Solo Travel

Travelling solo sounds like a lonely, dangerous activity, but with some common sense strategies travelling alone can be a great way to relax and have a vacation just for YOU.

Solo Travel GuideFor many years I was a road warrior.  I traveled for business (often by myself), vacation alone, and many solo road trips.  By choice or necessity, travelling solo is a rewarding experience that I highly recommend. Continue reading “Solo Travel”

10 Travel Safety Tips

TravelI love traveling to new places and exploring new things.  Here are my top 10 tips to stay safe while traveling.

  1. Have a designated check in with a responsible person not travelling with you. Determine how often you will contact and what method, via phone call, text, or email.  Confirm when your next scheduled communication is.
    • New travelers should confirm arrival at the destination.  If there is a long layover and/or multiple transfers, add a quick email or text check point.  Start with daily communication, then reduce to every other day or once a week as you are more comfortable.  Communicate any changes to your return trip and any major changes to itinerary or scheduled locations.
    • Experienced travelers should confirm arrival and communicate any changes to return travel.  I still make a phone call and notify my contact person when my flight is cancelled or I decide to stay longer in a foreign country.
  2. Have a map and a plan.  Know where you are going and how to get there.  If you do get lost, go inside a clean, well-lit business and ask for directions.  If possible, find a cafe or coffee shop and purchase something, then ask for directions.  Sit for a moment, write down the directions, and make sure you know how far away your destination is.  Consider having the business call a taxi cab, or use your smartphone to order an Uber car.
  3. Stay alert to be safe.  Observe your surroundings.  Where is the nearest exit or two?  Observe the people around you.  People are less likely to cause trouble or bother you if you are alert and not distracted. Watch the people, cars, animals, and the architecture – remember that ceilings may be lower, aggressive animals do not always wear a sign, and cars drive on the “wrong” side of the road, so pay attention!
  4. Avoid high-crime areas and neighborhoods.  Do a bit of research and ask around.  Make sure your hotel is in a safe neighborhood and has good lighting at night.  If you do end up in a sketchy neighborhood, stay calm, do not draw attention to yourself, and quietly move toward your destination or back to the safe area you just left.
  5. Keep your bags and luggage to a minimum, and keep it close to you (physically touching you, if possible, in your lap or across your body).  Select seating or standing against a wall and avoid your back to the front door or high traffic walkways.  When I was still a newbie traveler, my purse was stolen from the back of my chair while 4 of us ate dinner – it was a very expensive lesson!
  6. Watch your drink.  Do not leave a drink unattended, if it leaves your sight, then that drink is done.  Do not accept a drink from anyone unless you see it being prepared or brought directly from the wait staff.  Tourists are easy targets for crime and horrible pranks.  Mixed drinks are easy to alter, but non-alcoholic drinks and even water are almost as easy to tamper with.
  7. Use the hotel room safe. Store passports and any tickets for travel that you do not need for the day.  Separate your money and only carry small amounts (and small denominations) with you for activities that day.  Small electronics and jewelry should be kept in the safe when not in use.   I travel with a small jewelry case that immediately goes into the hotel safe, and stays there while I am out for the day.
  8. Keep your money out of sight. Quickly count your change, and then put your money and wallet away.  Be able to reach your wallet and access money quickly, those silly travel tourist belts attract too much attention to reach and the excessive time to get any money out.  Pay with small bills as close to the amount as possible.  Banks and the hotel reception can exchange large denominations for smaller amounts.  I travel with a split wallet to keep foreign currencies or large/small denominations separated, this allows me to quickly make payments and put my money away without extended periods of time rummaging for the correct amounts.  If you need to sort, separate, or count currency, do it in private and be discreet.
  9. Light the Way – Crime and accidents are far less likely in the light. Park cars under street lights when possible for evening arrival or departure.  Walk in well-lit areas to avoid tripping in the dark.  It is harder for people and animals to sneak up on you in the light, the bad guys always lurk in dark alleys in books!
  10. Travel with pen and paper. You never know when you may need directions from someone, or get a great restaurant recommendation.  Either way, be prepared to quickly write something down.

Bonus Tip:  Verify hurricane season and any predictable natural disasters before booking your travel arrangements.   I still travel to the tropics during hurricane season, and I buy the travel insurance.  I am prepared with back-up activity plans for bad weather and I have an action plan for emergencies.

Weight Loss Maintenance Tips – Part 2

Previously, I wrote about a minor weight loss in the early 2000’s and over a decade of maintaining that weight loss and overall active lifestyle.  Link to Part 1, in case you missed it.

Here is the nutrition portion of my initial and long-term eating habits.

I quit drinking soda pop in 1990, and completely changed my eating starting in 2002 to drop those pesky 15 pounds or so.  Not a massive weight loss, but a comfortable size for me to maintain over the years.  I am not super athletic or any kind of fitness model, and I am not any kind of nutrition expert, this is how I stay active & fit.

Initially, I was on a strict 1200-1600 calorie daily diet.  My daily calories were based on my height and target weight.  I ate low sugar greek style yogurt, eggs, or fruit for breakfast.  Salad and/or hearty broth based soup for lunch – I was very lucky to work for a large corporation with an excellent restaurant-style cafeteria serving breakfast & lunch where everything was made fresh with great ingredients.  My afternoon snack was a protein bar.  After work, I went to the gym for a class, worked out with my friend, rollerblading (Hey, this was 2000 after all!) with my Sister, or went home for a BeachBody DVD workout in my living room.  Dinner was usually a protein shake, if I was alone, or a light dinner with lots of veggies.

