Uncategorized

Real Venezuela

Real Venezuela 560 314 Greg Ellifritz

I’m not much of a YouTube watcher, but this Venezuelan travel documentary sucked me in.  I highly recommend that you check it out if you would like to see the reality of life for Venezuelans.

Venezuela is the one Latin American country I haven’t visited.  I regret not going there 15 years ago when it was much safer.

 

2 WEEKS IN VENEZUELA (full documentary)

 

Developing World Problems in the USA

Developing World Problems in the USA 640 480 Greg Ellifritz

I was once on a snorkeling excursion in Aruba.  On the boat, I heard an older couple speaking Spanish with a very distinctive Argentine accent.  They were the only Spanish speakers on the boat and seemed a bit confused with the captain’s English snorkeling instructions.

 

I introduced myself in Spanish and translated the captain’s instruction for the couple.  We began chatting in Spanish.  They told me they lived in Bariloche, Argentina, but were trying to get residency in the United States.  Bariloche is a beautiful, high dollar ski resort town.  I had visited the city on past trips to South America.

 

The couple wanted to move to inland Florida.  I was kind of confused.  I asked them why they would leave their beautiful home to live in a Florida swamp.  The woman replied “Because everything works in America.

 

She went on to describe how in Argentina, none of the utilities worked reliably, food supplies were inconsistent,  the roads were bad, and  government corruption was rampant.  She said that as the couple aged they learned to appreciate the boring reliability of an American existence.

 

The woman had a good point, but things have changed significantly in the five years since I had that conversation.

 

I’ve been traveling quite a bit all over the United States.  So far this year I’ve taught or taken 37 days of out-of-state classes.  I was in eight different states last month.  In addition to my busy teaching schedule, I’ve taken two short vacations in Florida and one in California.  I’m starting to think that the United Sates is rapidly becoming a third world country.  The things that once “worked” don’t work the same way anymore.  The decline is stunningly similar to what I’ve experienced in my travels in the developing world.

 

Here are a few things I’ve noticed in the last couple months of my domestic travel.

 

Airline issues– Up until about five years ago, when taking a flight in South America or Africa, one had to call the airline the day before the flight to ensure that the flight was still scheduled.  The flights were notoriously unreliable and the airlines wanted to avoid dealing with irate customers at the airports.

 

I’ve flown 46 flights this calendar year.  Twenty-nine of them were delayed or cancelled.  American airline reliability is now no better than some of the worst airlines in rural Africa.

 

Police uniforms- In the developing world, cops have very inconsistent uniforms.  They often wear jeans with a uniform shirt.  They lack equipment that American cops would consider mandatory.  Seeing a cop with only a handgun and no ancillary gear is really common in third world countries.

 

Last month I was stopped for speeding in rural Oklahoma.  The cop approached my car.  He was wearing a polo shirt and khaki pants.  No body armor.  No camera.  He was wearing a leather trouser belt instead of a duty rig.  He had a Glock in a thumbreak leather pancake holster and a police radio hanging off his trouser belt.  Nothing else.  No OC spray.  No Taser.  No handcuffs.  No baton.  No flashlight.  He looked like a security guard from El Salvador.
The cop was very nice and graciously let me off with a warning.  Given the uniform he was wearing I half expected him to solicit a bribe like his third-world counterparts.

 

Gas station irregularities.  I was driving in rural northern Texas and needed to stop for gas.  I pulled off the highway and up to a gas pump.  The attendant came out of the station to tell me that the station had no gas and wouldn’t be getting anymore for several days.

 

I went across the street to another station.  All the pumps had signs stating that the credit card processors were all broken.  It took stopping at a third station to get my gas.

 

 

A week later, I stopped at a gas station in rural Arkansas.  They had functioning gas pumps, but I noticed the doors to the store were propped open and fans were blowing.  I walked in to use the bathroom and the attendant apologized for the lack of air conditioning.  He told me that the station’s aircon had been out for a few days and they couldn’t schedule a repair person to come fix it.

 

I proceeded to the restroom and saw this sign over the toilet.

 

 

Such signs (coupled with a small trash can next to the toilet) are commonplace in South and Central America where they have substandard plumbing and water pressure.  I’ve never seen one in the United States.

