Inspired by the World
Everybody knows that Australia is home to more than its fair share of venomous critters. Beasts with sharp teeth and a penchant for delicious human meat also roam freely until they meet Crocodile Dundee and end up as leather bags. But it’s such a beautiful country that this shouldn’t stop you from visiting, so we wanted to let you know which are the usual suspects so that you can easily avoid them.
This spectacular octopus despite being the size of an Apple, packs a surprising punch and holds enough venom to kill a human twenty six times over, (or twenty six different humans in a row). Even though the animal is rather shy, our advice is not to get too close to a cephalopod for which there is no effective anti-venom. The only available treatment is performing CPR until the victim is connected to an artificial ventilator up to when the victim can breathe on his own again.
This sneaky fish pictured above lives near the warm coasts of Australia and may be camouflaged as a rock on which you may step on. Treading on it would clearly not be a great idea, as its venomous stings cause can excruciating pain if the skin is punctured, and can kill a fully grown human in only two hours.
Yes, everybody’s least favorite insect is well represented Down Under. You should be careful in your travels especially with two types of local spiders: The Redback and the Sydney Funnel-Web. While the former is shy and avoids intentional contact with humans or pretends to be dead if challenged, the latter is foul-natured and aggressive.
The good news? Antidotes exist for both types of bites, but the bad news is that they are usually administered at hospitals so you would have to make it there in one piece, and considering the huge distances between places in Australia, this is not always a given. Just avoid any red or hairy spider you may encounter and you’ll be fine. We’re sure you do so already.
Are we crazy? Is this adorable but weird-looking cross between a duck and a beaver dangerous? Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but yes. Males possess a spur on their heel that can send you to the hospital in pain, although fortunately it’s not lethal.
Seemingly floating peacefully in Australian waters between the months of October and May, the box jellyfish is one of the most menacing creatures of the sea. If stung, your first symptom that something is amiss would be insufferable pain, followed almost inevitably by falling into unconsciousness and very probably cardiac arrest. This invertebrate can also move using speeds of up to 3.5 knots, which is not shabby at all, but on the plus side they are beautiful to look at from afar.
Australia is proud home to one of the most aggressive animals alive, the crocodile. Two separate species inhabit the area; freshwater and saltwater crocodiles. While the freshwater crocs only attack if they feel themselves cornered or threatened, but the saltwater ones (or “salties”) are very territorial and presumably just love the taste of your meat.
Measuring up to 20 feet and weighing up to a whopping 2200 pounds, if one of these beasts attacks you, you’d better pray to Steve Irwin’s soul and run away as fast as you can.
Just kidding. Koalas are delightfully cute animals, but their adorable faces can distract you long enough for some other animal on this list to eat you.
Dun dun. Dun dun. DUN DUN DUN DUN… And then probably a loud “CHOMP” sound. Unfortunately we’re not only talking about the film “Jaws”, but of a stark reality that takes a handful of lives every year.
Even though human meat is not palatable for sharks, some species of shark can become curious enough of our splashing around to give us a test bite to find out if we’re as tasty as we seem. Unfortunately, surfers wearing wetsuits and resting on their surf boards closely resemble seals when viewed from underneath, albeit very scared and nasty tasting seals.
All you need to know about these slithering vertebrates is that within the ten most venomous species of snake, six of them inhabit Australian soil. So if you hear any suspicious hissing, walk backwards as fast as you can just in case!
KangaroosKangaroos are everywhere in Australia, and during your travels you’ll probably see them mostly in the form of roadkill. Even though they are harmless to humans, they do cause injuries and even death for drivers unfortunate enough to run over them at top speed. Imagine this scenario: If an adult kangaroo weighing 150 pounds is attracted by your cross lights and hops onto your hood at 70 mph, the end result will not be pleasant for the insurance company or for your dentist if the kangaroo breaks through the windshield.
