Tips on traveling for months at a time

In the January ’06 issue, page 50, Cecilia Morrissey shared extensive advice on arranging flights around the world. Last month (Sept. ’06, pg. 37), she offered advice on other extended-travel considerations. Here, she continues.

FOOD — In Europe, eating is easy. Your tour books will alert you if the water isn’t safe in a particular country and give you some menu basics. The water is just fine in most countries in Western Europe. The dilemma is this:  do you want to 1) eat out all of the time, 2) self-cater exclusively or 3) do a combination of the two?

The more we travel in familiar territory, the less we eat out. Picnicking is cheap and you know what you are getting. In Europe, the grocery stores have salads, sandwiches, hot chicken — you name it — and all of the food is safe to eat fresh. The big department stores have cafeterias. You can easily pick out local food as well. It’s fun to eat at the stalls on market days. You just have to be flexible and be willing to give up some of your own food routine.

I take a heating coil (purchased at a travel supply store) and buy two mugs wherever we first arrive. Then we are all set for hot drinks and instant soup in our room. Add some bread and cheese and a chocolate treat for dessert — is life good or what?

I find it’s easy to eat out on Sunday, and you can usually get lunch (cheaper than dinner) or the day’s special. If you eat most of your meals in restaurants, the cost of your trip will skyrocket. Read the travel books to determine the expected cost of a meal. 

Travelers worry about getting diarrhea from the local food or water. In non-Western countries and South America, you will be fine if you pay attention to what you eat and drink. Avoid eating fresh (uncooked) fruit and vegetables, drink bottled water and don’t eat food bought on the street. If you are nervous about the food, eat in an upscale hotel. Do not ingest the ice. If you get bottled water on your table and the seal is broken, send it back.

Take Pepto-Bismol with you (Imodium is too strong). If you are going to be in Southeast Asia, Africa or China, take along a few packages of powdered electrolyte product for diarrhea. It’s for sale at travel stores and at Magellan’s (800/962-4943 or Ask your physician about a prescription medication for diarrhea.

Food is a very personal thing. Just find your own comfort zone.

CLOTHES — Regarding clothing, just plan to do hand laundry every few days. There will be an occasional laundromat, and sometimes the hotels have coin machines or will do your laundry. There are lots of self-serve laundries in France. In less-developed countries, you can send it out.

Take easy-drying nylon or clothes of the Coolmax type. You can always buy whatever you need if you suddenly get invited to the opera or an audience with the queen. Besides, if you buy locally you fit in.

Layer up with silk underwear (it doubles as pj’s.), at least one pair of wool socks, a microfleece sweater or overshirt, a microfleece vest (buy a good one, with a wind block, if possible) and a breathable rain jacket (with a hood).

A collapsible umbrella is very useful, as are a bandana and the usual array of pants and shirts.

Women may want to add a packable long skirt. Shorts are often okay. Just look around and see what others are wearing. You can buy cotton souvenir T-shirts along the way, but leave the jeans at home because they are a nightmare to wash and dry.

I wear one good pair of walking shoes and take a pair of Tevas or Birkenstock sandals for an extra. They pack well.

You don’t need a bathrobe because you will usually have your own bathroom.

Pack really, really light, because even if it has rollers you will have to carry your suitcase sometimes. Get a suitcase with good rollers.

Pack as many items as you can in regular zip-lock bags, because they keep everything from being scrambled if your luggage is security-searched.

If your trip takes you into two different climate extremes, try to schedule the heavy clothes sector at the beginning of the trip. Then, when you get to the warmer climes, you get a box, pack up your heavy duds and send them home. I did this in Australia on our 1998 trip. It worked just great. 

Put all of your travel documents, camera gear, prescriptions and travel info in your day pack and take it on the plane. Only check what you can replace. Don’t wear any jewelry other than a cheap watch and stud-style earrings. You only need one suitcase and a good-sized heavy-duty day pack.

GADGETS — The more I travel, the more gadgets I take and the fewer clothes I pack. Some gadgets that I really appreciate are a heating coil; collapsible water bottle (Platypus); plastic fork, knife and spoon; travel clothesline; travel laundry detergent (Dr. Bonner brand); clear plastic large envelope for documents; calculator; travel alarm clock, wristwatch that has a night light; earplugs; eyeshades; neck pillow for the plane; flashlight; travel sewing kit; flat rubber sink stopper, and flashlight.

If you are not checking your luggage, you will have to buy a sharp knife or pocket knife in between flights. Take just enough shampoo, toothpaste, etc., to get through a week. You can buy replacements anywhere on the planet. Leave the hair dryer at home; sometimes you can get one at the hotel.

Just to be on the safe side, I always throw in one of those small bottles of chemical water-purifying tablets. If we are stranded, I want to be able to purify water. You can get it at any camping store.

We take a hand sanitizer, antibacterial individual hand wipes and a small package of baby wipes. Don’t forget a lightweight travel journal and a clear plastic file for paperwork, your calendar and touring information.

COMMUNICATIONS — We take an international phone card and check the necessary access codes before we go. We use it from pay phones, and although sometimes it’s a hassle, it’s economical.

We do not take a computer, because it is not practical. There are Internet cafés everywhere, but we use them only for e-mail, due to security concerns.

Check into an international cell phone. There are several schemes; use an Internet search and read the details carefully.

WHAT TO DO WITH SOUVENIRS — Oftentimes, the travel folders, museum tickets, coins and trinkets are things you want to keep but not carry. We send small packages home. It’s easy from Western Europe and some big cities in Asia as well as in Australia and New Zealand, or you can just carry them until you are someplace where the mail is fairly reliable.

By the time we returned home in 1999, we had sent 12 packages to ourselves. It was like Christmas when we opened them! If you buy something large and pricey, just have it shipped home by the shop and hope for the best.

SAFETY — You are as safe as you are careful. We wear virtually no jewelry and always take our money, passports and tickets in a neck pouch. Also in the neck pouch are emergency phone numbers. We never, ever leave our passport, credit cards or money in our hotel room. Usually the hotel reception desk will keep them for you.

During the day, we have local currency in our pocket so that we do not have to access the neck pouch. If for some reason we need the credit card or cash, we head for a discreet place, and one watches out while the other gets the dough.

The camera is carried in front as we tour during the day. While we are in airports and train stations we are very careful not to get distracted, and we talk softly. We have had a few minor incidents and one camera theft in all our years of travel.

When we leave home, relatives and friends have our itineraries. If we go out at night in a city, we go door to door in a cab called by the hotel, and if we are uneasy, we tell the proprietor where we are going. If the locals tell us it’s not safe, we don’t do it.

One of us leaves a copy of our passports, plane tickets, train tickets and travel insurance and our itinerary with a relative. This paperwork also has the name and phone number of our attorney and whoever is looking after our residence. We each carry complete copies of tickets, passports, itinerary and travel insurance policy in our suitcase plus one in the document case that goes in the day pack for the airplane. We try to call home about every 10 days.

IN SUMMATION — Well, that’s it: all you ever wanted to know about around-the-world travel but were afraid to ask.

Overall, I’d say plan the major events, but try not to sweat the small stuff. Remember that everywhere you travel, you will rely on the kindness of strangers every day.

Port Townsend, WA