 

On my way home during the same trip, I stopped at a gas station in Louisville, Kentucky.  I tried my credit card and the machine flashed a message stating “see attendant.”  I went inside the station.  The attendant told me that none of their pump credit card readers had worked “for weeks.”  He had no idea if they would ever be repaired.

 

I would expect such conditions at a third world gas station, but I’ve never seen so many gas station issues in the United States.

 

Hotel Problems- I stayed the night at a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee on a trip to Ohio.  The hotel was cheap, but promised a hot breakfast.  When I went to the common area to eat the next morning, I found it locked.  The hotel worker said that they haven’t had hot breakfast since Covid began.  They can’t find the staff to cook and man the breakfast station.

 

I’ve noticed that even in nicer hotels, there is no air conditioning in the hallways, stairwells, and common areas.  That’s a common money saving trick in the developing world, but I don’t remember ever encountering it here.

 

I was checking in to a Holiday Inn Express near Little Rock, Arkansas.  The front desk person answering the phone told all the callers that the reservation system was down nationwide and they would have to call back tomorrow and try to reserve the room again.

 

Having been tricked by the lack of breakfast in the Memphis hotel, I began packing my own breakfasts.  In a nice hotel in Boca Raton, Florida I went to the lobby to get some coffee to accompany my packed breakfast.  No luck.  All of the hotel’s coffee makers were broken.  When have you ever seen that in the United States?

 

Most American hotels are still not providing room cleaning on a daily basis.  I’ve spent some time this year in both Mexico and Colombia.  Those developing world hotels at least had daily maid service.  Not in America.

 

Food shortages–  Last weekend I taught near Dayton, Ohio.  I stopped at a local Chipotle to get some food.  These signs were hanging over the cash register.

 

 

When spending time in Bolivia, Cuba, Tanzania, and Cambodia I became used to restaurants not having items that were listed on their menus.  I don’t recall ever dealing with that problem here in the USA.  This national restaurant chain restaurant was out of coins, salad dressing, lettuce, and vegetables.  Not very encouraging.

 

The grocery stores I visited in Colombia were better stocked than most of the places I’ve shopped in the last few months.

 

Heightened security– In poor areas of the developing world, stores keep valuable items behind the counter to prevent theft.  I’m seeing more and more security countermeasures being employed by grocery stores and carry outs here as well.  I stopped at a carryout near Los Angeles and was shocked to find that all the refrigerated cases were secured with padlocks.  The store clerk said that the shoplifting problem is so bad that they couldn’t leave the beer, milk, and Gatorade unlocked.

 

It reminded my of this convenience store I visited in a dodgy area of Medellin last month.  All the goods were behind bars.  You told the clerk what you wanted and he would pass the items to you through the iron bars after you paid for them.

 

One characteristic of the developing world is that all of the residents have lost complete faith in their police officers.  The cops are corrupt, scared, or ignorant.  They don’t do much for the local populations.

 

Residents with money hire private armed security guards to keep crime out of their neighborhoods.  A couple years ago, I predicted that this would soon become a trend in the USA as well.  My prediction is coming true.  I just read this headline today Crime in New York Causes a Block to Hire Armed Security.

 

I don’t know what to think of these disturbing changes.  I don’t know how to fix things.  I think it’s only going to get worse in the future.  Within the next decade, it’s possible that the United States will be downgraded to an economic “second world” nation.  All the signs are here.  Pay attention and have a plan to live a far less luxurious lifestyle in the future.

 

I never thought I would be considering my travels in the developing world as critical training and experience for navigating everyday life in the USA.  I predict a rough ride ahead.

 

My Argentinian friends were wrong.  Not everything “works” in America.  It might be time to start looking at other places to live.

 

Masks for Travelers

Masks for Travelers 940 940 Greg Ellifritz

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and am seeing a gradual increase in public mask wearing across the country and worldwide.

 

 

I was in Colombia last month.  There were no mask requirements when I arrived.  In less than three weeks, masks were required in the airport and on all flights to and from the country.  At the same time I had friends traveling in Germany, Iceland, and Bali.  All reported that masks were mandatory in those countries when utilizing any type of public transportation.  In fact, Germany is considering reinstating travel restrictions in addition to mandating masks.

