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Coping with a mental illness like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression can sometimes be so difficult that it prevents you from traveling. At other times, the illness is managed well enough that you can travel, but the challenging feelings still tag along like an unwanted companion. A day at the beach, for instance, feels like anything but.

illustration of traveling with depression


“Traveling feels like you’re making a huge mistake,” says writer Lauren Juliff, who suffers from severe anxiety. “Everyone says to trust your intuition when you travel, but I had to learn to silence the voice in my head that was always telling me that something was going to go seriously wrong.”

Juliff, who has been traveling steadily since 2011 and writes about her experiences on her website Never Ending Footsteps, is among those featured in an online collection of illustrations that show what it’s like to travel while suffering from symptoms of a mental illness.

The images drive home how isolating it can be to travel when you aren’t feeling at your peak. If you’re traveling for pleasure, you’re supposed to be happy and having fun. If you’re traveling for work, you’re supposed to be sharp and at your best.

illustration of traveling with anxiety


English artist Loren Conner took on the project because it touched her in personal ways. She has dealt with anxiety and depression since her teens, and people close to her have also coped with a variety of mental illnesses. Her illustrations were featured in a Staysure article on traveling with mental illness.

“I am aware of the difficulties and struggles people suffering can go through in their day-to-day life,” said Conner, who lives outside of London. “I knew I had to portray and translate all these feelings as best as I could for people to connect and understand them and realize they’re not alone in their experiences.”

Having such struggles doesn’t mean you need to just stay home. You still can travel, but you need to prepare yourself for what you might encounter.

illustration of traveling with ptsd


“For me planning is key. This carries across to when I’m actually on holiday, so I can mentally prepare for any tricky situations that could arise,” says 18-year-old Ellen White, who writes about obsessive-compulsive disorder at Ellen’s OCD Blog.

The Experiences of Visually Impaired Travelers, Turned into Art

Do you have similar challenges? Share your tips in the comments below.

— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

This week’s puzzle is a word scramble. Below are the jumbled names of four major cities from around the world, followed by the country where they’re located. Your job is to unscramble them. For example, “IALM, EURP” would be “Lima, Peru.” Multi-word cities or countries are scrambled into one word, so “San Juan” might appear as SJAANUN. (Hint: This week there are no multi-word cities or countries.) Identify all four mystery cities to win.

OKOTY, AJANP

ILHAONMT, UDAMERB

TUQIO, ARUOCED

RAZGEB, ACOTARI


Enter your list of unscrambled cities in the comments below. You have until Monday, March 20, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Jill Gsell, who has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Check out the puzzle answers below.

TOKYO, JAPAN

HAMILTON, BERMUDA

QUITO, ECUADOR

ZAGREB, CROATIA


— created by Sarah Schlichter

Travelers who spend a lot of time exploring cities and riding public transportation have natural concerns about pickpockets. While the best way to protect your valuables is to stow them in a money belt hidden under your clothes, you don’t want to expose it each time you need to pay for a coffee or buy a souvenir — and that’s where the Rogue Front Pocket Wallet comes in.

rogue front pocket wallet


Because front pockets tend to be deeper, they’re considered a safer spot to stow your wallet than back pockets if you’re looking to deter thieves. The Rogue Front Pocket Wallet is designed with a curved shape so it fits more naturally into a front pocket; you are supposed to put the pointy end down and the curved part out. How does it work? I asked my husband and frequent travel partner to give it a try.

What We Liked
It feels well made. The wallet is constructed of real leather and appears sturdy and well stitched.

It fits comfortably. My husband used the wallet in several different pairs of pants and didn’t have any issues with how it fit.

It blocks RFID skimming. Although experts disagree on just how much of a threat RFID skimming actually is, this is still a nice security feature just in case.

It’s made in Maine. Americans sick of seeing “made in China” on every product can support a homegrown business with this purchase.

What We Didn’t Like
There’s some wasted space. The way the wallet is stitched means that the pocket for bills and receipts isn’t as wide as it looks, with what feels like a couple of inches of space sealed off. While U.S. bills fit fine, my husband had to fold quite a few longer receipts instead of sliding them in flat, making the wallet bulk up quickly.

rogue front pocket wallet


It takes up more space than many other wallets. Because of the curved design, the Rogue wallet is taller (5 inches) than a lot of standard men’s wallets. My husband’s old trifold wallet fit just as well in his front pocket (where he’s worn it for years), and because it was smaller he was able to get it deeper into the pocket — which might be an even better hedge against theft.

