Condoms, Taxis, and Other Good Advice

by design on December 21, 2010 · 11 comments

Condoms, Taxis, and Other Good Travel Advice

I’m very lucky to have some amazing, interesting, and well-traveled friends.  One of those ladies is none other than my dear friend Jordan, a photographer and scuba diving instructor that has lived and traveled all over the world.  Poor Jordan has been saddled with answering all of the random questions that pop into my head as I plan for my RTW.  Luckily, she humors me and answers my questions, even the embarassing ones (see the question on condoms).  Since Jordan is a treasure trove of knowledge (and since she agreed to it), I’m posting all of my recent questions, and her answers, here on the blog. 

Jordan doesn’t have a blog or website, so if you have questions for her just leave them in the comments section and I’ll make sure to get an answer for you.

Q: Jordan, will you explain a bit about your background, where you’ve traveled and lived overseas?

A: The first place I lived abroad was England. I was in 3rd grade and my grandpa got sick so my mom moved us there to take care of him (Kim’s note: Jordan’s mom is from England). I remember I thought it was the coolest thing to go to school in England.  I think the experience ingrained in me a curiosity about the world. Since then, I have worked as a scuba diving instructor and the job has moved me to Honduras, Egypt, and the Philippines.

Q: Will you describe how you travel? Do you stay in hostels, rent apartments, or stay in fancy hotels?

A: If I am going to be staying short-term, I often stay in hostels. I have grown out of sharing a room with 10 others, so I do opt to pay a little more for a private room.

Years ago I was traveling in New Zealand and my friend and I were getting low on funds so we asked if we could work-for-stay at a hostel. The hostel agreed, and we worked 2 hours every morning and stayed for free. We met great people, including quite a few locals, and we ended up staying in that hostel for 3 weeks! It is one of my favorite travel memories. The hostel is the Paradiso in Nelson, New Zealand.

If I know I will be staying put for at least a week I will look into renting an apartment. Renting an apartment is very memorable. When I rent, I feel more involved with the town, because I use the stores more than I would at a hotel. I find myself cooking at home, a nice change of pace after eating out all of the time. I can spend a whole day figuring out what I want to cook, where to shop, and how to say certain things on my grocery list.

Q: What is the best travel tip anyone has ever given you? What are the top two travel tips you’d like to pass along to other travelers?

A: The best tip ever given to me is not to avoid traveling somewhere just because someone else has had a bad experience there. Take other people’s travel experience with a grain of salt. In my opinion, the number one thing that makes a place great is the people you meet. I could go to Detroit and meet people who are generous and caring and they will make my experience in that city fantastic.  On the other hand, I could go and not meet anyone and have an awful experience. I went to New Zealand for 8 weeks and met amazing people.  I rarely had to pay for a hostel because the people I met put me up in their own houses! Then I went on to Australia and didn’t really meet anyone. After New Zealand it was hard to love Australia and that was solely because of the people I met in New Zealand.

My other travel tip is walk with confidence, look people in the eye, and say hello. Act like a local and trust everyone! When you avoid interacting with people, memories and opportunities are missed. Most people are good and, especially when encountering travelers, they want to help and show off their town. That said, I’m going to totally contradict myself and say make sure when you get out of a taxi one person gets all of the bags out and the other stays in the car. I have known two people to be robbed of all their belongings by getting out of the taxi to go to the trunk and the cab took off. If you are traveling alone, ask the cab driver to get your things out of the trunk. Most of the time, I keep my belongings in the seat next to me.

I have one more travel tip: pay vendors and taxis with small bills. In Buenos Aires the cab drivers are known for giving change in counterfeit money. That is the only place I have heard it happening, but I met many people who experienced it.

All of that said, I swear I’m sticking to what I said earlier, most people are good!

Q: Where is your favorite place on earth?

A:  New Zealand, hands down. The country and people are just incredible.  I also love Palau, because of the natural beauty there. I have never before seen topography like the topography of Palau, and the diving there is the best I have ever experienced.

Q: Where are you going next? Why?

A: INDIA!!! Why? People, people, people, and food too. Shantaram is my favorite book.  I hope to travel to India and have even just 1/16 of the experiences Gregory David Roberts did. I have yet to meet someone who has been to India and didn’t love it.

Q: How has travel changed your life?

