Take care when you travel alone in a foreign country!
When I traveled to Europe, I started my trip all by myself. Then I joined the Tour Group that I have booked for the European vacation. I could have traveled alone by train with a EuRail pass and did all the hotel reservations and bookings by myself which I found out was more expensive than just joining a group tour. Yes, there’s always safety in numbers but with a great savings in other aspects of the tour, I opted for a group tour, not because I was afraid of traveling alone but for economic reasons.
With a round trip plane ticket to Europe, arriving in Paris at Charles de Gaulle International Airport and departing at London’s Heathrow International Airport, I was good and ready to start my three weeks of dream vacation with a side trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. It was my chance to go on a brief pilgrimage before the start of my tour of Europe and go to countries like France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and England. I also wanted to go to Spain and Portugal but I didn’t have the luxury of time since I needed a month for that to happen and I only have three weeks of vacation allowed.
Going on a Group Tour means that I don’t have to worry about visa requirements, hotel accommodations, food and transportation because all of that have been taken cared of by the Tour operator and with a Tour Guide who’s multilingual, it was an easy travel experience. I could have done all these by myself, but why bother with all the mundane tasks? What I wanted to do was to travel and have a great time on my vacation with less things to worry about.
Upon landing in Paris, I took a plane at the Orly Regional Airport and traveled to Toulouse, the closest airport to Lourdes and then took a bus to Lourdes to stay there for a few days. My travel agent have reserved a room in a quaint hotel near the shrine for two days so that I can enjoy my pilgrimage and make the most out of it. I did accomplish a lot and did what I went there to do and enjoyed my short pilgrimage to the most holy shrine in France. If I had more time, I would have included Lisbon, Portugal in my trip and visited the Fatima Shrine but I was short of time so I was not able to go there.
When I landed at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris, I was surprised to find out that they don’t have porters like we do in North America and Canada. I had to try and move my huge luggage all by myself. Lucky for me a nice Frenchman just checked in his luggage and instead of returning his cart he asked me politely if I don’t mind using his cart instead of getting one so he doesn’t have to bother returning it. I was surprised why he chose me when there were lots of others there who needed a cart probably because I looked so helpless, I presumed and thanked him for the great favor. He was so nice that he even helped me load the cart with my heavy luggage. I thanked him and as Frenchmen do, they kiss your hand so gently with so much respect and say goodbye afterwards. It’s part of their culture and I’m in France so I have to live with it and accept their customs. I had to thanked him in French, “Merci beaucoup” (Thank You) and then said “Au revoir” which means “Goodbye”. That particular custom for Europeans is normal but for foreigners around it looks so absurd.
In the Shrine whenever I request someone to take my photo they always obliged me so whenever anyone asks me the same, I always do it for them in return. Mostly people are good in nature although you also have to watch out for the bad ones which I found out is really the exception. I believed that people are basically good but don’t get your guards down, also be on the lookout for the bad guys lurking in the shadows around.
And by the way, those little acts of kindness makes up for all the hardships that you experienced when traveling abroad. So whenever I get the chance I also do some little acts of kindness myself, like giving up my aisle seat and moved to another seat on the plane so that an old wheelchair bound lady can get on board the plane for Toulouse airport or she would have missed that flight. All in all traveling is a great experience in my own life that I have enjoyed whenever I travel here or in foreign countries. And when you travel always listen to your inner voice or sometimes called intuition but others just refer to it as good common sense.
When I was younger and started traveling, I used to travel by myself with so much courage and confidence. I would travel by plane, by boat/ferry or by land/bus/trains and autos. Sometimes you have to learn by your mistakes and I never let that be a hindrance, just move on if it happens and do your best not to be outsmarted again next time around. You should always look out for yourself because all alone no one will be there to help you but yourself so use your common sense as much as possible and be travel smart.
And then when I first traveled abroad and got my passport, unfortunately my first name was misspelled. I only had a day to fix it before I had to leave on my travel trip and I took a shortcut by asking my uncle who had connections to the Office of the Foreign Affairs Secretary to have my name corrected ‘gratis’ by their office. The Foreign Affairs Secretary himself signed the written request in the letter given to me and my passport name correction was done in a few minutes which would have taken days and long line ups if I didn’t have help directly. People in the line ups complained that I skipped the lines but I told them in a very nice way that I was there on official business with the Foreign Affairs Office and they even thought that I was an Ambassador but I wasn’t really. I must have exaggerated a bit but it was the truth, that I was there on official business so I was honest with them and they calmed down after that. Before I left, I even thanked them for their cooperation and for which they all appreciated.
When you go on a travel trip knowing the language or dialect of the places and countries that you plan to visit is a great advantage. Especially in the Asian countries, mostly every country and island have their own language and dialect so if you speak or understand some of them there’s more chances that you can always be understood easily when difficult situations arise. When traveling in Europe or South America then English, Spanish and French is a good start to master and learn. Even just by learning commonly used phrases will help every little bit.
Safeguarding your passport, money and also your belongings and luggage is the most important thing to do when you travel alone. Make sure you keep an eye on them all the time. And don’t leave your things unattended for any reason at all, keep them within your sight and your reach at all times, remember that rule and your travel will be trouble-free, I assure you. If for any reason you missed your flight or your scheduled trip, then make the most of what time you got to wait for the next flight. Don’t waste any opportunity that comes your way. So you missed your flight because of heavy traffic, then rebook it (easier said than done) but if you can do it, why not be independent enough to do so. If your Plan A didn’t work then there should always be Plan B or Plan C. Sometimes things have a way of working out if you just trust your instincts and go for it, take a chance, be on the waiting list and if some kind people offers their help, then take it and be grateful.
I often travel in North America and it is a country full of history and lovely cities and places to visit. I visited Washington D.C. and went to the White House and the famous Capitol Building. The National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial were also places of great interest. From there I also visited the Liberty Bell and the Independence Hall in Philadelphia and their historic museums. Disneyworld was also in my bucket list to visit and then from there to the beaches in Florida to soak in the sunshine while avoiding the winter in Canada. Also visited the Empire State Building in New York City and the World Trade Centre Twin Towers before it was completely destroyed on September 11, 2001, terrorist attack. From the East, we traveled to the West and visited Los Angeles and San Francisco where the famous Golden Gate Bridge is located. We also went to Sacramento and Woodland Hills to visit some close friends. Then from California, we went to Honolulu, in Oahu one of the Hawaiian Islands. After a short vacation there during the winter season, we went back to Canada via Chicago, Illinois to visit some family friends. The Sears Tower in Chicago was awesome and there were also museums and national art buildings to visit in the city. From there back to Toronto. We also took the time to visit New Jersey City and the famous casinos at Atlantic City. And when we were in New York City we visited the Rockefeller Centre where they have a huge skating rink and then went to Long Island to stay for a few days with relatives living there. We still have to visit Las Vegas in Nevada and also Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, and not to forget the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana. Also in my bucket list is Salt Lake City in Utah and Lake Placid near the Finger lakes in New York State and the Appalachian Mountains. Travel and Photography have always been my favorite hobbies.
Have a safe travel, ladies and gents! As always, be good to others. “C’est la vie” and that’s life!