This is a guest post by Sherry Dryja. Sherry blogs at Jet Planes and Coffee and is most at home when traveling the globe, meeting new people, and exploring their communities. She and her husband spend half the year visiting places near and far. Each location is experienced to the fullest by taking tours, eating where the locals eat, and soaking in as much culture as can be found in museums, theater offerings, markets, and festivals. Jet Planes and Coffee documents her travels while sharing what she learns along the way. I have truly enjoyed reading her articles and have gained both knowledge and inspiration from reading them!
Forget about renting a car. Book your stay in the heart of a city and get walking! Walking is one of the best ways to learn about a place and get fit at the same time. Below are six tools to make it easier to choose walking when you travel.
1. A well-placed hotel or vacation rental: This will make or break it for you if you’re trying to integrate walking into your travel plans. For a more local experience, try a vacation rental. Both VRBO.com and HomeAway.com can help you connect with property managers and home owners with condos or houses near the places you’d like to visit. Save some pennies by eating in for breakfast and lunch. There are lots of options available, both domestic and international, which fit all types of interests and budgets.
2. A map app: This probably goes without saying, but a good map app on your smart phone or computer goes a long way in strategizing integrated walks.
3. FitBit or other step-tracking device: Pedometers are great motivators.
Knowing how many steps you take or don’t take in a day can help you make little decisions that have a big impact on your fitness goals. I choose FitBit because it not only tracks my steps, it helps me keep track of calories I’ve eaten and burned, and hours of sleep I get.
My recommendation for excellent winter footwear is any boot by Aquatalia by Marvin K. These boots are truly meant for walking in any weather, rain, snow, or shine, and they are are built for comfort and durability. They’re also surprisingly stylish.
5. Clothes that can take you from the sidewalk cafe to the theater: My go-to brand for travel wear is Eileen Fisher. They move easily from one situation to another. Plus, they pack easily, hardly wrinkle, and layer well.
For budget shoppers, try eBay to pick up deals on pre-owned Eileen. Her clothes stand up to abuse and time, so don’t be ashamed about seeking out the pre-owned stuff. I do it all the time.
Hubby finds Original Penguin to be a good brand for mid-range-priced items which can be dressed up or down. For the summer he’s living in Original Penguin shorts and graphic tees he finds on Zazzle.com. When he wants to dress that up, he throws on a dark pair of jeans or dress pants, keeps the graphic tee, and adds a lightweight blazer.
6. Cross-body bag or backpack: A good, lightweight cross-body bag or backpack is a must. Cole Haan’s Jitney Ali Crossbody is great for accessing ID at the airport quickly and tooling around town with all the essentials, including cell phone and Chapstick. The brand “Picnic Time” makes an insulated backpack I’ve been eyeing for trips to the farmers market or grocery store. It could double as a carry-on. I also own an elastic belt called the “SPIbelt” that hides pockets beneath loose-fitting tops when I don’t want to carry a purse. Trust me. It’s not your grandmother’s fanny pack!
This is a guest post by Sara Harenchar. Sara is the Audience Development Manager at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh, PA. You can learn more about her at www.saraharenchar.com. Follow her on Twitter @Sara_pittPG.
I’ve had the opportunity to travel quite a bit, but until this past year, I’d never traveled solo. I always thought it would be too risky and a little lonely. But a week before the fall trip abroad I’d planned for 2011, I found out I’d be traveling to Italy and Croatia alone. My friend’s student visa got held up in UK Customs and she couldn’t leave England.
Should I really do this?
At first, I panicked. I was meeting up with some Italian friends and also planned to meet my relatives in Italy for the first time. Now I’d have to worry about navigating everything, and finding a safe place to stay – by myself. Although I’d been to Italy, I’d never been to Croatia and had no sense of the culture or navigating the area.
I could have easily gotten out of traveling alone by opting to stay in London. But what was so wrong with trying it on my own?
After a short day spent in London, I tried to sleep for a few hours before a 6AM flight. I had a panic attack, not knowing where I would stay, if I would reach all the destinations I wanted to, if I would make it back safely. And then something inside me said, you have to just DO this. Had I been all over the world, even on the Great Wall of China, just to chicken out over a little Eurotrip? By the time I got in that 4AM cab, I was exhausted.
The relief and the reward
When you see Venice, you will never want to see a representation of it again. I chose a group hostel after reading reviews online, and asked for a single room. I ended up being placed in a group room and met people from all over the world. Best of all, I got a good night’s sleep and heard about other’s adventures.
I met up with my friends in Vicenza, Italy, exploring the culture, trying to communicate through our language barriers, sharing delicious meals and each other’s company.
I met my ancestors Udine for the first time, and stood in the church where my Great-grandparents were married. It was better that I was on my own: how could anyone else appreciate in the same way I could, seeing my 85-year-old cousin Carlo point out the graves of my ancestors in an Italian village in the alps? Or eating homemade spaghetti and bread made by his wife, Stefania in their tiny kitchen? Or sharing gelato with my 5-year-old cousin Fabio?
I spent a day in Trieste, a beautiful coastal city near Carlo’s house where a bus would depart for Croatia. I could no longer go to Zagreb as originally planned – It was too far away. So I chose the coastal city of Pula. I kayaked on the Adriatic sea, ate delicious meals, enjoyed the hotel’s daily brunch, and spent time just basking in the sun – perfect for the wandering traveler. I spent a few final days in London – best parts? Cheese at Gordon’s wine bar, strolling through shops in Islington, and Gordon’s Market.
When hitches come up in your plans, you always have to make choices. The key with travel is to ask not “Why now?” but “Why not?”
Important Tips for the Solo Traveler:
- Luggage drop offs: really, its ok. Try it.
- Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night.
- Be careful about where you use an ATM or computer.
- Purse/bag on front of body, passport on your person. Repeat.