A: How hasn’t it? Travel has taught me to appreciate everything.  I am more interested in people and cultures than I would be had I not experienced them first-hand. For me, traveling is a blessing and a curse.  It has been very hard for me to settle down in one place. Because I know there is so much out there I have an insatiable desire to keep moving and checking it all out. I often wonder if it is better for me to follow my desire and keep traveling, or if I should force myself to stay in one place and make it work. When I’m traveling I find myself missing my family and friends and so I continuously come back to the states. Then, when I’m back in the states, I miss the culture and the job opportunities abroad, so I leave to travel and the cycle begins again. 

Q: What is your most essential piece of travel gear?

A: This is so random, but I really like having my own pillow!

Q: How do you manage your money while you travel?

A: I am really bad at it.  I’m so bad that at one point I racked up $8,000 worth of debt. I charged an entire 4 month South American trip as well as all of my dive classes and certifications. I don’t regret it. I actually went and worked on a boat as a scuba instructor to pay it all off. It was definitely worth it. I also learned a lot from having debt. Now I don’t own a credit card and firmly believe in living within my means. My one and only money-related tip is to withdraw a lot of money at once and carry it in different places: some in luggage, some on you, some elsewhere.  I advise this because I’ve been charged as much as $10 for withdrawing money from ATMs.

Q: Can you list some of the other places you’ve been in the world?

 A: Heck yeah!

  • Fiji.  I went to a little island called Mana and it was incredible. The people were amazing. 
  • Rarotonga.  It’s a small, one-road French Polynesian Island.
  • Bali
  • Argentina, specifically Buenos Aires
  • I also went to Iguazu Falls, Argentina.  The falls were breathtaking.  You need at least one, if not two, days to explore.  My traveling companion and I missed that memo and literally ran around the falls for five hours.  We took the cheesy touristy boat ride under the falls and I’ve never laughed so hard!  On another note, the buses that go all over South America are luxurious. I recommend taking the overnights to save money on rooms.  The chairs recline into beds.  Food and booze is served on the train. First class costs $10 extra and it’s totally worth it.   
  • I never went, but wish I would have gone to Patagonia.
  • Brazil.  Specifically Rio.  Most people I talk to were robbed in Rio.  I loved it, but I only walked around with $5 and a sarong for the beach. I carried no camera and no jewelry. Rio has the best beaches! Everything costs $1: coconuts, shrimp, beer, fried cheese, and yes, they sell fried cheese on the beach.
  • Barcelona!
  • Nicaragua
  • Egypt.  I had a really, really great experience in Egypt. Of all the places I’ve traveled, I felt the most out-of-place there, but in a good way.  Egypt has the nicest people.  Don’t let anyone fool you, they love Americans, especially females. I lived in Dahab which is very different from Cairo, but it was the safest place I have ever lived, including anywhere in the United States. Cairo was a shit-show! It was crazy, and personally I would not want to be there for more than two days. The pyramids, however, were super cool and definitely not overrated. 

Q: You’re a diver, do you have any advice for other divers?

A: If scuba diving is something that interests you, I highly recommend becoming a certified instructor. Instructing is such a fun way to spend your days and you get to meet really cool people. I recommend getting certified in warm, clear waters. Thailand is the cheapest place to certify and I hear it’s great. I was certified on a live-aboard boat in Cairns, Australia through a company called Down Under Dive. I was in the classroom for 4 days and then out on a boat on The Great Barrier Reef for 4 days of diving.

Q: Alright, this is a question that has plagued me, and I can ask you since you’re my girlfriend.  How hard is it to find tampons and condoms around the world?

A: I have never had a problem finding condoms, though I have had some awkward experiences trying to request them in Spanish and failing! I did spend an entire day trying to find tampons in the Philippines. I was going on a boat the next day! I finally found them, but they sure do love their pads. I assume it’s more difficult to find them in any Asian country, though I don’t know for sure.

Q: What’s next?

A: My next trip will include counties much more different from my own, and that was instigated by visiting Egypt. I loved being such a minority, it was fascinating. My good friend, who has traveled much more than I have, said that Iran was her favorite county. I find that intriguing. I want to continue to travel to countries where I feel out of my comfort zone. Egypt taught me not to be afraid and not to believe the media hype.  To truly know a place, I need to go there and experience it for myself.

(Kim’s note: All photos were taken by Jordan on her travels)

Egypt’s pyramid