Category: Bio

Safety Tips for Solo Travelers

 

Yvonne AK Johnson Safety Tips for Solo Travelers

Yvonne AK Johnson Safety Tips for Solo Travelers

Traveling and immersing yourself in new cultures can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life, and doing it alone can be a very different and powerful experience. You will meet interesting new people, see incredible sights, and get to know yourself better. If you’ve travelled enough, chances are you have a horror story or two about the time you got lost and couldn’t find your hotel, showed up for your flight on the wrong day, or were even pick pocketed. It’s almost a rite of passage – but certainly one you should do your best to avoid!

No one should let fear and anxiety keep them from having the trip of a lifetime. If you’re careful, away, and rely on your common sense, you’ll have a fantastic time and come back overflowing with exciting stories to tell. Just take a few basic precautions, and go book that trip you’ve been dreaming of!

  1. Copy, Copy, Copy

Don’t leave without multiple photocopies of all your important documents — your passport, driver’s license, visa, traveler’s insurance, and health insurance. If you get into any trouble, you’ll be glad you protected the most important things! Keep one copy easily accessible at all times, one in your hotel room, and one permanently online on a service like google docs or dropbox, or emailed to a friend or family member. As for the originals, they should always be in the safest place available to you. If your hotel does not have a locked safe, keep your most important documents on your person.

  1. Keep a Secret Money Stash

Duh, right? But the important point here is to hide it in several different places. Keep only a few small bills in your wallet, enough for one day’s worth of shopping or mail. That way you’ll never accidentally flash a wad of big bills when you’re hurrying to get change for the bus. Not only would that be a tempting target for crooks, it could also show vendors that it would be worth their time to overcharge you. Just in case your main bag is snatched or left behind, carry an emergency stash of money in a hidden place, like a shoe, concealed pocket, or undergarment. Make sure you always have at least enough money hidden on you to get back to your hotel if you were to need it.

  1. Hug Your Bags Close

Hopefully, of course, you’ll never have any need of that emergency stash! To protect yourself from thieves, never let your bag out of your arms in public. If your bag has a shoulder strap, put it over your head so that it is harder for for someone to snatch and run off. If you’re worried, consider investing in a slash-proof bag with reinforced straps. Backpacks are practical, it’s true, but it’s easy for a pickpocket to get behind you in line and ease those zippers open without you feeling a thing. On public transportation, don’t just set your bag on the seat beside you, loop an arm through the strap and hold it in your lap if possible. Finally, if you’re distracted pulling things out or talking to a cashier, keep your bag between your legs or between you body and the counter to make it harder to grab and run.

  1. Call Mom

No matter who it is, make sure you leave a full copy of your itinerary with someone back home, and schedule a regular check in time with them. Someone should always have a general idea of where you are, and no when you’ve arrived there safely. If phone calls for skype don’t make sense, Whatsapp can be counted on almost anywhere in the world.

  1. Keep your Maps a Secret

If you lose your way, no problem — you brought maps! But be careful to never take out a map or check your smart phone in the streets. It just screams “I’m a tourist, I’m vulnerable and I’m not paying attention.” Instead, duck inside a cafe for a few moments while you get your bearings and head back out with confidence.

  1. Register

Finally, it’s a good idea to register with the U.S. Department of State. If anything important happens back home or in the country you’re visiting, they’ll give you the information you need ASAP. They even have a handy Smart Traveler app.

 

You can check out some more tips here. Most of all, remember to have fun! Be careful, but also know that sometimes the unexpected or even scary moments will become your best stories and your favorite memories. Bon voyage!

8 Things to Do in Barcelona, Spain

Yvonne AK Johnson

Barcelona, Spain is a vibrant city with tons of things to do, see and eat. Whether you are looking for a relaxing day on the beach, a day of sightseeing, stores to shop in, or a place to party at night there is something for you in this beautiful city. Located in the Catalan region of Spain, the official language of Barcelona is not only Spanish but Catalan as well, which is the language mostly spoken on a daily basis. Barcelona is a city that offers you the opportunity to go on many adventures!

Antoni Gaudi

Park Guell, Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, and Casa Batllo might be four of the most famous sights in Barcelona. All built by the renowned Antoni Gaudi, these sights are not to be missed. Park Guell is located in the Gracia district of the city. It sits on a hill and offers beautiful sights of the city below. Park Guell is a public park system composed of gardens and buildings all designed by Gaudi. Sagrada Familia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is arguably the symbol of Barcelona. It is an enormously beautiful Roman Catholic Church whose construction began in 1882 and is still being built to this day. At the time of Gaudi’s death in 1926 less than a quarter of the project was completed. Casa Mila and Casa Batllo are both architecturally unique buildings. Today they have been turned into museums with audio tours.

