the incidents that have occurred to me in my own home city.

But in moments like this, it does get fucking lonely.  I’m in unfamiliar territory and don’t speak the native language. And I could use a hug. Thank goodness for free apps like Whatsapp (A free messaging app that allows you to stay in touch with friends and family over wifi) and now that it’s been a few conversations with familiar people and a couple of drinks later…I know this will not be my last solo venture. As much as I love traveling with my partner or friends…traveling solo continues to open new facets within myself and I’m in love with the experience. So I’m starting to reminisce about other ways I’ve combated loneliness during previous trips…

  • Pretending I’m straight. Ok, I’m not proud of this but when you’re a solo female in a country that is primarily homophobic (and has laws against it), you’re not going to want to emit any rainbow rays. And if I can score a free drink and an ego boost, what’s the harm? But I only do this when I want to experience some night life and there’s no gay options…and I never get drunk because flirting with a guy or two at the bar is one thing…but you have to make sure you stay safe and guarded.
  • But, if I’m in a country where there are gay options and I’m single, one nighters can certainly keep a gal occupied for a night or two. It’s especially fun when you don’t speak the same language so you immediately don’t have to deal with any conversational miscues or having to pretend to care about what they do for a living etc…it’s just pure adulterated enjoyment.
  • Sitting at the bar at a restaurant is the best way to dine alone and if you’re lucky you can get some custom cocktails from the bartender and chat with your fellow solo diners…maybe even make a new friend.
  • Booking a tour at the beginning of the trip. Since I’m a foodie, I gravitate towards the food tours but general city tours will also work. In almost every tour I’ve booked, there’s always another solo traveler and it’s a great way to meet someone who may want to do other things in the city with you…and at the very least, share some encouraging stories to each other.
  • Always keeping a book handy. I love reading, but especially enjoy it when I travel. I’ll find a coffee shop or a good people watching venue…order a drink and sit back and relax. It’s great to overhear conversations too which sometimes leads to meeting new people.

Ok, enough reminiscing. I’m realizing that I don’t have to do these things that often because frankly, it’s rare that I feel lonely when traveling solo. The destination is my friend and the experiences are my connection…and it’s an endless parade of variety to keep me occupied. Because of this, every trip makes me feel like I’m getting closer to understanding who I really am…who I really want to be…and despite this blunder tonight, I know I’ll be okay. Sounds like a pretty damn good relationship to me. Now, I have the rest of this city to explore tomorrow because it’ll be a new and wonderful day. Good night.

11 Useful Things Every American Should Know About Brazil

11 Useful Things Every American Should Know About Brazil

Brazil, the largest country in South America has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, a diverse mix of cultures, rich, vibrant street art and not to mention tons of island paradises.
Your packed and ready to go and have all the essentials, but what are some of useful things that every American should know about Brazil?

1.Wear flip flops, but leave the Asics at home!

Brazil isn’t like Europe where flip flops are considered a fashion disaster. In Brazil, flip flops are super practical and make sense for longs walks on beaches and hot pavement. Bring your favorite pair, but be sure to buy several pair of Havaianas. A popular Brazilian brand, Havaianas translates to Hawaiians in Portuguese and are considered a household staple much like beans and rice. They are super comfy and there are plenty of colors to match your pedicured toes.

As far as sneakers, people certainly wear them in Brazil but some brands like Asics are super expensive even compared to American standards so it’s best to just leave them at home. Besides, it’s better to save room in your suitcase for flip flops.

2. Cash is not king so use your credit or debit cards, but don’t let them out of sight.

It’s never wise to carry a lot of cash with you and considering that Brazil is a country that widely accepts credit and debit cards, there is no need to carry a lot of cash unless you plan on buying gas or a lot of pastries. Besides, most merchants discourage the use of cash as they prefer not to have too much cash on-site so that they may avoid being a crime target.
However, unlike in the states where you can just give your waiter or waitress your card when you pay your bill, don’t do this in Brazil. Instead, they should bring a mobile credit card processor to your table and process your transaction right in front of you.

3. Leave the jewelry and extra electronics at home next to your Asics.

During the 2016 Olympics in Rio, thieves had a grand old time robbing people of anything in plain sight even in broad day light. Like most countries, robbing people, especially Americans, is a common occurrence. These thieves aren’t always so obvious and even come in swarms of young children who are trained to rob just about anyone for anything. So, don’t be that American who is trying to take pictures with their IPad or is sporting the Beats by Dre headphones. Just leave those at home along with your blingy new engagement ring. Seriously. And on that note, only pull out your smartphone when necessary as those are easily grabbed by any thief whizzing by on their bike.

And if you must bring a laptop, like some of us who must work while traveling, just be sure that when you are finally able to cut the umbilical laptop cord, you tuck it away in a safe place in your hotel or apartment.

4. Don’t be taken for a ride by a taxi airport driver.

Once your exhausted body lands in Brazil, probably Rio De Janeiro (GIG) and you head through customs and gather your luggage, you will be greeted by a mass of people who will ask you if you need a taxi. I know you just want to get to your final destination for that much-needed shower, but don’t give into the temptation.

Instead, walk straight over to the Taxi cooperative stand located right before you exit the airport where you will be able to prepay for your trip. After you provide your destination and receive a ticket, someone will walk you to your cab. Hand your ticket to the driver and you’re all set! By the way, your driver should not turn on their meter as there is no need since you prepaid.
Basically, a cooperative is a group of taxi cab companies who pay for this service.

