Roaming Alone – Safe Travel for Solo Women

This is the first in a series of blogs for women traveling alone.
I used to travel with my sister. It was fun to spend time with her and share experiences and new things together.

Jan and Colleen in Roseau


But, since she has the taken ill, I find myself with no one to travel with. I have a husband but he doesn’t like to travel and I am unwilling to stay home. I want to go places, see things, and experience the big world. I have the time now that my children are grown and gone but not the money to do anything I want. I would like to be able to travel and do whatever I want. With a little planning and a little saving it can be done. These chapters will cover some places you might like to go alone, or with a friend you can round up, and are budget friendly for a fixed income.
The first concern, for me, is always the money. Maybe you live on a fixed income, maybe you have other expenses that have to be covered first. But where there is a will, there is a way. Make a plan and work towards saving and paying for it. Like all things in life, when you have to put forth an extra effort it makes the results even that more rewarding. Here are some tips to make traveling less expensive:
1) If it’s a trip out of the country or multiple flights/destinations get a travel agent. I know this is old fashioned with online booking of hotels, airlines, and cruises but a travel agent is invaluable if something unforeseen should happen on your trip. Here are 10 reasons why you should use an agent: Why You Need a Travel Agent. I know from personal experience that my travel agent can manage any problems that come up. Hotel doesn’t have your reservation or cost is different from what you were promised? Flight changes? Dangers? Cool things to do? Not to mention there is someone out there that knows your itinerary and where you are staying and what you plan to do. This is important if you are by yourself or two women alone.
2) Be flexible.
(1) Use a smaller hotel.

Hevea Hotel, St. Maarten

Isn’t This the Cutest Hotel?

They can be just as nice as the big expensive ones and even more fun since they are more personable and customer service is lots of times better because they want you back. Sometimes they come with a little kitchen where you can also save some money on your food bill. Maybe you don’t want to go out to eat. You can just stay in and have a stress-free evening.
(2) Go in the off-season. During the summer months, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and even South America (where it will be winter) are still pleasant―and less crowded.
(3) Pre-pay for what you can. This allows you to cover some costs gradually which is good for the budget. You can stretch the costs of your trip over time and save yourself from using your charge card. I have been able to take several trips without charging a thing because I paid for excursions, drink packages, etc ahead of time.
(4) Book a fixed cost trip. All-inclusive programs that lump meals and activities with the room price keep costs down. Consider one of these: Beaches, Rui ( I have a trip booked to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic in month or so, I will write a review when I get back), Starfish Resorts.
(5) Go on a cruise.

Oasis Docked in St. Thomas

Oasis Docked in St. Thomas

My favorite is Royal Caribbean. I am checking into Norwegian because they offer some dream cruises I would love to take although I don’t know how I will ever afford them.
3) Think about driving. Gas prices are way down. There are many attractions within a couple of days of where you live. There are even some in my own county that are very cool. I can make a fun day trip seeing the attractions, eating at a good restaurant, and visiting with locals. Or I can take a couple of days to see some sights in my own state. I will be writing about some of the things you can do in Kansas, believe or not. Every state has something fun and interesting to see or do.
4) Take a guided tour if you are not comfortable driving. This way you get to meet new people and learn new things without the hassle of driving yourself (or maybe you can’t drive so this is a good alternative). You prepay many expenses, and the guide can give you a sense of other costs to help you budget. Find unexpected tours (like cycling in Bali) at intrepidtravel
5) Start with a theme like history, architecture, art, or food. A travel agent can come in very handy here or AAA has some good programs.
Another concern is safety. There are some ways to keep safe when you are traveling alone:
1) Give someone a copy of your itinerary. At least someone back home should have a general idea of where you’ll be and when. Give them your travel agent’s information. That way you can be contacted if something goes wrong or you need to be contacted.
2) Take pictures of all of your documents and store them in the cloud. They can be accessed from any computer. Passport, IDs, ticket numbers, reservations, etc. That way if you lose them AND your computer or phone, you won’t be totally screwed. Also, keep a hard copy of your itinerary with you at all times. It can help in the event of an emergency.
3) Consider travel insurance. Places like World Nomads provide travel insurance to individuals, couples, or families to cover all manner of unexpected costs. For a reasonable fee they will not only cover medical and dental emergencies, but also reimburse you for lost baggage, trip cancellations, or delays, rental car damage, and more.
4) Pack Light. Packing light can actually be a safety tip: Nothing says “rob me” like someone wheeling four large bags along the side of a street. You’ll also be more mobile with a smaller bag in case you need to move quickly.
5) More tips can be found at NomadicMatt.
Please sign up for my newsletter. In future blogs I will be covering some destinations, reviews, plans, and other fun things to do for women our age traveling alone.

