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Beware of Scams, Especially When Traveling

Beware of Scams, Especially When Traveling

    I think everyone I know has a trip planned for the next few weeks, trying to get in just a few more days of summer fun before fall really sets in. But as all the travelers come out, so do scammers ready to take advantage of people who aren’t exactly following their normal routines.

    Scams can be found anywhere: I visited Petra, where a local man tried to sell me pottery that he swore was over a thousand years old… too bad it looked exactly like someone had smashed up a brand new terra cotta pot. I’ve found scammers closer to home, too, including a guy wanting to sell me a magical gas-saving device before I even left on my journey.

    There’s really only one way to avoid getting scammed, and that’s recognizing a scam before you hand over any money. There are a few scams that target travelers in particular — try comparing these to any you hear along your journeys.

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    Gas-Saving Gadgets

    As gas prices have risen, anyone who drives has started looking for ways to cut their gas bill. Scammers of all sorts have seen an opportunity: they offer up all sorts of gas-saving gadgets for sale. There’s a wide variety of gadgets available for sale — some by manufacturers who don’t fit the traditional definition of a scammer.

    They all have one thing in common, though: they don’t work. There are products like the Magnetizer, which supposedly rearrange the ions in your fuel line and the Turbonator, which swirls air going into engines to improve fuel combustion. But the Federal Trade Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency have tested these products and they just don’t work. That includes those shilled by your gas station attendant and those found on television.

    Currency Exchanges

    While kiosks and banks are the recommended locations to exchange your money, there are other options. For instance, if you’re willing to make an exchange with someone on the street, you can often get a better rate.

    Of course, you can also wind up with bills and coins that are no longer in circulation or have your money entirely stolen.

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    Travel Deal Bait-And-Switch

    Travel packages tend to sell well — whether a hotel is offering free meals at its restaurant or groups are going together. But it’s incredibly easy for a hotel to change the terms of your package deal after you’ve arrived — what are you going to do, after all? Go home? What if home is hours away and you don’t know the area? Some hotels will wait until you’re checking out to present you with a bill, saying that the original package was invalid or something similar.

    If you’re traveling on some sort of package deal, double check the terms when you arrive and when you leave. And, always, get your deal in print!

    Travel to Closed Locations

    Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to travel to certain places. U.S. citizens, for instance, are forbidden from traveling to Cuba for tourism. But there are plenty of travel agents and fixers more than willing to arrange that trip, if you’re willing to pay.

    But with a trip of questionable legality, it becomes easier for something to go wrong. It’s not an uncommon scam for a travel agent to sell trips to Cuba or other off-limits countries. They’ll require a large deposit and, when the departure date draws near, announce that some government authority has blocked the trip. Who is to say otherwise?

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    Car Rental Insurance

    If you’re planning to rent a car while you travel, don’t automatically sign up for the rental company’s insurance policy. Check with your car insurance company and your credit card company — both usually offer some level of coverage for your car. Some rental agencies push hard to get you to take an insurance policy.

    For drivers who do get in an accident while driving a rental car, it’s absolutely crucial to keep an eye on the paperwork the rental agency issues: most impose a staggering number of fees. These can include towing, storage, impound fees, loss of use, diminished value and administrative services, and up to thousands of dollars. Unscrupulous rental agencies simply pile on the fees, expecting the customer will just pay.

    Counterfeit Merchandise

    There are some travel destinations that provide great shopping opportunities. Products are available for a tenth of their price elsewhere in some countries. Of course, these versions are almost always counterfeit.

    Counterfeit merchandise may not be a big deal, but if you’re thinking about buying cheap pharmaceuticals, it’s probably worth exploring other options. Counterfeits are so cheap because their manufacturers cut corners somewhere. In the case of pharmaceuticals, it’s often by cutting drugs with anything they can get their hands on, including toxins and poisons.

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    Fake Tickets

    If you buy tickets online — for a special event, an airplane ride or anything else — there’s at least a small risk that you’ll wind up with nothing but the paper you printed your ‘ticket’ on. The Beijing Olympics ran into this exact fraud. A scammer set up a very professional looking website (BeijingTickets.com) and sold over $50 million worth of tickets that they promised to then deliver to customers. Of course, no customers received tickets. Several other websites offered similar scams, as well.

    It’s worth noting that many of the tickets were purchased after the International Olympic Committee announced that tickets were officially sold out.

    Take Care of Yourself

    Not every hotel, car rental agency or salesman is dishonest. There really are some good travel deals out there. But when you’re offered an opportunity that really does seem to be too good to be true, it’s worth asking yourself why it seems so unbelievable. Maybe it really is too good to be true.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

    The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

    1. Understand Yourself Better

    Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

    Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

    2. Keep Track of Small Changes

    I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

    Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

    3. Become Aware of What Matters

    As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

    You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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    4. Boost Creativity

    The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

    When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

    You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

    5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

    A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

    Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

    6. Process Life Experiences

    When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

    Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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    7. Stress Relief

    In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

    Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

    8. Provide Direction

    Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

    One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

    9. Solve Problems

    Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

    Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

    When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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    10. Find Relief From Fighting

    Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

    Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

    11. Find Meaning in Life

    Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

    12. Allow Yourself to Focus

    Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

    13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

    When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

    14. Let the Past Go

    I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

    15. Allow Freedom

    Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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    16. Enhance Your Career

    Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

    Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

    17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

    All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

    18. Catalog Your Life for Others

    No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

    We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

    Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

    Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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