Saturday, June 29, 2013

With a Mission, But Without a Plan: How to Travel Like James Bond -bootsnall article

When one is in Egypt, one should delve deeply into its treasures.”
-James Bond, The Spy Who Loved Me

James Bond knows how to meet women. Wherever he is in the world, he somehow manages to have a beautiful woman at his side. He also knows how to order a drink. With his impeccable taste, he asks, “Vodka Martini. Shaken, not stirred.” And he is always prepared for the bad guys. Bond is rarely surprised, even when the henchmen are waiting for him in his hotel room.But Bond is more than just a ladies man, drink aficionado and paid assassin. He is the quintessential world traveler. He travels with sophistication and style, bringing along the coolest of gadgets and easily making friends with  the locals. Which Bond is this quintessential world traveler? Certainly not Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan. It would have to be the one and only Sean Connery. Connery was the first Bond actor, starring in six James Bond films, and many people (myself included) consider him the definitive Bond.
As a kid, I used to watch James Bond movie marathons on television with my dad. It was a kind of bonding experience (no pun intended), and watching the movies opened my eyes to wanderlust and traveling abroad. The movies were shot in beautiful locations across the world, with beautiful women, cool gadgets, and lots of action. At that time, I wanted to be like James Bond. Having spent the last seven months in South America, I came close to reaching that childhood dream. At least as much as I could have without actually being a hired assassin.

The James Bond movies are still a great motivator for leaving your home country to explore the world. But you don’t need to watch Dr. No or Goldfinger to learn how to travel abroad like Bond. Just keep reading.

Leave with a mission, but without a plan


James Bond always leaves with a mission, one that involves stopping megalomaniacal madmen from taking over the world. But he doesn’t leave with a plan. Miss Moneypenny doesn’t book all of Bond’s hotel rooms and plane tickets in advance. If she did, how would Bond ever catch the bad guys? Plans are boring and rigid. Missions, on the other hand, are interesting and flexible.
When planning a trip, you could make it your mission to learn Spanish. Learn paragliding. Or hike Machu Pichu. This would keep your trip interesting and allow you flexibility. When I headed to South America, my mission was to learn Spanish. I didn’t have any travel plans. After seven months, choosing a mission over a plan had served me well. I learned Spanish and was able to stay in my favorite cities longer. I had four homestays, met more locals than your average tourist, and had an incredible travel experience.
As a caveat, traveling with a mission versus a plan won’t work for shorter one or two week trips. But if you have the time, traveling slow and with a mission is the way to go. It is more affordable, flexible, and you will have a deeper experience in each country. If you have less time, you may decide to visit as many countries or landmarks as you can. Just be aware that this type of travel may be a more-touristy and less-profound experience. But if you are time-constrained or get bored easily, it may be your best option.
>> Get inspired by reading about travel missions others have undertaken 

Be prepared for the bad guys


“His name’s Jaws. He kills people.”
-James Bond, Moonraker
James Bond is rarely surprised by bad guys. And when he is, he takes quick action. Sometimes, the henchmen are hiding in his hotel room. Other times, Bond sneaks into their turf and surprises them first. And sometimes they are not “guys” at all, but seductresses that lure him in for the kill.
You will be dealing with a different type of bad guy. The one that wants to steal your things or money. If you do your research before you leave, traveling can be very foreign and exotic without being dangerous. Often times, you will be safer abroad than you would’ve been in your home country. You just need to research where you are going beforehand. Check out Wikipedia’s list of countries by intentional homicide rate. This list may not be completely accurate (especially as in many countries the violence is not directed at tourists), but it is still worthwhile to check out.
The U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings and UK FCO Travel Advice also offer a breakdown of country-specific travel warnings, and travel guidebooks will tell you the common schemes of local robbers, but the very best way to learn about the current situation in a given country is to talk to other travelers who are there now.  Reports are often inflated by the media, so follow the blogs or twitter streams of people in the place you plan to visit, or talk to others in travel forums like the BootsnAll boards.
In addition to doing research on your travel destination, you can be better-prepared by bringing secure travel gear. There is no stopping someone with a wire cutter, but it makes sense to take the basic precautions so your gear doesn’t get stolen. When traveling overseas, I bring a slash-proof day pack, backpack cable lock, and a slash-proof wallet with a zipper and chain which I attach to my belt.
As a general rule, always be aware of your surroundings. Like James Bond, you must always be conscious of what’s going on around you. When I was in Peru, I took out my credit card from the ATM, and a passerby quickly switched it with a fake card. If I hadn’t yelled for help and chased after the man, I would’ve never gotten the card back. Luckily, all turned out well.
>> Check out some of the most dangerous destinations in the world 

Get help from the locals and always have a “fixer”


How many times does James Bond hang out with tourists? Never, except when he is messing up their trip while chasing after the bad guys. He does, however, make friends with the locals (and sometimes more than friends with the local ladies), who often help him accomplish his mission. If you want a deeper travel experience, and a chance to learn the local language, you should do the same.
One of the easiest ways to make friends with locals is to find a homestay with a family. How do you do this? Going through your hostel or tour guide staff is the best and cheapest strategy. Stay in a hostel for a few days and then ask your hostel manager or tour guide about homestay options.
For example, when I was in Salta, Argentina, I stayed at the aunt of my hostel manager’s house for one month. My homestay there was an amazing experience and the highlight of my trip. As another example, in Arequipa, Peru I was introduced to a friendly local Peruvian with a room for rent through my bus tour guide on my first day there. He took me in as his roommate for over a month. In both cases, I ended up paying much less than the cost of a hostel, made lots of friends, and learned more Spanish. If you join a language school, most will offer a homestay option to you. Be aware that it will be more expensive as the language schools take a big cut from your homestay rent.
The more locals you meet, the bigger your network of trusted friends – friends who can help you stay safe, be your “fixer” in a jam, and point you towards the best and lesser-know attractions – grows.
>> Get tips for meeting people on the road 