Don’t Buy Blue Buffalo Dog Food

This post is a little off-topic but I feel it’s so important that I just had to let you know.

My precious little fur-baby just recently died so I got a new puppy to help with the grief and because I just hate to be without a dog – in fact we have always had 2 of them.   We already have a Japanese Chin but he is sick with an enlarged heart so it’s only a matter of time before he leaves us too.    It’s been 14 years since I dealt with a rambunctious, playful little puppy dog.  Boy, do I have a lot to learn.  New ways of feeding, training, housebreaking.  I tell you this so you might understand my ignorance.

I wanted to rescue a little dog, preferably a Pomeranian mix, and preferably a girl.  I thought it would be awhile since they are hard to come by and the area we live in is so sparsely populated that I didn’t expect to find one within days of losing my Chica.  But, I found her through a link that my daughter sent me so we headed off to McPherson, Kansas to pick her up.  That’s about a 4 hour drive from here.  She was/is well worth the drive because she is Papillion/Pomeranian, cute, smart, and such a sweetheart!  That’s been a month ago.

My Dog Roxy

My Dog Roxy

I wanted to start from the very beginning feeding her good food.  I want her to be around for a good long time!  The former owner sent her along a little of the food Roxy had been on (Rachel Ray’s Nutrish).  I didn’t even think about asking what variety it was.  So I began by doing a little research on the internet.   I wanted to find a good food that wasn’t too expensive and ready made since I don’t really have the time to make food for my dogs and I wanted to find one that was available in my area (I have very limited choices out here).  Was Nutrish the best?  What was the best I could afford?  I had been hearing that dog food should not have grain as the main ingredient.  My Giz (the Japanese Chin) has been on Iams wet and Beneful dry for years without any trouble.  He likes it, his coat is beautiful, he has no tummy troubles.   I had heard from my friends with dogs that Beneful wasn’t very healthy so now would be a good time to switch him to a healthier food, too. 

The first place I went was Dog Food Advisor .  Of course I had seen all of the advertising for Blue Buffalo, about how great and natural it is.  On Dog Food Advisor the food is rated 5 stars.  I know its available close by – I have limited choices:  Orscheln Farm and Home, Wal-mart, and the vet.  So, I checked further at various other websites and Blue Buffalo got pretty good recommendations.  Sounds good, I thought.  Great, healthy ingredients and fairly available around here.

I should have looked further but I didn’t.  That was my first big mistake.  We drove off to Goodland (40 miles) and picked up some from Orschen.  Alright, now I am going to feed my dog good food!

 That is when the trouble began.  I made the second big mistake.  I just switched them to the new food.  I should have switched them gradually I find out later.  Once the trouble began, I started looking for an answer.  Petsmart , VetInfo.  The 6 month old puppy began having loose bowel movements and then diarrhea; the older dog seemed fine at first.   I am also in the midst of housebreaking so you can imagine the trouble I was having getting the puppy regulated and on a schedule.  She was getting up and making messes 3 or 4 times a night even though I had her on a feeding regiment of early morning/late afternoon.  It helped a little when I began tethering her to me at night so I could get up and let her out.  I chalked it up to the new diet – they say when you switch them suddenly that it takes about 2 weeks to adapt to the new food.  No problem, I thought.  I’ll just put up with this until she gets adjusted.

That never happened!  3 weeks later and she is still having problems and then the older dog started having trouble, too.  What is going on?  What am I doing wrong?  Back to the internet to try and find some answers………

First place I check is Consumer Affairs .  Oh, my.  Do those complaints ever describe what is happening around here!  It became clear that the food was causing these problems:  Not the switch, the food.  There are all kinds of reports about dogs becoming sick after eating the latest batch of Blue Buffalo.  Cats are also getting sick.  Not just digestive problems, either.  It is causing urinary trouble and issues with energy levels.  They are getting seriously ill.  I didn’t look any further because the complaints described what was happening to my dogs to the T.

I immediately switched back to the Beneful because they were in danger of becoming gravely sick.  Overnight the little one became normal, the older one took a couple of days because the Blue Buffalo had killed his appetite.   Once he went back to his old food, he was cured, too.  The housebreaking is going much better now.  I can predict when she needs to go out.  She goes before bedtime and there are no issues at night so far.  It’s a big relief, I was becoming so frustrated.

