Toilet Paper, Exercise, Locals, Conversation, Pictures and Language


When travelling in South America, carry a potty bag with you at all times. It should contain toilet paper, hand sanitizer and about one dollar in local currency. The toilet paper is self-explanatory—the majority of washrooms don’t supply it. The hand sanitizer can be used when washing your hands isn’t an option or to sanitize the toilet seat. You’ll need the money because most places charge you to use their washroom.


Whenever you’re going on a trip where you might not always be able to exercise, pack a pair of running shoes, a skipping rope and resistance band. Running is the perfect way to see a new city, including many out-of-the-way spots you might not normally get to. Skipping can be done anywhere and is a fantastic full-body exercise when you don’t have the time or space to run. The resistance band can help you stretch and build muscle when you’re stationary. Whenever looking for a running route in the city, just go to the closest water; whether it be an ocean or a stream, there are almost always paths or streets following it, and it’s easy to find your way home afterward!


Bring along a rubber stamp and water-based ink pad for endless hours of fun with children you meet along the way. You can stamp paper, hands, body parts or other objects. The children can also try it out themselves. Particularly in developing countries, this is an activity that can be shared without leaving any long-lasting traces of tourist presence or anything of monetary value. I tried this in India, Nepal and Burma with huge success and smiles. You may want to pay special attention to the stamp design you choose—in some countries, for example, the fish is a symbol of good luck; in others, marking the body might not be prudent.


A pocket currency converter can be quite handy for quick calculations. Use a cue card. On one side, list Canadian denominations with the value in the foreign currency beside each one. (For example, $1 CDN = 17 CZK.) On the reverse side, do the opposite. List common denominations of the foreign currency with the value of exchange in Canadian dollars (100 CZK = $6 CDN). I’ve used this technique on every trip and it’s an invaluable source. You might want to laminate the card, as you’ll be pulling it in and out of your pocket quite often!


Want an awesome, personalized postcard to send back home? Get some digital photos developed on cardstock photographic paper in a computer store. You can get three pics on a page and it’s usually pretty cheap. Cut them out and you’ve got instant and very personal postcards.


Several weeks or months before travelling to a country with a foreign language, look up language lesson podcasts (such as and add them to your iPod. Study each lesson for basic comprehension, but repeated random review will really help you remember later in the country.

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