I am nowhere near that strict now.  I occasionally log and track my calories on my FitBit app, but I mostly just wing it.  Breakfast is usually a protein bar, but I make up for that by eating healthy egg based breakfasts on the weekend.  Lunch is still good soup (Pho and Thai soups are so tasty), salad, or sandwich/salad combo.  I still exercise late afternoon/early evening depending on my work schedule.  Dinner is rarely a protein shake.  The majority of the time my dinner is a main protein with veggies and a bit of starch, like rice, potato, or quinoa.  I do not snack before bed.

Drive-thru food is just not a part of my life.  Sure, I have my annual In-N-Out burger with fries.  And there is a gourmet sandwich shop with great soups and salads that I will drive through after a late gym class.

One ingredient sour cream - Daisy brand
One ingredient sour cream – Daisy brand

I read and make good choices based on ingredients on the few canned or packaged foods that I buy.  No high fructose corn syrup, no corn syrup at all for that matter, no MSG, no chemical sugar substitutes, and zero extra unpronounceable ingredients.  We never have chips or cookies in the house.  I rarely bake, but when I do everything is made from scratch (using real ingredients like milk, flour, sugar, eggs).  I avoid any 3-ingredient “recipes” that consider Oreos or cake mix an ingredient!

Once I surround myself with good healthy food it is difficult to make bad choices.  Everything becomes autopilot and portion control is the most important consideration.  One guideline is to eat protein portion the size of the palm of your hand, and eat a larger portion of veggies.

Bottom line is to find a nutrition and exercise program that can be your long-term solution.  There is no magic pill, or pink shake, that can replace good food and an active lifestyle!

Proven Strategies for Weight Loss and Keeping it Off Maintenance Tips

Approaching (or passing) 40 years seems to be the magic number for many women to undergo a massive weight loss, that milestone certainly triggers the attempt if not total success.  One of my best friends was able to accomplish this a couple years ago by getting the right medication for a medical condition and proper eating habits.  Replacing her entire wardrobe with smaller clothes was both good and expensive, but oh so fun!

proven-strategies-for-weight-loss-and-keeping-it-off-maintenance-tips

In the last year (or so) several more friends have adopted healthy eating and reduced or eliminated processed junk food.  One friend received the nick-name nuggets because she actually thought eating Chicken McNuggets was the healthy option before meeting with a nutrition expert.  Another good friend needed the structure of exercise appointments and structured workouts for her big loss.  She is now half her size from 2 years ago!  These friends have joined various gyms and many different fitness programs, but most important, they have decided they want to change.  It is exciting to see the before and after photos!  I love the commitment and determination.

Continue reading “Proven Strategies for Weight Loss and Keeping it Off Maintenance Tips”

Spa Etiquette Top 10 guidelines

I work hard and I play hard, then I relax…at the spa.

The spa is a place to relax and unwind.  Here are 10 guidelines, helpful tips, and basic etiquette to follow for a more enjoyable experience at the day spa resort.

  1. Arrive early – Arrive at least 15 minutes before your service to check in, find your locker, change into your robe, and have a few minutes to wind down before starting your service.  Better still, arrive 30 minutes or more before services and familiarize yourself with the amenities. I usually look at each of the relaxation rooms, use the bathroom, pour myself a drink, and scope out the snacks before I settle in with a book or magazine waiting for my service.
  2. Spa locker area
    Spa locker area

    Use the lockers provided.  Real day spas/resort spas will provide a locker, robe, and usually sandals.  Do not lug a diaper bag sized handbag around with you during your treatments (or class at the gym), you will not need it.

  3. Silence your mobile phone.  Most of the time, my phone is in my locker anyway, but if you carry your phone keep it quiet.  Part of the quiet phone is not talking on it.  If you must make or take a phone call, leave the relaxation areas and head back to the locker area or other appropriate area.  Look around and observe, it will be obvious if you are disturbing everyone around you.
  4. Silence – not just your phone, but keep your voice down.  I have a naturally loud voice, so I make an extra effort to lower my voice and not disturb everyone around me.  The tile floors are great acoustics for sound, just this evening I heard everything several ladies discussed just outside the steam room.  I doubt these women planned for everyone to hear their conversation, but we did, loud and clear.
  5. Enter rooms slowly – many relaxation rooms are dark or dimly lit, enter slowly to let your eyes adjust and avoid startling anyone.  Some of the relaxation rooms are small and you could run into someone if you barge in.
  6. No photos – okay, I admit I do take photos for this blog.  I do not take any photos when people are around.  Most of my photos are towards the end of the day, or a slow period when no one else is around.  I am referring to avoidance of the group photos and selfies with semi-nude guests in the background.  Wearing only a tiny towel, I was recently in a background shot from an idiot teenager taking selfies in the mirror.
  7. There are robe hooks near each sauna, steam room, hot tub, and other areas.  Only take towels into the sauna & steam rooms, leave the robes outside. Remember to take the towels out with you when you leave.
  8. Coordinate where to meet after the service – knowing where you are going to meet up after service will make life easier for you and avoid wandering around lost or disturbing others while you are in search mode.
  9. Keep your possessions contained to your area and avoid spreading out to multiple chairs for each person.  Most spas will have tables for books, magazines, drinks, and snacks.
  10. Leave someone with your stuff, or take it with you doing your service.  Consider staggered start times for private services (such as individual massages) if you want to save a specific area for your group.

There is also a significant amount of cross-over between the spa, gym, and many other places.  I have seen many of these behaviors at the spa, gym, and hair/nail salons.  Share this with folks that could benefit, in the end it will make spa time a happier time.