It has adequate but not plentiful storage. There are three slots that hold up to six cards, plus a see-through ID pocket, another pocket for miscellaneous items, and a larger compartment for bills and receipts. There’s plenty of room for the basics, but men who carry a lot of cards might prefer a few more slots.

Rogue Industries offers a variety of front pocket wallets as well as money clips, women’s bags, women’s clutches and more. The classic front pocket wallet that we tested retails for $45 at the Rogue website or $40 at Amazon.

Money Safety Tips for Travelers
11 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft While Traveling

Editorial Disclosure: Some products are sent to us free of charge to be considered for review. We choose products to review based on their relevance and usefulness to our readers. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not promise any editorial coverage, particularly positive reviews.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Making a travel bucket list — even if it’s not realistic to visit all the places on the list — invokes a sense of hope, gives people something to look forward to and even inspires them to get into better shape, according to a new study by the largest nonprofit organization in the U.S.

senior travelers


Two out of every five Americans over the age of 50 say they have a travel bucket list, and nearly 70 percent of them expect to visit the next destination on the list, according the AARP Travel Bucket List Survey. While they hope to visit 80 percent of the places on the list, most people consider it a success to hit just 65 percent of them.

“You get a sense of accomplishment and contentment when you finally get to experience something you have wanted to do for a long time,” one survey respondent said.

Simply making a list has positive benefits: It gives people something to look forward to, inspires them to make the most the most of their lives and experience new things and convinces them, as one respondent said, that “my dreams can really happen.”

Traveling is one of the top aspirational activities of people 50 years and up. Most no longer have children at home, and they often have more money and time to travel than when they were younger. Around two-thirds say they’ll travel with a significant other or spouse; 18 percent say their next trip will be solo.

They are saving money for their bucket list trips and even getting in better shape to prepare for the rigors of travel, the survey found. More than one-third of those surveyed say they’ve already started saving money for their next bucket list trip, and half of baby boomers say they’re taking steps to improve their health so they can enjoy their travels more.

But at the same time, money can be a limiting factor. Forty-five percent of those surveyed say that money holds them back from visiting more of their bucket list destinations.

9 Creative Ways to Save for a Vacation

Boomers have an average of eight places on their bucket lists. (Compare that to less-traveled gen Xers, who average 12 places, and millennials, who average 15.)

The most common bucket list destinations are Hawaii, Alaska, California and Arizona in the United States and Australia, Italy, Ireland/U.K. and France internationally.

Which destinations are on your bucket list?

Bucket List Travel: Tips and Inspiration
8 Ways to Make Your Dream Trip a Reality

— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

This Friday’s challenge is a photo of an unidentified place somewhere in the world. Can you tell us where the photo was taken? Leave your guess in the comments below — and check back on Tuesday to see if you were right!

world destination


Hint: This ruin was used as a “Star Wars” filming site.

Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, March 13, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com prize. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Kirsten Hubbard, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery location was Tikal, Guatemala. Kirsten has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

See All “Where in the World?” Challenges

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Gird yourself: TSA security officers may get even more up close and personal with you on your next trip.

airport security


According to a report from Bloomberg, the TSA has consolidated five different pat-down options into a single method that’s more “comprehensive” and “more intrusive.”

The TSA is famously reluctant to offer details about security procedures. But one major change, Bloomberg noted in a subsequent report, is that screeners can now use the front of their hands, rather than just the back, on “sensitive areas of the body” such as the breasts, buttocks and genitals.

Travelers can elect to have their pat-down in public or private, with or without a witness. Screenings are performed by same-gender security officers.

According to Bloomberg, the new procedure is partly in response to a critical 2015 audit of the TSA’s screening procedures, which revealed that security officers had failed to find guns and other weapons.

Most travelers pass through security without having to undergo a pat-down. You may be subject to a pat-down if you opt out of a trip through the full-body scanner, or if the security officer decides you need additional screening for any reason.

Airport Security Q&A: Everything You Need to Know
10 Things Not to Do at Airport Security

— written by Sarah Schlichter

If T-shirts are among the souvenirs you’ve collected over your years of traveling, chances are you have a plentiful stock of vintage, too-small, faded or out-of-fashion tops cluttering your dresser drawers or storage room. But you can repurpose them into useful household items, home decor and new wearables without losing their charm.

t-shirts


1. Kids’ Clothes: An Alaskan mom named Natasha fashioned a baby onesie out of a vintage St. Thomas beach resort T-shirt and it couldn’t be cooler. Check out the tutorial on Knit Nat. You can make other children’s clothes too, including this adorable Savannah-themed sundress for a little girl from the blog Pretty Prudent.