It’s not cute and it’s not fashionable. The infamous fanny pack makes any wearer immediately look like a cross between a grown up Steve Urkel and a bloated kangaroo. We know that if you’re reading this you instinctively know that wearing one is a fashion crime against humanity, but you may be tempted by the practicality of wearing your essentials with you and keeping them safe. That’s why we present you with alternatives to wearing this horrible accessory.
Money belts are simply hollowed out regular belts in which you can fit money and few other things. Here are their pros and cons:
- Seems like a regular belt so it’s pretty inconspicuous.
- It’s generally comfortable to wear if you usually wear belts.
- Usually they do not fit that many things inside, only money can safely be carried, but there is no space for passports, wallet or your phone.
- They are incompatible with wearing anything other than pants, (for example you cannot wear a belt if you’re also wearing a skirt).
- It’s hard to access the money, since you have to take off the whole belt before you can open it to retrieve the contents.
Backpacks are the staple of the budget traveler, (for good reason they are called “backpackers”), but they come in many sizes to adapt to the wearer’s activity. Here we will be discussing the pros and cons of the small backpack as we consider the huge ones a different category with a separate purpose.
- Has a large capacity and can fit water, maps, food and extra clothing.
- It rests comfortably on the back, and the weight is evenly distributed to the shoulders.
- They can easily be pickpocketed by someone standing behind you.
- They do not really look cool, so they can work well for sightseeing but not for dinner and a drink in a terrace overlooking Paris.
PURSES (Crossbody, shoulder bag, etc)
The most common and best-selling accessory for women , the purse allows the functionality of carrying gear and valuables without sacrificing style.
- Purses usually fit most of the items you will need for the day – unless you are a hoarder!
- They come in infinite styles so you can pick whichever matches your current outfit and color.
- Thieves have an easy time pickpocketing them or cutting the strap with a razor to take the money and run.
- They are not useful if any moderate physical activity is required, since they shift around and you have to hold the strap with your hands.
- After a while, especially when full, they may become uncomfortable.
Popular among some tourists, these items usually involve a standard purse design such as a crossbody or messenger purse, but with some extra safety features added to the mix such as unbreakable straps and slash proof materials.
- These purses are not easily pickpocketed, although they are visible so they could be taken by force in an aggressive confrontation.
- The larger sized ones usually fit most of the items required for a day trip.
- They are not very good looking, as they are made with safe materials which are not compatible with a great appearance – and probably do not combine well with your clothes.
- Due to their design, they cannot be worn underneath your clothes if necessary, which means it will be apparent to all that you’re wearing an anti-theft purse, bringing potentially unwanted attention to it.
- They are clunky and bulky.
BALILOCA HANDS-FREE PURSES
The Baliloca Hands-Free purses consist of a shoulder bag with an extra strap that fastens across the opposite shoulder, for a snug and stable fit. It’s not only because we designed them (self-promotion wooo!), but really these purses are a godsend for travelers. Their fit is like shown in this picture:
- It’s completely handsfree, you can do somersaults or cartwheels with it on and it will stay put.
- It fits all valuables you will need on a day trip (wallet, keys, phone, makeup…)
- It’s made in leather and comes in many colors, so it’s cute and can combine with whichever clothes you choose to wear.
- It’s completely theft-proof since not only does it stay close to the body and is held by two straps which prevents thieves from slashing the strap and taking the purse, but it’s thin so it can go under a sweater or a coat and nobody will know you’re actually carrying a purse.
- Not many cons except for the fact that it won’t fit huge books or large items which you may want to carry – it’s an all-purpose bag.
So there you go, these are the alternatives to that ugly scourge of humanity, the fanny pack. Remember, you can’t make a fanny pack look good, but you’re in good company because nobody can really pull it off!
