Traveling out of the United States and back can be quite a challenge, if you aren't savvy to all the ins and outs of various rules and regulations. It seems that every place has it's own airportology, so to speak ( I made that up).

The best advice I ever heard was a remark made about airports when my then 13 year old was traveling alone from Colorado to Boston. It is, "Airports were made for dummies." Yes, a bit caustic to hear at the time, but it gave us both confidence that she could travel by herself just fine. Since then, she has traveled by herself all over the world, and continues to do so!

I began truly traveling via plane out of country in 1999. That was a trip to Australia. Did you know that the longest direct flight on earth is from LAX to Sidney? Yes, 14 hours on a plane - I kissed the ground when I got off. Unfortunately for us (North Americans from Colorado), we arrived the day of the tragic Columbine shootings - it was all over Oz news. Eventually we made our way up to Darwin to Northern Territories University to visit a daughter who was studying there for her junior semester. Her friends were delighted to join us at dinner. When I asked if any of them had been to the states, one replied, "No, I'm afraid I'll get shot at."

Lesson number one: Do check the news from your country (or about your country) when arriving in another country. So much can happen in the travel time that you are gone. It is very helpful to be well informed, because you can bet that the foreigners are very interested in the United States in all levels. Political, economic, and celebrity news is very up to date with other countries. So, stay informed.
Grant Dixon photo - Machu Picchu
Next, in 2000, being the celebration of the millenium, and thinking that I had to travel somewhere very ancient and possibly of alien status, I went to Peru. The goal was to get to Macchu Picchu. My husband and I decided that we would "ruff" it with carry on backpacks only. Our last sort of hip trip. So we did. We flew into Lima about 11:30 pm, and were immediately surrounded by armed guards, escorted out of the airport, and told not to leave our pension until 4 pm the next day (which oddly enough was a Sunday). Ah, what we found out was that the run-off elections between Fujimori and Toledo were going on, and the country was literally up in arms. Our journey from Lima to Machu Picchu (via Cuzco) and then Arequipa, Lima was quite divine. Later I found out how blessed we were. Not only were there armed military all over, but traveling from within the country was a bit of a challenge. We ended up meeting a German travel agent who was in Lima from his business in Cuzco. He set us up on local airlines for flights to Cuzco. Strangely, the same flight had a cost difference for each of us, but we didn't ponder that long. We were just happy to get on with our journey. Besides, it seemed very inexpensive to us.

Years later I met some Peruvian young people who were "imported" to work at the local ski resort where we lived. I told them that I had been to their country, and answered their questions about my experience. They informed me that the flights within Peru were on airlines that don't exist anymore because they were drug running planes - dope smuggling!!! They said we were probably on a drug run, and didn't know it. Yup, we were, and nope, we didn't know it. The flight was a cargo flight as I recall. That is probably why we got such a cheap flight, we had thought.

Lesson number 2: Know the political and cultural scene of the country traveling to. Don't just count on the cultural positivities, or study about the historical nature.

Lastly, count your blessings, and share with the fellow travelers you meet, as well as the locals. Happy trails to you.