Sunday, July 30, 2017

French Guadeloupe Islands in Pictures

Curious, for sure, that so many of my savvy travel friends had never heard of the French Guadeloupe Islands. Too bad, because this archipelago offers something for all stripes of travelers, whether those who want to spend their time on black or golden sand beaches or those, like me, who prefer hiking in the rain forest or above the arid, surf-pounded coast. One of my favorite destinations here is tiny Les Saintes that consists of several islets, including Terre-de-Haut, which is as low key as a destination can be. It's basically a fisherman's island where I dined at many restaurants that were literally set on the sands and ate fish fresh off the boats that were anchored off shore. Another highlight was staying in an elegant tree house at the Tendacayou Ecolodge and Spa. Every one of the accommodations is decorated differently but all maintain a rustic, arboreal feel. And the spa revolves waterfalls, a mini stream/river, and a sundeck with views of the Caribbean Sea in the distance. This YouTube video slideshow offers a window into my adventure.

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Travel Health Misunderstandings

I thought most travelers know at least some of the basics of how to stay healthy when traveling to developing countries. (This is a nice infographic on the topic from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention -- CDC.) But after a few recent international trips, I realized that some travelers have their own interpretation of well-established guidelines, interpretations that leave them open to coming down with a food-borne illness. Here's what I recently observed:

1- When a hot dish arrives on a plate with cold garnishes, such as tomatoes and lettuce, is it OK to eat the produce? The people on my trip all thought so but the correct answer would be "no,." All food you consume should be hot. Just because it's a garnish doesn't mean it's safe to eat it cold.

2- When fruit arrives already peeled in your bowl for breakfast, do you eat it? Apparently many people thought that eating peeled fruit is exactly what you should be doing. But the misinterpretation is that you're supposed to peel the fruit, not someone in the kitchen, where you don't know how the fruit or the knives were washed, nor the hygiene of the kitchen staff or the kitchen.

3- Is it a good idea to drink juice at breakfast? Everyone but me thought this was a good idea. In fact, it's risky unless you know 100% that the juice was not diluted with unsafe water.

4- What about undercooked fried eggs where the yolk is runny; is it safe? Most everyone at my table ate the runny yolk but this isn't the safest strategy. Eggs should not be undercooked.

5- How about a cold sandwich for a picnic lunch made with lettuce, avocado, onions and other cold fixings? Absolutely not. But, then, I was one of the only people who prepared my own sandwiches, relying on peanut butter that I brought with me.

6- Cheese must be safe, right? Not necessarily. Soft cheeses, even in developed countries including in the U.S. and Canada, have been linked with food-borne illness, specifically contamination with a bacteria called Listeria; and if cheese is not properly refrigerated or made from unpasteurized milk, it should also be off limits. Yet, this didn't stop many of the travelers I met from spontaneously ordering cheese sandwiches or buying cheese from small road-side shops with potentially questionable refrigeration conditions.

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What to Pack for Travel in Developing Countries

Having just returned from Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world, I knew to be prepared, for tap water that may or may not be contaminated, for medical care that may be hours away, for a lack of feminine hygiene products as well as other hygiene issues as I bicycled for two weeks, often picnicking on the road side.  Below is what I carry in the small backpack when I travel to developing countries. The Pepto-Bismol is to prevent traveler's diarrhea; Imodium (or, in a worse case scenario, Zithromax) in case that didn't work. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the best way of disinfecting surfaces, including your hands, which you should do when you touch anything -- especially the paper currency -- and then intend on touching your mouth. Baby wipes are especially useful when the toilet facilities are lacking. Alcohol swabs for wiping down a can of soda just in case. Cups that I found in hotel rooms and other places may or may not be clean so I brought my own. Utensils for my picnics where I enjoyed peanut butter sandwiches -- a high protein source which, along with carbs, is needed when cycling intensely. SteriPen -- it easily slips in your pocket --  to take care of all the potential microbes in questionable water sources

1- Baby Wipes

2- Tampons or sanitary pads

3- SteriPen

4- Pepto-Bismol chewable tabs

5- Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer

6- Alcohol Swabs

7- Foldable Cup

8- Plastic (or bamboo) Utensils

9- One-dose Anti-Vaginitis Drug: Diflucan

10- One-dose Zithromax antibiotic

11- Imodium

12- Justin's Squeezable Peanut Butter Packs

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Madagascar In Pictures

I spent two weeks bicycling in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world. But one full of beauty, whether it's the local children in the tiniest of villages, or the lemurs springing from one tree to the next, or the expansive savannas where, as far as I could see, there was nothing but sky, clouds and tall grasses, or the lush rainforest that the locals call the dark forest where an array of chameleons can be spied at night, or the curiously hued rock formations surrounding steaming geysers. This YouTube video slideshow  provides a window into my journey.

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Insect Repellant Clothing for Madagascar Travels

For the last many weeks, I’ve been traveling in Madagascar, one of the poorest countries in the world but one with enormous beauty as well. (Most of us think lemurs when the country of Madagascar comes to mind.) It’s also a country that has a high risk of malaria, a reason why most of the clothing I packed was Insect Shield apparel. This meant my neck gaitor -- necessary because of the dusty, dirt roads -- hat, pants, t-shirts, long-sleeve tops and long-sleeve hoody had all been treated by the manufacturer with Permethrin, a chemical that repels not only mosquitoes, but also ticks, ants, and flies.

I’m all about clothing that looks good but also functions well. And these items (below) that I purchased online from ExOfficio as well as Insect Shield fit the bill. The ExOfficio clothing goes by the name Bugsaway. Their Kutula Tunic is a cotton shirt that’s breathable and dries quickly. Their Lumen hood is cool and airy, thanks to the mesh weave.  Insect Shield’s t-shirts -- I bought three in different bold colors -- are polyester but, again, very breathable and light. All Insect Shield items cannot be dry cleaned, a process that will remove the active ingredient. But they’re very washable, up to 70 times, which is considered the life of the product.

Most importantly, because all these items are so lightweight, I was able to travel for weeks with only a carry-on bag.

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