Tag Archive: international travel

LANGUAGES – good for your brain

This has been known for centuries, “languages expand your brain”. [Or, as we say: “expand one’s horizon”.] New studies (University York at Toronto, Canada) have shown and proven that those who are at least bilingual in old age will show their first symptoms of Alzheimer and Dementia (if at all ) later than those with one single language (like English). [autres études l’Université d’Edinbourg et équipe indienne.] ]

There is also a correlation between widely traveling and thereby being exposed to other cultures and languages, and a healthier brain capacity. Besides the scientific implications of knowledge of several languages, not just one or two, there is also a practical side of this. When traveling, one who can communicate with the locals in another country often finds better deals and pays less. And finds new friends.

My own experiences: I traveled widely, several times to North Africa, Tunisia and Morocco. Besides Arabic, the primary language for visitors is French. Because tourists are highly appreciated income sources for the locals, taxi drivers will often drive you around to markets and stores belonging to one of their relatives. However, if you intended to go elsewhere, you never get there. Communicating in French helps tremendously, to somehow get (“out of there”). Mostly I used the public bus system, being the only European on this bus. Again, language knowledge helped ! When I spent one month in Marrakesh, Morocco, I met up with an Australian lady who always wanted me to tag along, to talk the Arab taxi drivers out of giving us the roundabout through the Souks.

Or, on another trip to several Caribbean islands, one was Saint-Martin, Sint Maarten [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Martin_(island) ]. Interesting, one of the few islands shared by two nations – The Netherlands and France. Since I speak also Dutch (and French), no problem. In fact I saved some money. Needed to take a taxi with a nice lady taxi driver, from Philipsburg NL to Saint-Martin, paying much less (then still French francs; today €), when I told her that I don’t have much money on me. While back at Saint-Martin, the American tourists complained about having to spend US$20 for a small taxi trip.

I made many friends in many countries, simply because of my language knowledge. Once, spending three months at the Côte dAzur , Mediterrean, in Cannes, France. First day on a walk met some Russians, who also spoke German (my mother tongue), and amazingly lived in the same city I was born in Germany. World is small indeed !

I do miss traveling a lot, since outbreak of that pandemic. Since 2018 the last time I made a one month trip to Mexico.


Food for Thought: In the 19th and into the 20th century, a woman traveling alone would be considered having questionable morals. Today – the opposite, a woman traveling with men may be looked upon as having questionable morals. I STRONGLY BELIEVE IN TRAVEL & LEARN.

ADDENDUM March 27/13, Taxi services.  On occasion when it’s necessary I use a cab. For example, when arriving late in an unknown place, unknown country. Even once arriving Flughafen Tegel Airport Berlin, to negotiate the trip to my rental building. One amusing story about this cab driving: Arriving in Mexico last year for an extended visit at Aeropuerto Pto. Vallarta late in the evening. In Mexico it is dark at seven each night, and dark meaning within couple of minutes. I arrived late and usually one has to cross the highway overpass to the other side of the Airport exit to catch a cab. But cabs stood ready right by the exit. They also have fixed rates. To Sayulita (m/l one hour north) it’s 50 US$. The cab drivers work with an organization at the airport whom they must also pay, and usually cannot take less than this rate. But I like to haggle, and offered 40 dollars. To a young Mexican driver. Off we went. I was apprehensive, being alone, sitting in the back seat. The trip takes you to pretty isolated little villages and largely through jungle both sides of the road. Plus despite my maps that I had prepared beforehand, I could not see a thing in the dark. Shortly before the turnoff to Sayulita the driver stopped at a shopping centre (OXO – the largest grocery chain and open all night) said he needed some money from the ATM machine to buy some gas. If I want to do some grocery shopping there? NO. I stuck to my rear seat, and would have never got out of this car. That’s how paranoid I was. He found this amusing. Well, we made it to Sayulita, trying to find this rental Casa compound uphill. The gate was locked and there was a security lock which needed a code. By that time it was after 9 pm. Luckily, the young man could phone on his cell phone the owners from the papers I had on me – who just happened to have visited their property from California – and they gave me the entry code. This young Mexican cab driver was so nice and helpful, he helped to carry my two small suitcases up the steep hill to my casita (apartment). So, I gave him some more money. This whole thing again proves, that often when we are worried travelling alone, there is no need for it. In fact, the opposite. More people are helpful than people want to hurt you.