While this option is a little more expensive, you can be assured that you will not be “taken for a ride” which could happen if you were to ask for a cab by yourself.

By the way, Uber is not allowed at the GIG airport. They can drop you off but you won’t be able to use the service to get picked up. If you want to read a bit more about taxi cabs in Rio, check out this blog post by RioIGo.

5. Learn some key phrases in Portuguese, not Spanish.

Unlike Spanish speakers in Colombia, Brazilians speak Portuguese.
Very few people speak English and if they do, their families either spared the extra expense to send them to private English school or they work in tourism and are probably more than happy to speak with you in your native language. Otherwise, learn some key phrases!

6. Don’t be LOUD!

Every good blog for Americans should remind them that speaking loudly is not only obnoxious, but is great way to be hassled. Unfortunately, there is a stigma that all Americans are rich and in addition to the two types of English speakers mentioned above, there is a third kind which I call the “hassler”.

As soon as they hear English, they will approach you quickly and ask you, “Where are you from?” and regardless of which city or state you tell them, they will probably know the favorite, winning sports team and proceed to give you a high five as if you too are a loyal (insert sports team name here) fan.

Next thing you know they will try to very aggressively sell you something.

7. Use WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger

Whether using it for newfound friends or for keeping in touch with family back home, install and use WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Pretty much everyone uses WhatsApp in Brazil for texting or sharing videos, but Facebook Messenger does seem to prove better quality sound for phone calls. Be prepared to use both especially when WhatsApp randomly gets banned from use in Brazil.

8. No need to leave a tip.

As an American, I always struggle with this one just because it seems rude to not tip your waiter. However, when you see your bill you will notice that there is a 10% service charge added to your total price. If you still want to tip, I am sure they will appreciate your generosity. By the way, you also don’t need to tip your cab driver or hair dresser – if you just so happen to get your haircut while on vacation.

9. Don’t flush toilet paper down the toilet.

This is a super important thing that every American should know about Brazil. Don’t flush it!

Like most of South America’s sewer systems, Brazil’s sewer systems are not designed to handle toilet paper either so don’t flush toilet paper or anything else for that matter down the toilet. Instead, place it in the trash bin that you will find next to the toilet.

10. Wear Sunscreen

Brazilians can easily recognize the gringos by their sun-burnt skin. Nothing can ruin your vacation worse than trying to soothe sunburned skin and besides, you want to collect memories while on vacation, not skin cancer so please wear sunscreen! Most Americans are not used to the blazing Brazilian sun that shines almost daily so be sure to slick up with sunscreen, even on a hazy day.

11. Instead of beach towel, use a “canga”.

Hardly anyone uses a beach towel on the beaches except for a few of the bright, red Americans. Brazilian woman use cangas which are lightweight, cotton blankets that can be used a dress, sarong or wrap, but also as a beach blanket. They come in a million different patterns and dry much faster than a beach towel. Joy and Journey has a great recap about the Brazilian canga so go check it out!

I hope you enjoyed this list of useful things that every American should know about Brazil. If you have a tip you want to share, please email us at triototravel@gmail.com!

Planning to a Fault

I was born a planner.

It’s just how my mind works. So it was natural for me to plan out my first international trip six years ago with Casandra in detail.

Months before departure, we had worked out our flights to Greece, hotel in Athens, transportation and key sites of interests to visit together. But similar to someone who was in the closet, I hid my real plan from her. This included ridiculously detailed lists of every place we would be – addresses and phone numbers, maps to and from these various destinations, directions by car and/or by foot, how long it would take to get to each destination, the best days to do each based on weather and location, cost and hours of operation if applicable…and in some cases even a picture or two to ensure we knew what to look for.

And maybe I compiled all of this in a 3-ring binder.

Now, this was before the rise of the smartphone. That’s my excuse. But even then, I knew my OCD had gotten the better of me and it would surely frighten Casandra to see this side of me.  So I hid these print outs in my backpack and read through them like porn while she was in the shower or away. Once we had done something for the day, I had to check it off my list and start thinking about how we were going to get to the next thing. I just couldn’t help myself.

During our trip to Greece, the only part of our plan that seemed to work out was our hotel. Everything from the flight, to our cabs, to the places we visited all had varying ways of unraveling which we will write about later. And you know what? I loved every single minute of it. When I finally stopped worrying about the how and whens, I was able to just absorb the plethora of moments right in front of me. We still saw everything we wanted to and many things we never imagined because we stumbled upon them after getting lost roaming around. Our best experiences time and time again were the ones we never expected. And isn’t that what life is about? To live it as it comes.

Fast forward to the present and 25+ countries under my belt, and I can’t help but smile when I think of that trip to Greece and how it helped confirm my career choice in life – hint: it lets me plan the hell out of some plans – but more importantly how to leave room in my trip to just travel. So how do I plan a trip today?

Things I always do:

  • Book flights with reasonable departure times and secure a window seat
  • Book lodging prior to landing
  • List out key things I want to see or devour (I love cocktails and a good meal.)
  • Check visa entry requirements
  • Check electrical outlet type/voltage
  • Confirm native language and learn the basic phrases.
  • Confirm currency
  • And yes, I still have a ‘quick list’ printed out just in case wifi doesn’t work that has key addresses and such. But it’s never longer than a page so I don’t have to be ashamed of it.

That 3-ring binder from Greece has been retired to the shelf and serves as a reminder to not suffocate a trip by planning it down to the t – let it breathe…you’ll be amazed at everything you can take in.