Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Importance of Telling People Where You Are

There's no doubt that traveling alone has the asset that you can REALLY get away from it all. You can leave your cell phone at home and there's no way for anyone to know what time you've left your hotel room (or if you even checked in), where you went or where you're going. That in itself can be a freeing experience, depending on what goes on in your personal life at home. BUT BUT But, there should be some precautions you should take. I think at least one trust-worthy person back home should have an idea of your itinerary and even possibly a way to contact you in an emergency.

Smart Tip #1:

If you don't do this already (and you really should be!), take photocopies of your passport before you leave. Leave one copy at home with someone you trust. Take one with you in your luggage. Take an extra with you for when you're walking around town in the foreign country. This is because in some places, authorities have the right to stop people on the street and ask for identification. Understandably, you may not want to carry your passport with you at all times (leave it locked at the hotel). You can provide the photocopy and if they have further questions, they can follow you back to your hotel.

Or, if you lose your real passport, a photocopy *may* help you get out of the country or help you at your country's consulate. Having a copy at home means that a friend can possibly fax you a copy (if you lose everything) and also provide identification to authorities in the event of a disaster and you go missing. Sounds horrible? I know, but plan for the worse, I say.

Smart Tip #2:

Leave a copy of your itinerary with a trusted friend. These usually have confirmation numbers and they may be required to board a train or plane. In the event you lose your papers, you don't want to have to guess what time your plane leaves! A quick phone call will get you the info you need. Also keep copies of departure times and confirmation numbers in your email.

Smart Tip #3:

Agree to email or call your trusted friend at agreed times or dates, just to let people know you're alive. It's nice to go where the wind takes you and to email from a different location everyday saying, "oh, I'm in Egypt now!" but people do worry and it's nice to make sure they don't worry too much. It's for you and your friends and family to work out what works best for everyone's comfort and feelings of freedom.

While I was traveling, I discovered two things:

1) I actually wanted to communicate with the people who worry about me most, more than I valued the idea of freedom/independence. My mother, who is usually over-bearing, respected my desire to be left alone and DID NOT call me this time. It did the opposite and worried me. At the same time, I realized I like hearing from her and it was nice to chat on my cell phone with her while wandering around alone.

2) I had a few vulnerable moments (lost in the dark, feeling ill) where I realized how alone I was and if I fell and died on the street at that moment, NO ONE would know where I was or even WHO I was. It would be days before I would be found or reported missing...who knows? It was at those moments that I realized how important it was for people back home to know I was alright and where I was. Obviously, you can't tell them every minute, but at the very least, the name and address of where you plan to sleep at night and the next plane/train/bus you plan to take.

For my own comfort, I bought a cell phone at my destination so that I could call people and they could call me. I also made a point to email daily. Do what works for you and do it responsibly.
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