2. Quilts: We’ve seen plenty of sports jerseys, cheerleading T-shirts and runners’ bibs fashioned into fleece-back quilts, so why not do the same with your travel T-shirts? Project Repat will snip and sew quilts using 16 to 64 T-shirts. The company takes a socially and environmentally conscious approach too, collaborating with manufacturers committed to providing jobs in the United States and using backing made from recycled fleece. If you have sewing skills, you could make your own quilt following these WikiHow instructions.

3. Tote Bags: In fewer than 15 minutes, you could turn an old T-shirt into a reusable tote bag — and you don’t even have to sew to do it. The small totes are sized right for trips to the grocery store. Here are instructions from Instructables.com for a no-sew tote. Apartment Therapy teaches you how to make T-shirt-based produce bags.

4. Pillowcases: How cute would it be to have a travel-themed sitting room decorated with your favorite photos and souvenirs on the walls and travel T-shirt pillows on the furniture? Snap Guide shows you how to make small pillows from T-shirts.

5. Artwork: With a square canvas and a staple gun, the image on an old T-shirt can become a work of art for your walls. Lifehacker provides simple instructions.

8 Things Not to Bring Home from a Trip
Shutterfly: Photo Albums in a Digital Age

— written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

This week’s puzzle is a country shapes quiz! Take a look at the silhouette and below and tell us which country you think it is.

mystery country


Enter your guess in the comments below. You have until Monday, March 6, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. ET to post your response. We’ll keep all comments private until then. On Tuesday we’ll choose one winner at random to receive an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Note: Although all are welcome to play, we can only ship prizes to the Continental U.S.

Editor’s Note: This contest has ended. The winner is Barbara Sampson, who correctly guessed that this week’s mystery country was Cuba. Barbara has won an IndependentTraveler.com logo item. Congratulations! Stay tuned for more chances to win.

— written by Sarah Schlichter

Hiking in Alaska? Strolling around Singapore? No matter the type of trip, a good daypack is a vital part of any traveler’s arsenal. I recently tested out the Matador Freerain24, a daypack that can be rolled up into a small storage bag when you’re not using it. Is this the right backpack for you? Read on.

matador freerain24 daypack


What We Liked
It’s waterproof. Aside from the front and side pockets, the bag is well sealed and will protect your stuff in a rainstorm.

It’s lightweight and space-efficient. The bag weighs just 5.5 ounces and folds up into a drawstring bag that fits in the palm of your hand.

It’s stronger than it seems. The fabric is so thin that I worried it would tear easily. But while the tag cautions users to keep the bag away from “abrasive surfaces and sharp objects,” I attempted to stab it with a pen and found it more puncture-resistant than it initially seemed.

It holds a lot. For such a lightweight pack, it holds more than you might expect. The main compartment has a 24-liter capacity, and I was able to get several garments into it along with books, snacks and a couple of bottles of water with no problem.

What We Didn’t Like
There aren’t many pockets. The main part of the bag is a single large compartment, with no internal pockets or slots to keep things organized. There is a vertical pocket on the front of the bag as well as two pockets on the sides for water bottles or other items.

It’s a little tricky to put back in the bag. If you struggle to refold a map or to squeeze everything back into your suitcase at the end of a trip, you might also have a hard time rolling this backpack into the right shape and size to fit back into its little storage bag.

matador freerain24 daypack


There’s no sternum strap. Many travelers rely on a strap across the chest to help stabilize the shoulder straps and balance the weight of the pack. That may or may not matter with such a lightweight daypack, but if a sternum strap is important to you, then you’ll need to add one yourself to the Freerain24.

It’s a little pricey. At $59.99, the Freerain24 costs more than many other daypacks on the market.

You can purchase the Freerain24 at the Matador website.

The 5 Worst Packing Problems and How to Solve Them
How to Pack Efficiently: 8 Products That Can Help

Editorial Disclosure: Some products are sent to us free of charge to be considered for review. We choose products to review based on their relevance and usefulness to our readers. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not promise any editorial coverage, particularly positive reviews.

–written by Sarah Schlichter

Have you ever tried to tell the story of something exciting or funny that happened on vacation, but you fell flat? Don’t feel bad, says storytelling coach Esther Choy, the founder and president of the Leadership Story Lab in Chicago. It happens to all of us.

esther choy skiing


Taking a break during a family ski vacation in Park City, Utah, Choy coached us on how to be a better storyteller when sharing our own travel tales.

