Transitions Abroad Q & A
While traveling on a tight budget, I've stayed in dozens of campgrounds and youth hostels. I am
planning a trip to Scotland and Ireland and have decided I prefer having my own room indoors. What other types of low-cost accommodations are available?
Many colleges and universities rent out student rooms or apartments, typically for a very reasonable
price. A great resource for university budget accommodations is the Campus Lodging Guide, (B & J Publications, 1999, $14.95). The latest
edition lists 597 schools worldwide that rent rooms to travelers in the summer and 94 campuses with rooms available year round.
You'll find seven colleges or universities in Ireland and eight in Scotland to choose from if you
plan your visit when school is out. Not far from the Blarney Stone in Cork, for instance, you can stay at University College Cork for just $30 (single
room) or $47 (double) per night.
The "Campus" guide also includes information on economy and mid-priced hotels and motels,
bed and breakfasts, and YMCA's that offer lodging and, in most cases, inexpensive food. Each listing in the book includes information on meals, prices,
dates available, recreational facilities, handicapped access, and phone numbers to call for reservations, as well as maps and directions. For copies
of the guide ($14.95) or more information call 800-525-6633.
Solo Travel in Asia
I'm planning a one-year trip to Asia and trying to decide whether or not to go alone. Several
years ago, I traveled around Europe by myself. I met other travelers all along my route and never longed for companionship. I also never had any safety
issues or found myself in any threatening situations. Can I expect the same experience in Asia? What are the benefits and drawbacks of solo travel?
There are many pros and cons to solo travel to consider before you go. The pros: As a solo traveler,
you often tune in to your surroundings, the culture, the people and the landscape more than you might if you were traveling with someone else. You might
also learn the local language faster, out of necessity. As a solo traveler-- and especially a female solo traveler-- people are more likely to talk
to you, look after you, and offer you information and invitations. While traveling solo through Indonesia and Malaysia, I was invited home with families
and offered free lifts, which might not have happened if I had had a travel companion. And because I was on my own I didn't have to consult with anyone
else when plans changed or opportunities arose, I could just go. Besides giving you freedom and flexibility, traveling solo enables you to test your
limits and boost your self-confidence.
The cons: On the down side, it can be more expensive traveling solo (rooms cost one price, whether
you're alone or with a friend), safety is an issue (hitchhiking through Thailand or jungle trekking in Malaysia is best done in pairs), and if you're
ever sick or exhausted there's no one to help buy the bus tickets, find accommodations, or look after you. Finally, there isn't anyone to share a special
moment with or reminisce with later on. This doesn't mean you won't meet people en route, just as you did in Europe. Thousands of backpackers are wending
their way through Asia, and you can easily find other people to travel with as you go.
Luckily, most Asian countries are typically very safe for traveling. It's always good to check with
the U.S. State Department www.travel.state.gov for travel warnings
and advisories and to let your guesthouse or the local embassy know if you're going somewhere offbeat. Though there is an element of risk in going solo,
there is nothing more annoying than being with a mismatched companion and nothing more exhilarating than completing a journey on your own.
Europe by Bus
Is there a long-distance bus that operates in Europe? If so, is it only available to students
or younger travelers? I'm 31 and would like to go to Europe next August for a month.
Green Bay, Wisconsin
The Eurobus whisks travelers of all ages and nationalities around Europe. You'll find European
tourists and overseas travelers, all drawn to this coach system for its inexpensive tickets (rail travel can cost two or three times more than the Eurobus,
and the equivalent one-month Eurail Pass is at least four times more expensive).
The Eurobus is actually a bus network. Luxury coaches travel continuously (in one direction only)
along three fixed routes, connecting major European cities. Each route is located in its own "zone." The Southern Zone, for instance, includes
Paris, Nice, Barcelona, and Lisbon and more than a dozen other cities sprinkled throughout Spain, Portugal, and France. The Central Zone connects Paris
with Rome, making stops in cities throughout France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, and Germany en route. And the Northern Zone includes Paris and major
cities in Belgium, Amsterdam, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Switzerland.
