Women on the Road NEWS #38

A great part of travel is getting away from it all, seeing new places, meeting new people. Another part of travel is sharing that journey with friends and family back home.

I still remember (pre-cellphone and phone card days) when I used to call home collect and reverse the charges, with my pockets filled with foreign coins to reach the operator. I usually managed to call home about once a month.

These days, you'd be hard-pressed to stay out of touch for a week, let alone a month. The tiniest villages have a clunky internet connection, and someone in your hostel is bound to have an iPhone you can use for a quick email.

If you want to stay in touch with your loved ones, it's now easy.

Women on the Road NEWS: Contents for Issue #38

How to keep in touch with friends and family

Put your hand in your pocket...
...and pull out your iPhone or Blackberry or... Just make sure that whatever you carry, it works where you're going. Not everyone wants to drag a phone around but if you do your best bet is a quad band phone (should work almost everywhere) or triband (works in most countries). Make sure your phone is of the 'unlocked' variety (or find out how to unlock it online): this means you can exchange your SIM card for a local one. Why? You'll get a local phone number to call at local rates, avoiding those high roaming charges.

Talk to the computer
The new generation of computer phone systems makes it easy to call home from a terminal. There's Skype and all its alternatives - Google Talk, SightSpeed, iChat (for Macs only), where you can hear and usually see the person on the other end. Computer-to-computer calls tend to be free, and computer-to-phone calls inexpensive. Many Internet cafes offer headsets so even if you don't have your own you can still talk, a nice way to get a warm hug online.

Get posting on Facebook
If you haven't yet, it may be time to join the world's largest social network and its more than 500 million active users. On a recent trip to Panama I tested Facebook as a way to keep in touch and share my journey. I posted all my photos, and encouraged comments. I also posted status reports and was able to answer questions from all my Facebook friends. The built-in chat function meant I could be in touch real-time if someone was online (the same goes for all chat programs out there), even if it was just typing.

Tweet, tweet, tweet
Twitter helps you keep in touch 'lite'. It doesn't get much easier: write a short sentence - no more than 140 characters - and hit send. If you want to let your family know you've arrived safely, a simple "Arrived Vientiane after bumpy 24-hr bus ride with chickens" is all you'll need. Just open a free Twitter account, and have your family and friends do the same. You can tweet them from a computer, but also from your smartphone. Or snap a picture with your phone and post it on Twitter for them - and on Facebook, if you have separate friends there.

Share your pictures
Where I've Been is a great little application you can post on your Facebook page (or embed in your blog). It's a simple interactive map: just click on each country as you travel through it, and add countries you still want to visit. A cool feature is the Scrapbook - you can add photos and text and keep a running commentary of your journey. Just post to Facebook or send the link to your friends. Another way of sharing visuals is by posting them on photo sites like Flickr or Picasa from a computer, your camera or your phone. Facebook and Twitter are both short and easy options, great if you don't want to maintain a...

Blog, sweet blog
If you're more of a word than a picture person, a blog will give you space to share a lot more than a snapshot (although you can post your pictures too). There's plenty of blogging software out there, the most popular being Wordpress, followed by Blogger. Just follow the instructions and you'll be ready to turn out copy in less than an hour. A word of caution though - a blog takes commitment. The first few weeks you'll be posting about every hiccup but most travelers slow down. Set yourself a realistic goal and save up your observations for posting day. Once a week is more than enough (on long trips I write once a month and I've been more than happy with that).

Old-fashioned email
It's still one of the best ways of keeping in touch. The advantage of email is that it doesn't have to be immediate. You can read it at your leisure and answer when you feel like it. And lets face it, when we're on the road, we don't necessarily want to be interrupted by notifications every few minutes, do we?

Remember snail mail?
I still remember the thrill of showing up at the Poste Restante (General Delivery) in obscure corners of Africa and Asia to pick up my letters, some from home, some from friends I'd made on the road. Often they contained invitations - next month in Zanzibar? How about Bali this October? If writing a letter is something that just doesn't resonate, why not send a few postcards? A lot of people still thrill at getting a personal handwritten postcard from a faraway place - they end up on a fridge and allow your friends to travel vicariously. My own fridge is covered with them.

That tall upright thing is called a phone booth
You know the one I mean, glass-encased with slots for coins... even if you haven't used one in years!

What's new this month on www.women-on-the-road.com

Two new pages are up this month, both a bit on the offbeat side:
Space Tourism: Is It Really the Final Frontier?
Unusual Transportation Methods: There's More to Travel Than Flying and Driving

Some nice words...

Each month I get a lot of comments from readers that make me smile. Here's what came in the mailbox at the end of 2010:

  • "I love your site and the encouragement you are giving to solo women travelers," says Rosielani. I'm glad you think so!
  • And from Kirsten in Australia, "I have spent hours on your site and really appreciate all the advice and encouragement." Kirsten - that's exactly what my site is for!
  • Nivena says: "I never thought I would have the courage to travel by myself (I'm well over fifty) but after reading your site I think I can actually do it." You go, girl!

Are you a woman on the road with a travel question?

Each month I try to answer readers' questions on my website.

Are you wondering...
- how safe it is to travel solo?
- the best places to go on your own?
- how much it might cost?
- what to pack?
- how to meet people and ward off loneliness?
- about the most unusual destinations?

Here are some of the questions readers have asked in the past month, and please go ahead and leave a comment on any of these pages - I'd love to hear from you!

If you're a woman on the road - or about to hit the road - and have a question about travel, please post it here and I'll answer it online. Please don't ask me for job leads or recommendations for hotels or restaurants - plenty of sites out there do that far better than I ever could!