Independent Traveler: In general, do you think most people are good or bad at storytelling?
Esther Choy:
Most people have wonderful stories buried in them. But there are a few things they can do to tell them better. What makes a novel a page-turner is that at every critical juncture of a plot, readers find out a bit more about the characters, and yet there is another cliffhanger. So the novel is intriguing their audiences.

You don’t need to handcuff yourself to recounting events as they unfolded per their chronological order. Telling stories involves an intriguing beginning, a riveting middle and a satisfying end. This three-act formula can generate an hour-plus-long story, or it can be a 30-second experience.

And you don’t have to be a superhero to tell great stories. Sure, if you’ve just climbed Kilimanjaro while hoisting your aging parents and barely walking toddler twins along, you’re a superhero. But a compelling tale can be as seemingly mundane as getting through a quarter of your reading list during a laid-back beach vacation. A great story relates the central theme of your story to a universality, a shared human experience.

IT: What other components make up a good travel tale?
EC:
You have to balance indulgences with an experience your listeners can relate to. Of course, if you’ve discovered the best ramen in the world, by all means, share that. But if your tale is mostly about touting one indulgence after another, then you’re creating a “Facebook updates” experience for your audience. Yawn!

A good travel tale has a well-balanced mix of new, pleasurable discovery and universal experience. Let’s say that after discovering your favorite ramen restaurant in Honolulu, you went overboard and ate ramen every day for five days. Then you had indigestion and didn’t love the ramen place as much. As you wrapped up your tale, you reflected on how even a little bit of self-restraint could have perfected the whole experience. In this story, discovering the best ramen is the indulgence. Exercising more self-discipline in order to preserve a wonderful experience is the universality.

IT: Before you start telling a story, what should you think through to make sure the story is well received?
EC:
Always keep your audience’s preference in mind. With an adventure story, some might be more intrigued by how you arrived at the best whitewater rafting part of the Grand Canyon. Some might wonder how you justified to your boss that taking a month off for this experience would make you a better employee.

No matter the preference, treat the storytelling more like a dialogue, implanting hooks for questions, rather than doling out one long monologue. In my upcoming book Let the Story Do the Work, I talk about how “aggressive listening” is a prerequisite for good storytelling. The main idea is that you want to incorporate what is important to your audience as you’re telling your stories.

IT: What should you do if you notice that your listener is losing interest?
EC:
It’s important to pay attention to signs of waning interest. They’re smiling too long. They’ve stopped mirroring your body language. They’re looking toward the door or at their phones.

Cliffhangers help. And if you’re telling a travel story in an informal setting, know that your story doesn’t have to be a monologue. Take advantage of natural back-and-forth of dialogue to break things up. Ask a rhetorical question — “Guess what happened next?” And use humor to re-engage interest.

IT: Does it help to show visuals, such as photographs or souvenirs?
EC:
Visuals can help, but be highly selective. A picture can speak a thousand words, but only if you’ve chosen a good one. For example, my husband and his friend are very advanced skiers. One day, they ventured to the peak of Red Pine Bowl in Park City. Once they summited, they saw a sign that said “You Can Die.”

As they shared their stories over dinner, all they said in the beginning was, “We HAVE to show you this sign.” And they refused to say anything else. This was highly effective because it left us wondering, what was that sign? Why wouldn’t they say anything else?

you can die sign


IT: Okay, you got us. What happened next?
EC:
On a ski lift, my husband Bernhard and his friend Nik met a local skier who recommended that they hike up to the top because the view was worth it. It was already toward the end of their day and they were tired. But then they thought, what the heck? Just as they reached the top, though, they saw the sign.

At this point during our dinner, Bernhard and Nik paused. With a smirk, Bernhard said, “This sign got me thinking…” And then his voice trailed off. Nik chimed in, “I wondered what would happen if…” His voice trailed off too.

I have witnessed Nik promised his wife not to do any double black hills with a cliff or anything “too risky” on several occasions. His wife and I looked at each other, and waited for more in full anticipation.

“So we took a left, followed the trail and went back down.” And that was that!

As you can see, in this little story no one got hurt and no one died. No one even attempted any highly risky act. The only highlight was the sign. Although the sign was a bit dramatic in its messaging, there wasn’t any other dramatic element in the whole story. But Bernhard and Nik know their wives well. They made full use of anticipation, pauses and dialoguing to tell this fun tale.

And by the way, the view was so worth it.

Check out more travel interviews!

What’s your favorite travel story?

8 Things Not to Bring Home from a Trip
The 6 Qualities of Highly Effective Travelers

— interview conducted by Elissa Leibowitz Poma