 

 

Two weeks ago I flew through the Columbus, Ohio airport.  All airport staff (police, airline staff, TSA, restaurant employees) were required to wear masks in the airport.  The US Government even suggested masks as a preventative measure against monkeypox (but later retracted this advice).  Clearly, masks don’t seem to be going anywhere soon.  I worry that they might become mandated everywhere again when Covid-19 kicks up this winter.

 

 

I personally question the effectiveness of wearing cloth masks.  I caught Covid last year in Ecuador despite wearing surgical masks in all public places in the country.

 

Wearing a mask while waiting for a Covid test as I was dying in Ecuador

 

The evidence is pretty clear that if you really want to protect yourself, you need to wear an N95 or equivalent respirator.  I would never discourage anyone from wearing one of those.  Here are some options for acquiring them.

 

 

It’s the cloth masks that bother me.  They seem useless in preventing the wearers from getting sick.  They may have some utility in preventing already sick people from spreading large liquid droplets to uninfected folks.  In my mind, a better option is encouraging sick folks to stay home rather than putting everyone in cloth masks.

 

Not looking forward to going back to this

 

Even though I don’t believe the hassle of wearing cloth masks is worth the marginal protection they provide, I don’t like to make waves.  I prefer to be “the grey man” as much as possible.  Nothing attracts unwanted attention from many different types of people than refusing to wear a mask where it is a community standard to be masked in public.

 

 

There is another answer.  For the last year, I have been wearing masks made by Fake Masks Worldwide.  The masks are comfortable.  They are super thin and don’t impede my breathing nearly as much as other masks.

 

 

While the company makes fake N95 masks and fake surgical masks, I have no experience with those.  I have been wearing the Double Incognito and Triple Incognito masks.  Of the two, I prefer the Triple Incognito.  It’s very easy to breathe through and appears to be more solid than the Double Incognito.

 

The Triple Incognito Mask

 

I’ve worn the Triple Incognito all over the world during the pandemic.  No one has ever noticed that it is virtually sheer.  I haven’t found any other masks on the market that are as comfortable to wear.

 

 

I will caution you that the Fake Masks Worldwide site is very clearly right-wing and sells items making fun of Progressive politicians.  I just ignore that junk.  I don’t do politics.  Fair warning that if you are left leaning, you probably won’t like the website that sells these masks.

 

 

If you’ve taken training with me, you know I’m all about providing people with options.  This is an option for those of you who want to appear like you are complying with mask mandates while still being able to breathe somewhat normally. I think this is a far safer solution that refusing to wear masks and attracting negative attention from folks that may endanger your physical safety.

 

I set up an affiliate link with the company to get you all a discount if you are interested.  If you buy them through this link, you’ll get a 10% discount on your order.

Gritty Travel Writing

Gritty Travel Writing 1280 871 Greg Ellifritz

Check out the links below.

 

I like this kind of travel writing. Authors who aren’t afraid to talk about corrupt cops, cockfighting, and prostitution keep my attention much better than those who only show pretty pictures.

This is the grittier side of Ecuador and the D.R.

 

As a side note, the “ghost town” mentioned in Ecuador is very close to where I was staying last summer when I got sick with Covid-19.

 

The Other Side of Ecuador 🇪🇨

Notes on the Dominican Republic

 

Online Training Courses

Online Training Courses 150 150 Greg Ellifritz

One of the good things that has come out of Covid-19 social distancing is that many companies are improving their online training technology.  Those changes can help international travelers.  There are now a plethora of online classes one can take.

 

I recently found these two article recommending online back country safety and outdoor skills classes.  If you are stuck at home and want to learn new things, these look like great options.  Some of them are even free.

Stay Safe in the Backcountry: Take a Free Online Course

Prepare for Your Next Backcountry Adventure With These Online Outdoor Skills Courses

 

 

Travel Quotes

Travel Quotes 1000 1500 Greg Ellifritz

I really enjoy reading motivational quotes.  If you were paying attention, you’ll notice that I introduced every chapter of my book with a relevant quote that helped support the material.

 

Here are some cool travel quotes that might brighten your day.  Enjoy.

 

100 Best Travel Quotes of All Time (with Photos & Captions) to Inspire You to Travel the World

Travel Inspiration for a New Year

Travel Inspiration for a New Year 1000 667 Greg Ellifritz

I’d like to start the year with some informative inspiration.  I find quotes to be incredibly motivating.  Here are some very powerful words of wisdom to consider in the new year.

