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When You Travel Abroad

It was a 12 hour flight just from Los Angeles to Frankfurt. That was preceded by a flight from San Antonio to Los Angeles, and it was followed by the 3-hour flight from Frankfurt to Moscow. Most of what people had told me wasn’t useful, but using my EMOTIONAL intelligence was. Here are some tips if you’re traveling abroad that I gathered on my recent trip to Russia.

Decide on a lightweight travel BAG or sports waist pack for things you need to have at hand –- like sunglasses, reading glasses, or your plane ticket. Buy a necklace packet to put your passport and license in. Start using your bag at least two weeks in advance. Get used to the feel of it so you’ll know when it’s there and when it isn’t. Do not use a backpack, and do not put your waist pack behind you. Anything on your back is very easy for PICKPOCKETS to enter -- and, judging from what happened on our tour -- you will never know it happened. There’s also a great black market for expensive camera lenses, and they will be removed from the camera slung on your back without your ever feeling it.

Start programming your intuition to help you stay ALERT and safe. You are not going to be in Kansas any more, and good reality-testing and planning is an important part of overseas travel. It’s very easy to tune out on long trips with many time zones. We’re over-stimulated, so we naturally want to close down, but this isn’t the time to do it.

Remember the things that can help you RELAX, stay alert, and take care of business. If you start “flooding,” breathe deeply until you can think clearly again. Use meditation or yoga techniques. You will have preconceived notions and surprise emotions wherever you travel. The key to avoiding stress is accurate and rapid reality-testing, overriding UNHELPFUL emotional responses, and focusing on what needs to be done. Remind yourself of how to do this.

There are lots of tools to help you understand CONVERSIONS. Buy a handheld computer, or print out a chart from the Internet, laminate it and put it on your wallet. Then you can pull it out when needed. It’s called “one less thing to worry about.”

Carry a piece of paper with the name of your ship or hotel, and the address and phone number with you, preferably in the native language. Learn a few key PHRASES in the new language –- "Where’s the toilet?" -- "I need a policeman." -- "Where’s my ship?" I need a doctor. In a pinch, using just the noun will work -- police, ship, toilet, hospital. Also, being able to say a few essential words in the new language ingratiates you to people -- it makes them feel good and so they treat you better. Acknowledge the people you meet as individuals. The same things “work” the world over –- RESPECT for others, good manners, acknowledgement of people as people.

If you’re traveling for pleasure, you want to be COMFORTABLE and look presentable, but it doesn’t have to be a fashion show. Nearly everywhere, it’s good to have layers. Think about bringing old clothes that you can discard or donate while you travel. This leaves room for the things you buy on your trip. Break in the SHOES you’re going to wear for at least two weeks before you leave. If you haven’t had a blister in several years, you’ve forgotten that it can really be debilitating. Buy for the trip something your mother would call “sensible shoes.” You probably won’t realize how much walking there is on most tours, trust me.

Check with the State Dept. and your primary care physician about what IMMUNIZATIONS to get, what medicines to carry with you, and the mosquito situation. Dengue fever or malaria would not be a good souvenir of your trip. It’s recommended you buy travel medical INSURANCE which includes transportation back to the United States for treatment.

Be attuned with the person you’re traveling with so you can HELP one another. Practice safety. Remind one another to stay alert. Regardless of the country you’re visiting, PICKPOCKETS love tourists because there is what the police call “opportunity.” That is, there are people, with money, who are distracted, and people who need money who are focused. Keep your hands on your possessions. Be aware of movement and alert to any change. Don't tune out. Have alternate places for some of your money and credit cards –- a money belt around waist or neck, inside underwear, very deep side pants pocket, etc.

If you want things to be like they are in your home town, or your home country, stay there. Otherwise, expect the unexpected and be FLEXIBLE. Don't waste your time and energy complaining to people who don’t have authority to change things, like your local tour guide or cruise director. If you have serious praise or concern, take it to the home office. (This of course doesn’t apply to emergencies.) Use your head about who has RESPONSIBILITY for what. Cruise ships get held up because the Coast Guard demands inspections, and Customs Officials run late. This is not under the control of the cruise line or of any person standing in front of you. The bus driver on your tour bus is only peripherally connected to the people who make decisions about where the bus goes. The stewardess on Lufthansa did not personally prepare your meal. Understand the difference between poor quality food and poorly prepared or presented food and your own personal taste.

Plan a BUDGET ahead of time and stick to it. Don’t be influenced by the emotions of the moment.

Staying healthy, safe and alert is an important part of your travel experience. Changing numerous time zones, and flying for hours on end can dull the mind, and looking at fascinating new things can pull your focus. PREPARE yourself ahead of time for a great travel experience and use your emotional intelligence.


Susan Dunn -- The EQ Coach™ -- has an MA in Clinical Psychology. She provides coaching resources, tools and support for your personal and professional development -- including numerous ebooks, home study courses and EQ Alive, an EQ Coach training and certification. Susan may be contacted at or .

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