Museu Picasso

Housed in five adjoining medieval palaces in Barcelona, the Picasso Museum is a must see. Many of his famous pieces are kept here including two of his first major works, The First Communion (1896), and Science and Charity (1897). It is very interesting to see Picasso’s work while in Barcelona because many of his pieces were shaped by the city, which is where he spent a large part of his life.

Montjuic

A hill that allows for beautiful views over the entire city, Montjuic is home to the Castle of Montjuic, which dates from the 17th century. Also on top of the hill are the grand Palau Nacional, the Olympic Stadium, and the magic fountains. While this is a great place to go during the day, if you have the opportunity to you should also go there at night. Music and lights incorporated with the fountain put on a show for the hundreds of people who gather to watch. Performances are a half-hour long and take place every weekend.

Gothic Quarter

The Gothic Quarter is the center of the old city of Barcelona. Many of the buildings in this area were built during Medieval times. The streets are all narrow and labyrinth-like. There are many sites to see within the Gothic Quarter such as the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, La Merce basilica, Carrer del Bisbe, and City Hall, to name just a few. There are also many hidden gems within the narrow winding streets such as small cafes, such as Caelum, tapas restaurants and street performers.

La Rambla

The heart of the city is La Rambla. Here you can find many street performers, restaurants, shops, and more. It is almost always crowded with locals and tourists. There are many historic buildings lining the street, which leads directly down to the sea. This is a great place to eat some authentic paella and drink sangria. In all of Barcelona, but on La Rambla especially, keep an eye out for pickpockets!

La Boqueria

Located off of La Rambla, La Boqueria is a large public market in Barcelona. With a giant fish, fruit, and dessert sections, the market has almost every type of food you can want. Many locals come here daily to get fresh food for the day. One of the most popular things to get here is a fruit juice, which comes in all different flavors such as mango and strawberry-banana. You can find them for about 1 Euro each.

Tapas

Tapas are a variety of snacks or appetizers that are traditional in Spanish cuisine. They can be served either hot or cold, depending on the food. Some restaurants have tapas as appetizers while others only serve tapas. At restaurants that strictly serve tapas there will usually be a bar with an assortment of tapas and you can go around and pick what you want, but be sure to keep your toothpick so that you can pay at the end of your meal. This layout allows diners the opportunity to mingle and have conversations with many different people instead of being focused solely on their food and the people at their table. Popular tapas include croquetas, patatas bravas, jamón y queso and gambas.

Flamenco show

A flamenco show is typical in Spanish culture. It is an artform as well as a music genre native to Spain. Performers sing, play instruments and dance. A popular thing to do in Barcelona is see a Flamenco show with dinner. Many restaurants, such as El Tablao de Carmen, offer drinks and/or dinner with the show. Seeing a flamenco show while in Barcelona is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and history of this beautiful city.

California Trip with my Mother

A few pictures to share from my California trip with my beautiful Mom.
I thoroughly love the Bay Area and Mom’s #1 pick to see and tour was the Japanese Tea Garden. We journeyed North over the Golden Gate Bridge and stayed at the Old Crocker Ranch in Sonoma for a few days. Pictured are a few of the many wineries in the Sonoma Vally and the Armstrong National Park. Mom’s goal was to hug a Redwood tree and that we did! Her favorite was called “The Parson” which is fitting from being a minister herself.

We also took a winding drive over to Mendocino to see the ocean and to have lunch at a quaint seaside French restaurant called Cafe Beaujolais. Fine cuisine and the drive and scenery are breathtaking. However, if you have a weak stomach for switchbacks and curvy roads this may not be the adventure for you. One of the highlights for dining in the Sonoma area was at the Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. The salmon melted in your mouth (pictured) and the dessert (pictured) was worth the indulgence. Mom and wrapped up the trip with a drive down to the Palm Springs area to visit friends. We stopped enroute in Santa Barbara. Lovely!

The last night in Frisco we had dinner at Benihana which is always a fun place. Our favorite hotel to stay at near SFO is the Embassy Suites Waterfront. Two separate rooms, complimentary happy hour, full breakfast including omlettes to order and a shuttle service to the airport. First class service for travelers of all ages!

 

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