 

The 77 most inspirational travel quotes ever penned

 

My favorite is the quite simple, but profound advice from the Dalai Lama:

21. “Once a year, go somewhere you’ve never been before.”
The Dalai Lama

 

If everyone would follow that advice, most people would be far more happy.

 

I wish you all the best in 2021.

 

 

A Funny Travel Narrative

A Funny Travel Narrative 790 489 Greg Ellifritz

I  laughed as I read this story and thought you folks might enjoy it as well.  I could easily see something like this happening during one of my travels.  So far I’ve been lucky.  I’ve slept in some nasty places, but I’ve never booked a room in a brothel before.

 

Sleeping In An Ethiopian Brothel. By Accident.

Earthquake Survival

Earthquake Survival 693 494 Greg Ellifritz

I have an entire chapter in my book titled: SURVIVING EARTHQUAKES, TSUNAMIS, AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS.

 

You should know in advance if you are traveling in an earthquake-prone country.  If you are, it is prudent to identify nearby earthquake emergency shelters in advance.  These shelters are often pre-identified in tourist areas and hotels.  Pay attention to the signs so that you know where to go should the ground start moving.

The international symbol for a safe area in the event of an earthquake is a sign with a green cross-hatched design.

 

If you are caught outside a shelter area, cover your head/neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling objects.  It goes without saying that you should avoid areas that have heavy objects overhead.  Remove anything hanging on the wall near your bed so that you aren’t crushed in your sleep.  If you are inside a building, take cover under a very heavy table against an inside wall or in a sturdy (load bearing) doorway.   Move away from windows.   If you are in a mall or larger department store, stay away from the tall display cases and larger panes of glass. Crowded venues like sporting arenas should be avoided.  The panicked crowd will likely cause more injuries than the earthquake itself.

 

As soon as you recognize that an earthquake may be happening or is immanent, find adequate shelter and gather both your first aid kit and a bright flashlight/headlamp.  Those items will likely be the first things that you need should your sheltering structure be damaged by the quake.

 

If the electricity goes out, don’t use open flames for cooking or for light.  There is a good chance that natural gas lines have ruptured in the quake.  You really don’t want to blow yourself up.

 

Expect aftershocks.  Some of these will be as bad as the initial earthquake.  Be alert for the possibility of flooding or tsunamis after an earthquake.  If you are in a low-laying area or coastal region, move to higher ground.

 

Want some more information?  Read my friend Daisy’s article:

How to Survive an Earthquake (and Its Aftermath)

 

 

 

Condoms for Travelers

Condoms for Travelers 636 848 Greg Ellifritz
I’ve had some questions from readers about the strong recommendations in my book to bring condoms from home when traveling.

 

Condoms are notoriously difficult to find in developing countries.  The locally-made rubbers that you can find will have a much higher breakage rate than condoms manufactured in the USA, Europe, and Japan.

 

Condom sizes are also different from what you might find in the USA.   Condoms in Asia and South America are sized several millimeters smaller in both length and diameter than their counterparts in the United States.  Asian “large” size condoms are sized smaller than the “regular” sized condoms found in the USA.

 

Additionally, if you are latex sensitive, you are unlikely to find any non-latex alternative condoms in the developing world.  You will stay much safer from sexually transmitted infections if you bring condoms from your home country.

Then you have issues like this:

Police seize 324,000 used condoms being washed ready to be resold

Thousands of used condoms recycled for illegal sale

 

Bring condoms from home if there is even the slightest chance you might need one.

 

Condoms (the unlubricated ones) also work well as emergency water carriers in a survival situation.  It’s useful to carry a few on your travels, even if you don’t plan on using them for their intended purpose.  You can fill a condom with a tremendous amount of water.  If you use this water transportation method in a survival situation, place the condom full of water inside a sock for protection during transport.

 

Don’t tie the neck like a balloon.   It will be difficult to untie when you need to get to the water.  Use a piece of string or cloth to tie off your emergency water carrier instead.

“Painful urination? You may have a sexually transmitted disease.”
Sign on Brazilian restroom wall. Wear a condom.