Think of tours as an adventure
Tours can be terrific ["Giving Group Tours a Much Better Name," On the Spot by Catharine Hamm, Jan. 17]. You just have to pick the company with the itinerary that suits you.
Many people are worried they won't like the other tour members and so avoid all tours. My wise father always reminded me that making friends is the easiest thing in the world. It's true, and isn't that what travel teaches us? Particularly on a tour with people from our own country? Shouldn't we learn to accept each other?
Yes, travel is about seeing beautiful or historic places, but what makes a trip memorable is an afternoon coffee at a sidewalk cafe on the Ringstrasse in Vienna and speaking with local businessmen, or enjoying a trip to a brew house in Tromso, Norway, with Germans, Brits and Aussies and listening to a Norwegian storyteller. Or speaking and joking with Muslim shopkeepers in Amsterdam or with locals on the bus or tram.
Most tours offer those opportunities to strike out on your own. They provide an overview. Nothing prevents you from going back to explore on your own at a later date.
Dennis van Bremen
A child's life
I just returned from my 11th trip to Myanmar and was getting caught up on reading past issues of the Travel section, so I was excited to see the "Your Scene" photo of the young monk from Amarapura ["Lunch Break in Myanmar," Dec. 27].
However, I would like to clarify some misconceptions. Every Myanmar Buddhist male is expected to live and study in a monastery at least twice in his life — the first time between the ages of 10 and 20, and once again after the age of 20. The time can be as short as one week or as long as a few years. Many families who can't afford the government public schools (students must pay for uniforms and school supplies in order to attend) send their boys to the monasteries for the free education and housing. The child in the photo is not necessarily predestined to be a monk. I have worked in mobile medical clinics at monasteries there since 2008. I can assure you that these are normal children — playful, fearful, mischievous.
Save and savor
Regarding "6 Ways to Save for That Trip" by Catharine Hamm, Jan. 17: Here are more suggestions for saving money while dining out on the road:
1. Don't order drinks — liquor or soft. Get lemon or lime with water.
2. Split a salad or the main dish.
3. Have dessert at home or get ice cream somewhere else.
4. Skip coffee at the restaurant.
Any of the above saves lots of money, yet allows you to dine at lovely restaurants.
Some Medicare supplement insurance plans will cover cruise ship claims if the visit was an emergency [Letters, June 10 and 17]. Many claims are denied because people just don't know how to file them. I know because I used to reject those claims at a leading health insurance company.
Get an itemized bill from the doctor before you leave the ship. A copy of the cruise ship statements or credit card receipts are not itemized. The bill should consist of a diagnosis (reason of the visit), procedure (what treatment was given) and the name of oral or injection drugs. They all should be priced individually, with the name of the doctor and license or ID number.
Many people do not know that Medicare never covers you when you travel out of the country. Note that some HMO Medicare Advantage plans will cover up to $50,000 in case of emergency or urgent care.