Tips to Consider for your Next Travel Adventure
I may not be much of a traveler now, but I do have a little knowledge in the field: by the time I was 23, I had spent an entire summer traveling across the U.S., spent another summer on a five-week Southwest tour of this country’s national parks (I was the only American on that TrekAmerica trip), and spent seven weeks abroad in Eastern Europe with my best friend – my Eurail pass. That’s on top of road trips down the Blue Ridge Parkway in the U.S., spring breaks in the Keys and the Bahamas, two-week vacations with my family to visit relatives throughout New England, and much more.
Here are some things I learned:
1. By all means, blend in when you can: There’s nothing that says ‘tourist’ quite as much as when you carry around a tour book or a map. While this might be OK when you are on an “official” tour, say of the Vatican, it can really make you stand out when by yourself or just with a few others. This could make you fall prey to those who want to take advantage of you — be that a side alley deal for a unique tour of your own, or someone who wants to gut you of your finances and run. It’s not a lie that there are Gypsies in Rome, after all, and there’s nothing like being pick-pocketed while on a bus (possibly the only thing that didn’t happen to me!).
2. Try and let people — any people — know where you are. While I still remain in disbelief that my parents allowed me to travel around Europe by myself at age 22 with nothing but my Eurail pass and a general plan to land in Amsterdam and start my travels off at the pad of some friends I had met while working at a U.S. YMCA summer camp, it would have been much smarter to have an actual plan. Of course, cells phones weren’t ubiquitous then, but that’s no excuse for the fact no one knew whether I was getting kicked out of a bar in the Red Light District of Amsterdam, spelunking in some random cave in Hungary, or being thrown in jail in The Czech Republic (all of which happened, but aren’t necessarily things I’m fond of recalling.)
3. Make copies of all your important documents and stash these back-ups in as many places as you can. Nothing scared me quite as much as when I ended up after-hours at an Austrian hostel and didn’t have any money to pay for a room. The front-desk clerk, who surely wouldn’t be the same person as the one there in the morning, offered to take my passport off my hands until I was able to get cash in the morning. I don’t think I even had a Xeroxed copy of that passport on me, but it was either get a good night of sleep or find a place to hang out outdoors on a cold Austrian night. I went with the former, and fortunately my passport was there in the morning. I don’t know if a Xeroxed copy would have done much, but I’ve learned since then that when traveling and in life in general, it pays to have copies of important papers.
4. Do some sort of advance planning. Don’t be completely spontaneous on your travels. I’ll never forget the time I ended up staying at “Hotel Joy” in Athens – a place I picked off the street as I walked by. My “room” was full of Yugoslavian refugees whose possessions were spaced off by their cots; I literally slept with my backpack on for fear that my socks or something more might disappear. And then there was the Frank-Sinatra singing. One of the Yugoslavian refugees who proposed to me – I’d like to make it clear right here and now that I did not marry that man and, in fact, held off on marriage until much later in life.
5. Don’t travel with an external frame back-pack. I don’t even know if they make these nowadays, but “they” say the advantage to these backpacks is the support they provide to your back. That may be true, but these backpacks are less than useful when it comes to a “jam” – say when that backpack frame gets you stuck in the telephone booth-sized elevator taking you to the second floor of Hotel Joy. They’re also not useful when exiting from a train – unless you enjoy having the upper frame lodge itself on the train door while you’re disembarking. The awkward jump-like movements you’ll have to make to dislodge yourself from the door will forever be seared into your European adventure memories.
Travel your own way
I don’t know if these tips have scared you off or made you want to head right out the door. Certainly, before my own daughters are possessed by any wild-and-crazy travel ideas, they’ll be filing a full-fledged travel itinerary with me – and that’s after I clandestinely place tracking devices in their backpacks.
Maggie O’Neill is an online editor, mother of two, and an outdoors enthusiast. She stays up to date on the latest news on online schooling with plans to expanded her education. Most importantly, she’s been looking forward to her next travel adventure since her return trip from Eastern Europe – a trip to Africa when she turns 50!