Following Christopher Columbus’ first journey, the European powers of the day rushed to attempt to profit from the vast and relatively undefended territories that had abruptly appeared on the maps. Portugal, Spain, Great Britain and France were among the first to command expeditions to increase their spheres of control, but were not the only ones. The Dutch and later the Germans, Italians and Belgians did their very best to join the race.
One of the side effects of this process was the creation of colonial cities in the territories to which these powers tried to expand. The export of European culture blended with local traditions was apparent in the new architecture and amazing art that appeared in these new melting pots. What follows are the 5 best colonial cities in the world, for which we’ve considered cities in which the original city planning and structures have been mostly preserved.
- Salvador da Bahia (Brazil)
Home of what is arguably the best Carnival celebration in the world, (or at the very least the craziest) Salvador was founded by the Portuguese in 1549 and quickly became a regional powerhouse due to its optimal port infrastructure.
Separated in two parts (the higher administrative town and the lower commercial town), the beautiful city center has been restored recently to its former glory. The bright colors on the buildings are a cheerful reminder of why this city is considered the happiest in Brazil.
- New Orleans (United States)
The “Big Easy” as it is affectionately referred to, is probably the debauchery capital of the USA (tied with the permanently sleepless Las Vegas). Drinking a hurricane or hand grenade cocktail in a huge plastic cup on Bourbon Street is almost a rite of passage for college students everywhere, but don’t let this fact distract you of the great state of preservation of its historical French Quarter.
Founded by the French in 1718 honoring the Duke of Orleans, but mostly built by the Spanish years later, the city proudly displays its melting pot heritage in every antique shop, every live jazz café, and every ornate terrace. The birthplace of Cajun food, there is much more to this city than just throwing beads to bystanders.
- Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)
The oldest European city in America, Santo Domingo commenced its rise to prominence in 1498 when it was founded by Bartholomew Columbus, younger brother of Christopher Columbus, and by the beginnings of the 16th century it was the dominant force of the Caribbean. Walking through the cobbled streets is like stepping back in time, since the historic city center has been essentially unchanged for over five centuries.
A city of firsts, Santo Domingo was the first city in which the grid-like urban planning was used in the Americas, and the site of the first cathedral, university, customs house and hospital of the continent. A true pioneering city!
- Cusco (Peru)
You’ll definitely be out of breath fast while exploring this Andean gem, considering that the town was built at an altitude of 11,200 feet over sea level, so take it slow and enjoy the relaxed pace of life in this incredibly well preserved living monument.
An ancient city, it had belonged to several cultures before the Incas took it and made the city their capital, in the urban shape of a puma, with the magnificent temple of Sacsayhuaman and its serrated walls acting as the head of the animal. When the Spanish took the city in 1533, they commenced a frenzy of church building activity and urban planning, which has left a huge amount of religious structures, including four churches only in the main square!
- Cartagena (Colombia)
The city of Cartagena de Indias is a masterfully designed colonial town, which was the first main port of departure for the gold galleons bound for Spain. Founded in 1533, it has survived throughout the centuries many attacks by rival European powers and also by pirates, due to its outstanding fortifications and in particular the massive castle of San Felipe which guards the bay.
Today, this city maintains a colorful and incredibly well preserved historic town center, full of small quaint alleys, impressive churches, and great sea views from the 8 mile long fortifications. Nothing beats sipping on a fruity drink from the top of the walls, while watching the sunset on one side, and the most beautiful colonial town in the world on the other.
It was excruciatingly hard to choose only five sites. So here are the honorable mentions: Ouro Preto (Brazil), Havana (Cuba), Quebec City (Canada), Boston (USA), Stonetown (Tanzania), Quito (Ecuador), Goa (India), Vigan (Philippines), Charleston (United States).
Perhaps you want to know yourself better, or you´re feeling like you need an adventure. Perhaps your friends bailed on you and can´t join you on the trip, or maybe you don´t have any friends (we don´t judge). The matter is that you want to travel, and being solo will not stop you - and it shouldn´t. We´ve done it before and here are our tips to maximize your enjoyment in this situation!
