I”m not a world traveler. I have been to a couple of places that require a passport, and believe me, that’s enough to learn some lessons about the whole process. There has never been a horrible incident, no lost luggage, no missed flights, no horrible people to deal with, therefore I might not have the well rounded body of experience others might have under their belts. What I do have are awesome experiences and I give 80% of the credit to simple little things that might not seem important when you order those tickets, but when you are in line at the airport or sitting for hours on the plane, you might find them worth the effort.
This list is a work in progress:
Travel light – take the smallest bag you can manage to contain your necessities and enough squeeze room for anything you might buy on your trip. I like to avoid the baggage check if possible to save time and more bodily contact with frazzled strangers. I have a smallish duffel bag that holds about 3 changes of clothes, a handful of toiletries, my drawing pens, a pad of paper, and even an extra sweater/jacket. By the way, I don’t wear much makeup or require any specific beauty products so that helps with the light packing.
Camera Bag – I am a camera fan. I take it and use it like crazy. My husband it for me and along with it a wonderful camera bag that’s sturdy, black, long strap, lots of pockets that open and close easily and it has a great zip and clasp system that keeps everything save from the potentially roaming hands (I”m nt paranoid, but in this world there are people who do pick and take as they choose, so why make it easy?) So, this bag is perfect to strap over my shoulder, you know, that dorky way diagonally across my round body. It is a wonderful airplane bag. It is so sturdy that putting it on the floor, picking it up, putting it back on the floor, over and over it is like the dream bag!
Good Headphones – Whether it’s a long flight on which you will be watching movies or a short flight that only requires your mp3 collection, good headphones (and don’t forget the converter jack thing for the airplane plug) will block out most of the voices, and a lot of the hum of the plane. I like the hum, not the voices, so on a 7-9 hour flight a little break from the environmental noises is a good thing.
Batteries, Cables, Converters, Electronics – Plan ahead for what you need for your gadgets. If you have room in your smallish duffel bag, take a battery charger and just a couple sets of rechargables. If you are going someplace where you can find the batteries you need, just buy them on the road, no need to take up space. Cables to charge your phone, your mp3 player, etc. doesn’t take up much space so shove it in there. If you are going to another country, LOOK IT UP and find out what kind of electric plugs you need. You can find a cheap converter online, order ahead,shove it in the bag….trust me on this. If you want to use your cellphone while you are abroad, LOOK IT UP, not every phone works everywhere.
Passport Location Location Location – Commit to ONE Place you will be keeping your passport, ID< tickets, boarding passes, and any other documents you will need. Don’t burythem in a deep bag in the bottom where you have to struggle every time you need to get them, or when you do get them out you might be pulling a shitload of other stuff out onto the floor in the process. I am NOT a fan of those pack things people hang around their necks, not my style, but if that’s your kind of thing go for it. Convenience and speed are the key words for this whole thing with your personal papers and whatnot.
The Company You Keep – If you are going to stay with or travel in close proximity to a “friend” think long and hard about your relationship. If your stay will be more than a week consider your personalities? Is someone a clean freak? Is someone a control freak? Is someone always late? Is someone a stickler for schedules? Is someone needy and clingy? Are you the type who needs some personal space at the start or end of each day? Seriously, this might not sound important now as you skim through my little tips, but when the shit hits the fan and you are in another country dependent on someone you might not know as well as you thought you did, it can crush your little enthusiastic traveling heart.
Sleep – If you are brainwashed to think you will suffer from jet lag, get over it. You are on a trip, loosen up, you can sleep when you get home…rest as you need, but if you fixate on the whole time change thing you will ruin the trip for yourself and bore the crap out of the people around you.
Internet – It’s everywhere, but it’s a good idea to do some research ahead of time to find those little internet cafes and hot spots. Check out any reviews that highlight security, reliability, etc.
Tourism – Try to skip the big blah blah blah tourist attractions. It’s nice to see the big stuff, sure, but be original. Find the out of the way places where tourists aren’t rounded up like cattle on buses, fanny pack wearing cattle. It all just seems so mindless to me. I like quality, not quantity of experiences. “The most popular pub in town” sounds like a nightmare to me. A place on the fringe with locals and no flat TV’s on the wall sounds awesome.
Early Bird Catches the Good Attitude – Be EARLY to everything. Get to the airport 2 or more hours early if it’s international. If not, gauge accordingly. I like airports and it’s so much better to wait, watch people, have a cup of coffee and relax, than to rush rush rush and feel like the weight of the whole travel industry is on your shoulders because you have to run through 6 concords as your plane finishes boarding. Plan your connecting flights the same way. Yes, you want to get there, so do I, but to have extra time between flights is a truly wonderful thing. Walk around, check out the airport, get a seat in your boarding area and take a deep breath. I like to be relaxed, not hurried. Most of the time anything that goes wrong or the stress you feel is probably because you didn’t plan ahead and give yourself enough time to just soak up the journey part of your trip.
Don’t be an Asshole – You know exactly what I mean. Don’t bitch at the lady at the counter because the computer is slow. Don’t roll your eyes at the folks in front of you because they are speaking another language. Don’t yell at your kids. Don’t chomp your gum, slurp your beverage, throw trash on the floor, bark at the flight attendant, push or kick on the seat in front of you, and for the love of the god of your choice, DO NOT jump up when the plane hits the ground and block the aisle like a child waiting to sit on Santa’s lap….it’s sooooo annoying. Just be quiet, calm, don’t interfere with other people and their travel experience. If you want to be an obnoxious ass, get in your car and drive drive drive.
Body Oder – Take a shower before you leave your house or hotel room!! You might be alone in our life with your stinky armpits and crusty ass (my imagination running wild), but you are NOT alone in this world, or on an airplane, or in an airport, or on a bus. Take your stand against the bourgeois deodorized world at work or at home where people are used to your stench.