If you need to get in touch with me personally for any of the following reasons, please either Reply to this email or use this form (and don't forget to include your email!)
- to exchange links
- to approach me with a proposal
- or any other business issue that might require a personal answer from me.

Why not start the New Year with a bang?

I've made my New Year's resolutions. Have you? Make a budget, finish that degree, lose weight, change jobs, exercise every day, become a travel writer...

Become a travel writer? Why not? If you love to travel and can pull a few credible sentences together, you may be looking at a new career.

It's one way to satisfy your travel bug while earning enough to stay on the road. So why not make this one of the resolutions you will keep this year?

Just sign up for my free online travel writing course, The Travel Writing Magician, and see how your writing improves in just one week. I've developed it with women like you in mind.

Why 'magician'? Because it can teach even the most inexperienced beginner to turn out travel prose like a pro, and catch the eye of editors who pay real money.

I crossed Africa and Asia as a writer so I have a good idea about how to write for publication - and how to sell what I write. I've pulled all this information together and much more in The Travel Writing Magician, which by the way is available exclusively to readers of this ezine - and nowhere else.

Just sign up and get it in your mailbox in seven easy daily installments. Work the assignments at your own pace and watch your writing evolve. Is there a travel writer lurking within you? You'll never know until you try!

Speaking of resolutions...

If you've decided to travel the world this year - or know someone who has - there's a wonderful e-book to help you get your travel dreams off the ground.

The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl's Guide by Stephanie Lee will tell you and your friends how to save for your trip, break the news to your loved ones, take care of those last-minute jitters, and even how to deal with coming home. It's short, light and to the point - no padding like so many other e-books.

If you've been dithering about it all, a little unsure of when to go or even whether to go, this book may well provide that little push you need. The same goes for your friends, relatives or parents - especially if they're more into words than action.

A copy of The Art of Solo Travel might just get them on that plane.

The author, an architect turned travel writer, traveled solo for six months and took plenty of notes along the way. Her advice is eminently sensible, from the obvious - don't walk alone in dark alleys - to using iGoogle for everything from location to translation.

Her central premise? "Embrace your individuality and sense of adventure."

What Were Last Month's 10 Most Visited Pages on www.women-on-the-road.com?

1. Travel Packing List
2. International Travel Nursing
3. Cheap Ways to Travel
4. Overseas Jobs
5. Women's Travel Clothing
6. Female Travel Companions
7. Travel Accessories for Women
8. Stay in a Monastery
9. Volunteer Work Overseas
10. Travel Money Belt

Travel News from across the Web

10 Places to Move Abroad and Extend Your Life
Top 10 Destinations for Independend Travelers
Lonely Planet's Top 10 Countries for 2011
CNN's Top 10 Destinations for 2011
21 Resources for Volunteering Abroad
The Nomad's Guide to Staying Mobile: 10 Tips for Long-Term Travelers
Lisa Lubin's New Business Card: Taking a Career Break to Travel
Post-Asia Culture Shock
The 'Ripe' Traveler
When Travel Sucks

For food lovers...

A Dish for All Seasons
The Other Side of Penang
10 Places to Eat Cheaper in Paris

Snack Time in Madrid
Picking Olives in Andalucia
Nibbles That Give Me the Shivers

...and lovers of other arts

San Francisco Street Art
The Architecture of Venice
Solo with Gaudi in Barcelona
Visiting Hemingway's Haunts in Cuba

Destination Travel

When in Zanzibar
Bargaining While Backpacking in Central America
Syria Walking Tour: Feet First into History
The Spectacular Lake Crossing to Bariloche
Notes on Luang Prabang
The Secrets of Alfama
Shanghai: 48 Hours to Indulge Yourself
Why I Love my Burmese Longyi

The world in pictures

10 of the World's Most Beautiful Lighthouses
Five Awesome Water Destinations in Canada
18 Places to Feel Dwarfed by Nature

And finally...

Help Open Cuba Travel to US Citizens

Cause of the Month

The Gift of Hope

Christmas has just gone by and the New Year has started. It's always a good time to dwell on those who may be less fortunate than we are. I think of those who live in crushing poverty and for whom this time of year is as unforgiving as every other day, and those who are cornered in wars or disasters or totalitarian regimes and whose rights to speak or even survive are trampled daily.

If you haven't shared your good fortune with anyone over the holiday period yet, now would be a good time. That's why I'd like to share two of my favorite charities with you.

The first one is Kiva, which you probably already know. Kiva basically allows you to lend small amounts of money (as low as $25) to an individual who is working hard to get a better life and build a small business. The money is channelled through local groups expert in microfinance. The beauty of the system is that you actually get your money back - so you can lend it all over again, and rather than charity, you are helping someone build a sustainable business. These women (you can lend to men too) recently received mini-loans through Kiva:

  • Sameera in Gaza is trying to buy additional medicines for her pharmacy
  • Melly and her 6 children in the Philippines needs fertilizer for her farm
  • Meylin in Nicaragua wants to buy grains and fruits to make natural drinks in her modest eatery

The second organization I keep an eye on is Avaaz, a small group that strives to give people a voice in world affairs. By working through email and the Internet, Avaaz mobilizes its members to fight battles that if won will make the world a better place to live in. Here are some recent campaigns:

  • Built public pressure against the Uganda Anti-Gay Bill
  • Gathered 1.5 million signatures in support of the Dalai Lama
  • Helped raise millions of dollars for Haiti, Burma and Pakistan natural disasters

If you haven't given to your favorite cause for the year yet, please consider helping one of these worthy organizations. I'm off to do it now.

Next Month in Women on the Road NEWS?

What does it take to travel solo?

(c) 2007-2011, Leyla Giray. All rights reserved. Women on the Road News is published monthly. Reproduction of any material from this newsletter without written permission is prohibited.