“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”
~Mary Anne Radmacher
The idea of an evening sun set witnessing the moon rising into the night… to experience a morning sunrise lighting the sky from a new vantage point… these are things I dream of imprinting on my memory with the sense of the moment, the place, and the people. And the longing for these experiences has driven me to create this possibility to go, to see the world, to experience living the way others do where they live, everyday.
Beginning to plan for my maiden journey, I read anything and everything I could get my hands on or pull up on the inner-webs! I’ve learned about heading to China to live for work, through books, articles, and many blogs. What I’ve learned and compiled about the mundane everyday activities, hopefully will be helpful to you, too… don’t be overwhelmed by the subject matter… take what serves you and leave the rest, and share your good ideas and experiences in the comments.
First off, for me, is my ability to stay in-touch, connected, and to be able to capture my writing and photos… thus keeping my electronics safe and secure! China’s voltage is pretty strong compared to my country, and I learned I’ll need a transformer to adjust the wattage so as to not burn out my laptop and mobile devices. I was lucky and found a transformer that has USB outlets as well as a couple of electrical outlets housed right on the device. The best practice for traveling internationally, is to have a transformer and adapter outlet plugs to protect your electronic devices, the other things like blow dryers, curling irons, clothes irons, etc. can be purchased (or borrowed) where you’ll be with and they’re guaranteed to work with the voltage and outlets!
While traveling I want to continue to write and blog and also to stay up with family and my editor who will be in another part of the world. This means I will be relying on unsecure WiFi connections (I am doing that now here in the US and adding this solution to my devices even here, gives me added peace of mind). The solution for protection of information (passwords, emails, identifying information) in my devices, as well as something that will allow me to access my blog and photo sharing sites (even accessing news or streaming the occasional movie or music), I need a virtual private network, or VPN. I did a good bit of research and decided on a paid VPN that allows me to accommodate several devices on a single plan (MacBook, iPad, iPhone for me) on a single plan. The biggest draw for me is security with additional firewalls for my mobile devices, quickness for uploading vlogs and streaming, as well as customer service support. I chose Goldenfrog’s VyprVPN though a search via the worldwide web will help you decide what’s best for you. What is clear is that you will want to establish a VPN and you’ll want to do it before you leave your home country.
Next on this discussion list are sundry items, such as over-the-counter medications, that will help us be more comfortable in our new home the other side of the world. It is quite common for travelers everywhere to struggle with stomach ailments when we begin to eat food and drink water in new and different areas. It’s highly recommended that embarking on an international journey to take along Immodium AD, Pepto Bismol (or straight up bicarbonate soda), acetaminophen, ibuprofen, an anti-biotic ointment, insect repellant (do some research via the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization), hand sanitizer, small packages of tissue, and sunscreen. Best advice, is to not leave home without these things… the amounts you take depend upon your length of stay and where you’re going as chances are once you’ve settled in to where you’ll be, you’ll find a local source (or online source) for refills.
Water is essential for us wherever we are and traveling to new areas, the water and our bellies are always at odds. Most likely in our flats and place of business we’ll have filtered water dispensers for our use. Also, in restaurants drinking hot water is quite common in China, and the reason why is that boiled water is a good way to kill bacteria (and it is good for our bellies, too). You may want to get a hot water pot for your flat as well, it will boil water in an instant for drinking and cooking noodles, etc. Because I have water with me all the time, I wanted a portable, refillable solution. I found an awesome water bottle filter called The Grayl, yep just like the holy grail and by God it is that good! I’ve always got a refillable water bottle with me these days, however it doesn’t do anything to the water. Now where I’m traveling to and with the activities I hope to be doing, I need to be aware of possible viruses, particulates, and chemicals that could be present in drinking water. The Grayl is a full-spectrum purification +filtration and provides ultimate protection against pathogens (viruses, bacteria, protozoa), particulates, chemicals and heavy metals – filters 99.9% of these things out of your water within like seconds! Again though, do a search on the world wide web keeping in mind where you’re traveling to, your activities while you’re there, and what sort of filters you’ll need.
Besides good, clean water we all need good clean air and traveling throughout the world we can remain on top of air quality outdoors and indoors with a couple of apps for our mobile devices. It’s worth it to be aware of air quality and then to make the choice to wear a mask outdoors and to also purchase an air purifier and plants for your flat to help you while indoors. If you suffer allergies, if you like to exercise outdoors, and if you just want to maintain good health, prolonged exposure to polluted air anywhere can add up to health concerns so investment in a top mask is a good idea (a valuable side effect is those that wear them swear that they experience less cold and flu ailments). So here again, do a bit of research and check out what and how air quality is measured indoor/outdoor and then choose the best app for your device and decide if you’ll want to have masks on hand for the occasional very poor air quality days.
Something else to be aware of is carbon monoxide poisoning. CO has no odor and can be subtle and present without you knowing causing exposure to low levels over long periods of time. There aren’t clear statistics on deaths in China due to CO poisoning, though it is present. There is a way to protect ourselves as most flats in China are above retail and restaurants and the risk could be present. I found a travel CO alarm that I think will work well for me.
Now this next subject, which is a bit personal, but essential to speak about when traveling to any foreign country (some could argue even traveling to some family and friends homes) and that is bathroom habits. In China, and many parts of the world, the common toilet form is a squatty potty or one that is in the floor, at ground level, that you will have to squat over to take care of your business. Most of us will likely live in flats that have a western style toilet in them, though still, out n’ about you will encounter and have to use the facilities that will be a squatty potty. On that list of sundry items above, I mentioned tissue packages and hand sanitizer, this is why and where you will want to use them both. Also, the manner in which the squatty potty is used will begin to come as second nature, but here’s a couple of tips: roll up pant legs – do not drop your drawers, the smell in these rooms is usually pretty strong so be prepared, you will strengthen your quads and core while using the SQ, and there are studies that show this style of taking care of business is actually better for our gut health (who knew).
A bit more on bathroom habits, though this time for your flat. Many bathrooms are often a big single room with a shower only and no bath tub. The water heater for the warm water in the bathroom is in the room, and the proximity between the toilet (and I’m highlighting this because of the toilet paper) and the shower is sometimes extremely close. Many people will leave the paper outside the bathroom while showering, though there have been some good suggestions for keeping the roll dry… here’s a few: a small foot operated stainless steel garbage can (lid on so no water on the role, plus you can store extra in there as well), or the DIY of the ziplock bag, to name a couple. It’s a humorous subject, until of course you’re left with wet toilet paper. Do a search including camping and waterproofing toilet paper, or toilet paper on a sailboat, for example to get more ideas.
These seemed the most important things and situations to highlight in this post. Anytime we travel anywhere, we will encounter different ways of being and doing almost everything and truly those are the things that make exploring fun. Being somewhat prepared helps to soften these differences that could otherwise not just be surprising but also could have a super negative impression of the people and countries we are visiting. I for one feel better informed and excited for the experiences awaiting me!