You determine which route you'd like to journey along and buy a one-, two-, or four-month pass;
then go. You can jump off as often as you like and stay in a city for as long as you want. Just make sure you complete the route before your pass expires.
Travel by Eurobus on any one route costs from $195/$209 per person for one month (with/without student
or teacher ID) to $225/$239 (with/without ID) for up to four months. STA, Council Travel, and other travel agents can provide Eurobus information and
I have three weeks off next year and instead of sipping strawberry daiquiris and basking in
the sun (as appealing as that sounds) or doing a whirlwind tour of three continents, I'd like to have an active holiday in one region where I can really
get to know the locals and explore the culture while doing volunteer work. Any suggestions?
A number of conservation and development groups take volunteers worldwide each year to participate
in hands-on and community building projects. Global Volunteers offers one- to three-week programs on human and economic development projects. For example,
you can teach English in an Italian hill town, help with reforestation projects in Indonesia, or paint a community center in Jamaica. Global Volunteers
runs programs in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Pacific, and North America. Projects place heavy emphasis on cross-cultural
understanding, with an aim to build world peace. Find out more at 800-487-1074 or www.globalvolunteers.org.
You may also want to consider Habitat for Humanity International, which works with local families building and rehabilitating homes to upgrade housing conditions, help eliminate homelessness,
and build strong community ties. You might find yourself constructing a home with a family in a small town in southern India or working on a community home in a Mexican village. Habitat for Humanity also runs programs in other regions of Asia,
as well as Africa, the Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand), and in South, Central, and North America (including Guam and Puerto Rico). You can find schedules, itineraries, and other information at www.Habitat.org.
Check TransitionsAbroad.com's Volunteer Program Directory for more options and first-hand accounts.
I'm a British expatriate living in Tokyo. Recently, I met an American woman traveling through
the country on her own. She belonged to a travel club through which she was able to stay with Japanese families for several days at a time. I'm planning
a solo trip to Thailand next summer and would love to stay with a host family. What types of homestay programs are available?
Homestays are a great way to get beneath the surface of a culture, to experience traditional lifestyles
and customs, and to share ideas with new friends--things you might not have a chance to do if you stay in a hostel or hotel. The warmth and security
of a home setting can also be comforting if you're traveling in an unfamiliar place.
There are several good homestay programs with members worldwide. Some clubs are geared to individual
or women travelers, while others target senior adventurers or organized travel groups. All, however, emphasize bridging cross-cultural gaps and fostering
international friendships. These groups often have annual fees, but there are generally no charges for room and board when staying with a host family
(it's a good idea to bring a small thank-you gift).
Servas is a nonprofit peace organization active in 130 countries--including Thailand--and
open to anyone for a small annual fee. Check out their web site www.usservas.org or contact them at: US Servas,
Inc., 11 John St. #407, New York, NY 10038; 212-267-0252. I've belonged to Servas for several years and have met and stayed with more than 25 families
around the world.
Women Welcome Women, a U.K.-based nonprofit group, connects female travelers and hosts and
has more than 2,500 members worldwide, ranging from 18 to 90 years old. The annual fee, depending on the exchange rate, is about $70. Contact Women
Welcome Women at www.WomenWelcomeWomen.org.uk/intro1.html.
The Lesbian and Gay Hospitality Exchange International offers host stays for gay and lesbian
travelers in more than 40 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Oceania, and North, Central, and South America. The annual fee is approximately $45. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.lghei.org.
For many more options, see TransitionsAbroad.com's section on Homestays and Hospitality Exchanges abroad.
This issue's answers were supplied by Kari Bodnarchuk, a Boston-based freelance writer
who has explored more than thirty countries over the past 10 years. She is author of Rwanda: Country Torn Apart and Kurdistan: Region Under Seige. Kari also runs travel classes for adult education centers.