I know Beneful is not the best food for them but it’s better than the Blue Buffalo until I can get new food for them.  Our vet recommends Iams or Hill’s Science Diet.  Since the Hill’s is a little expensive for us right now, I am going with the Iams.   I will be switching the right way:  gradually.

I feel so guilty that I was poisoning my dogs.  Please don’t make the same mistake.

How to Stop Restless Leg Syndrome

There is a little trick to my secret relief for Restless Leg Syndrome.

I have restless leg syndrome like over 5 million other people.  Many people think that it’s not real but if you suffer the restless legs pain, then you know it is very real.  The causes of RLS are understudied and poorly understood.  It’s like an orphan disease – there are not enough people with the disorder to make research and treatment of Restless Leg Syndrome profitable.  So we suffer, trying “cure” after “cure” for rls.  Everybody claims they have the treatment for restless leg that works.  We suffer with the leg pain, the insomnia, the nightly agony.

The general symptoms of restless leg syndrome are (taken from National Institute of Neurological Disorders ):

  1. People with RLS feel uncomfortable sensations in their legs, especially when sitting or lying down, accompanied by an irresistible urge to move the affected limb.   Because moving the legs (or other affected parts of the body) relieves the discomfort, people with RLS often keep their legs in motion to minimize or prevent the sensations. They may pace the floor, constantly move their legs while sitting, and toss and turn in bed.
  2. A classic feature of RLS is that the symptoms are worse at night with a distinct symptom-free period in the early morning, allowing for more refreshing sleep at that time.  Other triggering situations are periods of inactivity such as long car trips, sitting in a movie theater, long-distance flights, immobilization in a cast, or relaxation exercises.  Many individuals also note a worsening of symptoms if their sleep is further reduced by events or activity.
  3. RLS symptoms may vary from day to day and in severity and frequency from person to person.  Individuals with mild RLS may have some disruption of sleep onset and minor interference in daytime activities.  In moderately severe cases, symptoms occur only once or twice a week but result in significant delay of sleep onset, with some disruption of daytime function.  In severe cases of RLS, the symptoms occur more than twice a week and result in burdensome interruption of sleep and impairment of daytime function.
  4. Individuals with RLS can sometimes experience remissions—spontaneous improvement over a period of weeks or months before symptoms reappear—usually during the early stages of the disorder.  In general, however, symptoms become more severe over time.
  5. People who have both RLS and an associated medical condition tend to develop more severe symptoms rapidly.  In contrast, those who have RLS that is not related to any other condition and experience onset at an early age show a very slow progression of the disorder; many years may pass before symptoms occur regularly.

I have tried everything to relieve this torture:  quinine, magnesium, niacin, gabapentin, herbal treatment for restless leg, wrapping, rubbing, heat, cold, soaking, exercise, no exercise, elevation, diet, immobilization, massage, iron supplements, pain relievers, different drugs for rls, acupuncture, even medical marijuana. At one point it was so bad that I thought maybe if my leg was broken that would help.  I was crazy and asked my husband to run over my leg with his car.  That’s how insane this thing is sometimes!

I think I have found a solution that I have never read about in all of the research.

I have been testing this for about 10 weeks or so and it has worked every time.  Restless Leg is a weird syndrome since what works for many will not work for you – I say that because of the many things I have tried.  The experts will suggest B vitamins.  Did that to no avail.  But one night I noticed that when I woke up with rls that it went away quickly when I drank a bunch of PowerAde.  I thought at first that it was the sudden infusion of liquid – maybe dehydration was causing the creepy rls.  But then I ran out of PowerAde   so I  tried Gatorade.  That didn’t work.  So, what’s the difference between the two?  B vitamins!  PowerAde has them,. Gatorade does not.  Eureka!  Right away I ordered some Vitamin B complex.  It doesn’t work if you just take it as a supplement during the day.  I have adjusted the original

trick to this secret – take a vitamin B complex just before bed.

I take just one tablet.

Super B Complex

Super B Complex

As of now, taking the B complex is working – longer than anything I have ever tried.

It’s worth a try for you.  Inexpensive and easy.  Even 10 weeks of relief helps your whole outlook on life!  It can’t hurt to try (although I am not a doctor, there are side effects –, Please let me know your thoughts on this.  Have you tried it?  Did it work for you?  If it doesn’t work for you, what does?