For the first morning following arrival after a long flight, I always carry with me instant coffee, tea, dry food to at least have a breakfast. When arriving in a certain country, be it in North America, Central America, or anywhere in Europe, the next day after arrival I find the local grocery stores and within a short time the best deals to buy food. Prices vary considerably from grocer to grocer, depending where. Even in Saint Petersburg, Russia, – in that case I took a group travel, with a guide, because the city is a treasure trove full of culture and palaces and buildings. A guide is a must. We stayed in the largest hotel, the Moskwa – it is huge. Next door was a big underground grocery store, where you could buy groceries and water for your evening suppers. Cheap. And St. Petersburg is one of the more expensive cities. Food is usually safe, water watch out. Some larger world-class cities have clean water (eg. Marrakech, Maroc), some do not. Europe’s water is always safe to drink, Mexico not. Just be careful.

Luggage. I usually only take two small carry-on suit cases, one as cabin baggage, one for checkout. Easier to handle when moving, no need for renting cars or cabs.

What I pack: most importantly electronic equipment, cables, power adapters, camera stuff with charger, phone, my net book, memory sticks for data backups, and important vitamins and prescription medication (which in most countries are not so easy to find or if, then expensive). The most necessary are pain killers, celebrex, and for skin problem, if any, and whatever anybody needs for their own medical reasons (not forget the intestinal). What else I found is expensive to buy are herbs and spices – since I do my own cooking. The minimum I take with me is a small black pepper mill, and mixed herbs for Italian cooking. Clothes – not many. Only one pair extra shoes, because they are expensive to buy. Clothing in any country anywhere in the world is easy enough to buy second hand, if needed. Since I arrive from a colder country (Canada) it is always easier for me to wear layers of clothes when leaving, carry them through the airport controls, and same when arriving back. Leaves me with a few light clothes and the most necessities. My Tilly vest has so many pockets, I always wear as one of the layers when leaving and returning, holds my passport, important documents, money belt, glasses, shades, small tooth cleaning kit, bandages, pen, a few maps. And of course, couple of canvas bags for groceries’ shopping. I usually wash laundry daily where I rent on vacation. Two things I learned: (a) each time I travel, I carry less; (b) I can pack in 15 minutes for a 3 months trip.

I try to avoid renting a taxi. Because as a woman alone, it is not safe in some locales. One looses control. And misses a lot of wonderful sights when stuffed inside a taxi cab. [note my story Sayulita taxi above]

Public transportation: I always before leaving my home research very thoroughly the public transportation system of the country to which I travel. Starting with a map of the airport (arrival), where to go to find the nearest bus station after arrival. Funny example: Spain, Alicante. I had all the information necessary to get out and get onto the bus. Upon arrival, hundreds of European travelers hanging out in the arrivals hall, trying to rent a car (expensive). The local bus was only €3 to get to Alicante, to my hotel. And fast, in couple of minutes I was out and on the bus.

Being alone, I also avoid to go out after dark. In all those years I had never experienced an attack in a city, no matter where. The odd time one looses something (theft), but I found it was always my fault.

Usually I choose a town or city as a base, from where to make trips. Mostly using the local bus system, or of course the trains (especially in Europe). Or a boat. Whatever. Mostly I walk.

Most importantly: I mix with the locals, using their language. With 4 to 5 languages, I never had a problem to get along. This cannot be emphasized enough.

Example: Saint Martin, Caribbean Islands, French. I walked, got stuck somewhere, needed a ride, found a nice local lady who drove me, I only had so many Fr. Francs in my pocket, which she accepted. When arriving back at the resort, the American tourists complained about the extreme cab prices.

I avoid too touristy spots. And if possible of course large gatherings of people. There were times I found myself in dangerous situations – as far as terrorist activity.

Destinations: Of course everybody has their own preferences. But I have chosen, not to visit countries which have a poor human rights record. Moreover, countries who mistreat their women, or do not show them the respect they deserve. Mainly countries where rape is not a crime, but has become a pastime. Likewise, I avoid travel to countries which mistreat wildlife and trade in wildlife parts on markets.

HAPPY TRAVELING !  [post created with Firefox v.19]