SECTION 1: Motivation is the most important factor.
We live in a society which is very focused on “what will others think of me?” The good news is that nobody really cares for long, and even if they did it shouldn´t matter anyway. Some people may tell you that you´re crazy and that it´s too dangerous, but many others will just be profoundly jealous of your courage to grab your backpack and fly solo. We can assure you that you´ll experience very satisfying personal growth as a result of the challenge.
What are the pros and cons of a solitary trip? Let’s start with the cons:
- You and only you are responsible for all aspects of the trip, so you’ll have to plan in advance and there will be no way for you to blame anyone else for any mishaps occurring during the trip.
- A large part of the time you’ll be lonelier than the Count of Montecristo. (Not necessarily a bad thing)
- You’ll have to exercise more caution, as you won’t be able to fall back on anyone else in the event of a problem taking place.
- There will be no friends with you to create common memories which you can reminisce about for years to come. (But you can make new friends).
- You’d better LOVE taking selfies because after a while you will be tired of asking other tourists to take a snap of you with a picturesque background. It should go without saying, but selfie sticks are prohibited for any self-respecting fashionable traveler.
Now let’s focus on the pros of this adventure:
- You’ll have plenty of time to think, meditate, and know yourself better.
- Most probably you will experience an increase in your level of confidence that will carry forward in your life after your trip. Less second guessing yourself.
- Obviously there will be no arguing with others in regards to the travel plan, itinerary, or whether or not you really should have that fourth margarita. (You probably should).
- You’ll meet exponentially more people and you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the foreign culture much easier.
- Self-reliance is the name of the game. The solo traveler learns early on that he/she is all they need to survive and have a great time.
- Your extroversion qualities will grow in leaps and bounds, as it’s a position in which you either learn to block out social pressure or go home.
The truth is that tens of thousands of solo travelers take that first step on an adventure every year, and they are not better or braver than you. Go get them!
SECTION 2: Be prepared.
You’re brave but you’re not foolish, so this is where we will give you tips to minimize any risk factor that could make your vacations turn sour. Prior to commencing your voyage:
- Spend some money buying a good travel guide, preferably one including a general road map of the country to use as a reference if you get lost.
- Depending on your destination, consider investing some hard cash on travel insurance. You never know what kind of tropical disease you could catch, and if your credit cards will decide to go on strike at that precise time in which you need to pay for a hospital.
- Try to learn in advance some basic facts of the destination country and their culture, so as to not offend your hosts. This includes some basic communication in their language, which is always appreciated by locals, such as these phrases: “Hello”, “another beer please”, and “where is the bathroom”, (in that precise order).
- Learn the basic geography of your destination and general traveling times, to avoid being over optimistic and missing essential landmarks.
- If your destination is a country on the rough side, make sure to be up to date on the political situation. If the situation spirals out of control once you’re there, head for the embassy immediately.
- Make sure to carry a safe purse in order to keep your valuables far away from sticky third party hands. We obviously highly recommend the Baliloca Travel Purse since it can go over or under the clothes, fits all essentials and is fastened using two separate straps which makes it completely theft-proof.
And some advice on how to be prepared during your travels:
- Get in contact with your family and friends periodically, explaining where you are exactly and where you plan to go in the next few days. Try to do this every few days, for both their peace of mind and for them to have a starting point to search for you if something terrible happened.
- Think of what will you need to carry with you to that day trip. Will it be hot? Carry extra bottled water. Will you need a hijab to enter a mosque for example? Buy one and carry it with you.
- Common sense is key. Don’t take unnecessary risks, and try to appear as low key as possible. It’s better to under-dress than to look flashy and attract muggers. Think “broke backpacker”- this is the safest appearance.
SECTION 3: How to socialize and fend away loneliness.
