Tayyiba Haneef-Park: Things I wish I would have known

Not all toilet paper is created equal and other things I wish I had known

Not all toilet paper is created equal.  Yup, I said it. It’s out there.  This is one of the many things about overseas life that you’ll quickly learn.  Here at home we’ve got this amazing 2-ply, 3-ply, quilted, scented amazingly comfortable toilet paper that comforts our toosh and pads our nose.  And then you go overseas and find the 1- ply paper like excuse of something to use to wipe your bottom.  You’re not sure if you should wipe for risk of chafing.  This may all seem silly to you, but after 6 months of this you’ll want to hug a bag of Charmin when you get home.

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There are several things I wish I would have known before traveling overseas and unequal toilet paper is just one.

Here are a few more:

  • Blinds– Through my years of travel I have also learned that many countries don’t believe in blinds like we do.  Turkey and Azerbaijan, for instance, have sheer curtains that let the light (and all your neighbors) to peek through.  I began traveling with a cheap pair of blackout curtains my last few years to combat this and slept like a baby.

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  • Take currency before you get there– Seems simple enough right? Often times you are promised your first payment when you land or soon thereafter.  But many teams fall flat on this.  While its easy to pop out a credit/debit card, not all are accepted in ATMs and you need to be aware of your international withdrawl fees from your bank if any.  Is easier to have some currency already with you to buy groceries to last you your first few days.

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  • Learn the customs before you go– Learn simple customs like which way to face when you pee (Japan), whether or not its acceptable to talk on your phone on public transportation, whether its ok to leave the table before everyone is done, what are the five times a day prayer comes on (Muslim countries) so you’re startled in the middle of the night, etc. Know that personal space, PDA’s and rules for touching are often different.

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  • Your bags will get wet- Long layovers in the rain, spilled lotions and cream, and baggage mishandling has led to some not so awesome experience with clothes getting wet or ruined.  Now when I travel I pack everything in the airtight suctions bags.  It not only creates more space, but it keeps clothes dry from any mishaps.

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  • Electronics and Social Media will become your best friend– Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Voxer, Whatsapp are just a few of the Apps you get to know pretty well.  Many foreigners are afraid to speak English so you’ll want to make sure you’ve got all the technology you need to communicate with friends and family back home to keep your sanity.

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  • Food and water– One of the most important things is knowing if you can drink the water before you go.  That includes knowing if soups, salads, ice cubes or juices were used with that water as well. Drinking local water can often times lead to disastrous hours in the bathroom with that 1-ply paper we talked about. Food is quite different and you might miss out on the nutrients you can easily get at home, so make sure you know what supplements are good for you to take and bring those with you.

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  • Randoms- Taxi drivers WILL try to take you for your money by taking you the wrong way, so try to know how to get to your destination or how much it should cost before hand.  Not all police officers are your friends.  Some are out to be bought off so just be aware.  Baby wipes are good to travel with to keep things clean or to clean up when an immediate shower is not available. Dryer sheets serve as great shoe deodorizers, gym bag refreshers and amazing tool for getting deodorant stains off your clothes. Always carry on an extra pair of clothes because bag inevitable get lost. It’s often easier to find the necessary plug adapters so buy and pack plenty.

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Tayyiba Haneef-Park
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