The final installment of my travel advice.
- Don’t be stupid- This one covers a lot of things, and I would hope it’s obvious but alas, travellers are stupid everyday so it’s on my list.
- Airports- different everywhere you go. Don’t be first in line, watch what others do and do it. They take off shoes, you take off shoes. They empty pockets, you empty pockets. Make sense? And don’t SAY anything stupid either, even as a joke. See item below, sarcasm doesn’t translate well.
- Immigration/customs- No country in the world wants you taking pictures or talking on your cell phone in this area, airport or port or otherwise. Leave the camera put away. Turn off the phone. Follow the leader here, it’s a good place to act like a lemming. People go to jail for screwing up here, don’t let it be you.
- We’d all like to think that if we do something by mistake someplace out and about our government will run right to our rescue. And they probably would. BUT do you really want your stupid decisions to be the lead story from Katie Couric? Know where you are, know the laws.
- Wallets-purses- Having been robbed while on a trip I can tell you it is no fun, that sinking feeling when you realize you have to fly home without photo-id? Guys, wallets in the front pocket. Ladies, small purses if you must carry one. Both, leave some cash somewhere else, like back at the hotel or in a different pocket.
- Shiny stuff- that awesome perfect diamond on your hand? The Tiffany’s such-and-such? Leave them at home. Sure they are pretty, but they scream “rob me”. Even if you SAY you would happily give it to a mugger, that split second you take to decide because you are wearing some jewelry with an emotional attachment could get you killed. Most global crime is petty stuff like robbery. When you comply, you live. When you don’t, they panic. Can’t be pretty. I am right this minute wearing my $38 Wal-mart issue wedding band with my fancy schmancy ring safe at home in Colorado (writing this from my hotel in Brazil).
- There is poverty- Realize that if you are fortunate enough in your life to have the computer access you need to read this, that you do not know poverty. True poverty is beyond your comprehension or mine. Be smart, don’t flaunt your riches, no matter how big or small, it is rude and it’s asking for trouble. Poverty can prompt people that are genuine honest and good people to do stupid things for survival; don’t get yourself in the middle of that.
- Medical emergencies- So I’ve broken a rib in Africa, a toe/foot in New Orleans and needed an emergency root canal in Hawaii (all in 2010 actually). Know basic first aid/first responder skills. I broke my rib in the middle of Kruger Park in South Africa, talk about pain. However, it was not my first broken rib; I had no breathing trouble, no bleeding and no desire to go to a hospital in the middle of the African bush. I knew warning signs, and was careful, and I saw my doctor the day after I came home. But I went right to the urgent care for my totally black and blue foot in New Orleans and sought care for my abscessed tooth in Hawaii as soon as I could with a random dentist from the phonebook. Sometimes you have a zone of safety, sometimes you just go. Know when and error on the side of caution. You know your comfort zone best, listen to your common sense.
- Arrive ready - You are flying from New York to Munich? You land at 7am? Be prepared to stay up until the end of the day, 8pm at least. You might need some (legal and safe) chemical sleep aid. Use it. Offer it to your kids too, everyone needs to be ready and no one wants to babysit your kid on the airplane when you’re drooling from your sleep meds.
- Read before you go- You should find a few good places for meals before you go. Hotel websites, travel websites, are all good sources. Bear in mind that one reviewer’s opinion might not be yours, but if three people had roaches crawl across their food, listen and avoid.
- Sarcasm does not translate well- That is all.
- Travel with kids- Small kids good, large kids good, medium sized ones, tough. When kids are small and portable, no big deal on long-distance travel. When they are teenagers and bigger and stronger than you, again good. It’s the darn in-between-ers that always got me into trouble. Curious enough to enjoy but curious enough to stray. I’m not suggesting you don’t take them, but I am suggesting you plan a little better. If they are old enough to wander around without being in a stroller, make sure they have in their pocket the name and address of your hotel, in the local language. Teach them it’s ok to go ask a stranger for help, the dangerous ones come to you.
- Know the difference between cultural and criminal. For example, in Japan, cover your tattoo, cultural. In Dubai, kiss your hubby in public, criminal. Big difference.
- Sometimes you should pay more attention thru your eyes than your lens. When I took our kids to a Dachau no one brought cameras. This was such an intense experience, I wanted to absorb it all, and have them absorb it all, without the sugar-coated view from a camera. Find these experiences too; these are the ones that change your life.
- Have fun! I am proud to say that I have personally bought and eaten Oreos on every continent except Antarctica (only because I’ve not been there yet). I have had the chance to share our world with my children and my husband and I love it. I love to see what there is to see and learn about those places. I love to watch people, even knowing they are watching me also. I am amazed by this world we share and I want to keep seeing new places until I’ve seen them all.