There are two types of people in the world, the introverts and the extroverts. The former will flourish during the lonely parts of the trip, and will struggle with the meeting people part of the journey. The latter will very easily meet new friends but will become restless and bored during the purely solo parts of traveling. Nevertheless, both types of people will learn new skills that will make them more well-rounded individuals in the long run.
Obviously during a long trip you WILL have to meet fellow travelers, but even for a short trip you should make an effort to connect with locals or other backpackers. It’s worth it and very easy to do. Most people are incredibly nice anywhere in the world. So who are the easiest people to befriend? We’re going to teach you a psychological hack that will speed up your friend-making!
Human beings develop friendships faster and easier with people who have the following characteristics, (in order of importance):
- Similar age.
- Same gender.
- Shared values and pastimes.
How does this work in practice? Try to remember a situation in which a group has assembled together for the first time, and think of how the relationships have developed. First, people will instinctively reach out to individuals of the approximate same age bracket; young ones will reach out to young ones first, more mature individuals will gather along with their equals. Within the similar age group, males will tend to most easily develop friendship with other males, and females will instinctively look to bond with other females. Finally, these new established groups will be further segmented into gaggles that share similar points of view.
Knowing this you can bypass many introductions and aim preferentially at meeting a similarly aged traveler of the same gender. This will be the fastest way to develop and acquaintance and perhaps a friendship.
Any time a social group meets for the first time, (for example an impromptu guided tour) there is a certain paralysis that lasts for many minutes and even hours, in which the members of the newly formed group share space but do not create relationships with one another, and sometimes may even shy away from speaking to each other. It’s critical to employ these first minutes of paralysis to launch your first conversations and establish social relationships. But who should be your first targets? (In order)
- Other solo travelers: These people share your same situation and will probably appreciate your company, as their travel plans may be flexible and they may be in dire need of conversation. This is the easiest type of person to meet, the only introduction required is asking “how long have you been traveling solo?”
- Fellow travelers from your same country: The second easiest traveler you will be able to befriend will be a group hailing from your origin country. If you happen to catch a familiar accent, don’t hesitate and just ask them where they are from and take it from there!
- Other foreigners (which are non-locals): The inhabitants of some countries like the US, Canada, Australia, UK, France and Germany are very extensive travelers, and some of them are very outgoing and happy to meet people.
- Locals: Meeting locals is always a bit more challenging depending on the country, but very doable nevertheless. To make it easier, catch them when they are not in a group.
And finally, some tips on some very good places to meet people efficiently:
- Youth hostels and backpacker hostels. These are the most outgoing places to hang out and share a couple of drinks with fellow adventurers. This is the Valhalla of solo travel. A typical backpacking hostel will have shared bedrooms which make it impossible to NOT meet people, but also smaller rooms for the more privacy minded travelers (or for those with a dislike for snoring), but with a bar nearby where you can still mingle. Most of these hostels have notice boards to share car rides and split gas prices, kitchen, etc…
- If you look around you when you’re in a tourist hotspot such as the Taj Mahal, the Sydney opera house, or the Eiffel tower, you’ll notice that you’re in the midst of a large scale backpacker hostel. Travelers from all over the world gather at the same places for a few hours. You can definitely meet travelers in these hotspots, especially if you see a solo traveler resting with a drink or trying to unsuccessfully take a selfie. The phrase “need someone to take a photo for you?” works wonders in this setting.
- Guided tours and package travel: Although most of the time unnecessary, if you travel solo, these tours can be heaven sent. A group of travelers from all over the world will be sitting in the same van or bus for hours, making it a great opportunity to meet cool new friends.
SECTION 4: Document it all!
Unfortunately considering that you won’t have an old friend with you, it will be impossible to reminisce with him or her about the trip years later, so you may even forget some of the incredible experiences that you have experienced during your trip. This is solved by carrying a diary with you, and taking notes profusely. No need to write like Charles Dickens, this diary will only be for your personal use.
Or start a travel blog and tell us about your trip!