Meet beautiful women (or handsome men)


“Do you know a lot about guns, Mr. Bond?”
“No, but I know a little about women.”
-Largo and James Bond, Thunderball
Wherever he travels, James Bond has no trouble meeting members of the opposite sex. You should have no problem either. As a foreigner in a different country, you will be considered exotic. The ladies (or men) will probably be much more interested in you than those in your home country. (This is especially true if you are from a rich country and visiting a poorer country, and unfortunately can leave to exploitation of the locals).
You can try meeting women or men at clubs and bars, but beware that the people there may be after you for your money or visa (called “visa hunters”). I’ve heard horror stories of a foreigner man being seduced by a beautiful woman at the bar. The seductress sneaks a drug into the man’s drink and steals his money/things after he is passed out (usually in his hotel room). Or even worse, she leads him to an alley where her big, strong friends are waiting to beat him up and rob him. Use your best judgment.
I have found that it’s better to first make friends with locals (see above), and get introduced to their friends. You will have a better chance of meeting high-quality people this way. And less chance of getting drugged and mugged or beat up. The vast majority of the people you meet won’t have ill intentions, but trusting the wrong person can be a big mistake.
>> Find out how to travel with your partner or read about places with really good looking locals 

Bring the right gadgets for your trip


“Explosive alarm clock, guaranteed never to wake anyone that uses it.”
– Q, License To Kill
James Bond always travels with cool gadgets developed by Q to help him escape or go after the bad guys. You can bring your own cool gadgets too, with a focus on those that help you travel green and travel light.
Personal water filters are no longer reserved for hiking/outdoors enthusiasts. These are great for travel as well, allowing you to get clean water from wherever you’re at. This eliminates the need to purchase bottled water, saving the environment of plastic consumption.
eReaders and mobile devices allow you to read guidebooks and language books electronically. You are saving the environment of paper consumption. And if you are a prolific reader, or traveling between countries (requiring multiple guidebooks), or learning a language, this will also save a lot of weight. Even if you only travel to one country, an eReader weighs much less than a guidebook.
If you will be traveling for a while, get a local cellphone. Cellphones aren’t in line with the theme of going green or traveling light, but they are very cheap and come in handy. If you get one that is unlocked, you can use it in any country. You will just need to change SIM cards when you change countries. After you have a cellphone, you’ll be able to text and call your new local friends to stay in touch.
>> Check out our ultimate guide to packing for an RTW trip  or browse eco-friendy backpacks 

Pack light but be prepared


James Bond always packs light (minus the gadgets that Q gave him). Packing too much would just slow him down. If you are traveling for an extended period of time, it’s best to do the same. Packing light will make you more mobile. You will thank yourself after you’ve been traveling for a few weeks and see other backpackers struggling with their larger backpacks.
When I decided I wanted to travel long-term, I fit everything inside a carry-on bag, living with only the items inside for seven months in South America.  The next time I will probably try to pack even less.
Using a smaller (28 – 35 liter) backpack will force you to pack light and eliminate the need for checked luggage on flights. You will also want to bring a smaller day pack which can fit inside the larger backpack. To keep your backpack light, pack 3 pairs max of each clothing item. Consider washing your own clothes, as it’s better for the environment and easy if you buy quick-dry clothing. Look for high-quality, fast-drying, light material. Pack for the weather you will be traveling in, and use layers to pack lighter (ex. thermals).
You should not need more than one pair of shoes and one pair of sandals. Make sure they are high-quality. When looking for shoes, try to find a gore-tex (waterproof) hiking shoe. Do not go with a boot unless you plan on doing a lot of hiking, as it will be more bulky. When looking for sandals, try to find the kind that are made for walking longer distances, with good foot support. The sandals should also be waterproof, so you can use them instead of flip flops.  Try to find multi-use toiletry items, such as soap that you can use for shampoo, body wash and washing your clothes. Toiletry items can be found anywhere, so don’t overpack.
>> Find out how to travel very lightly 

The name’s Bond. James Bond.

“Remember that it’s the journey, not the destination.”
-Unknown
As James Bond told Dr. No, “World domination. Same old dream. Our asylums are full of men who think they are Napoleon.” Traveling for the sake of tacking off countries from some hypothetical list for your own “world domination” is not traveling in my book. If you have the time, travel slow and enjoy the journey. Safe travels.
Get more tips for better travel: 

How to Impress Guys from Around the World: Tips About Men from Six Different Countries - bootsnall article



How to Impress Guys from Around the World: Tips About Men from Six Different Countries


By Lucy Corne   |   February 10th, 2010 
There are many things you’ll want to take as souvenirs from your time exploring the world – tie-dye clothing that looked cool in India, paintings created by talented elephants, novelty booze that tasted good in the right setting, or exquisite carvings that seemed like a bargain until you worked out the exchange rate. But sometimes you’re looking for a more permanent, more impressive and altogether more useful souvenir from your travels – a boyfriend you picked up along the way.
Hooking up on the road isn’t that different to trying to score back home and can often be even easier as people are in ‘anything goes’ holiday mode. At home or away, bagging the guy you have your eye on is pretty easy as long as you take care of the three Bs – boobs, beer, and ball games of some description. But the game you choose to chat about could just be the clincher, depending on the nationality of the traveler you’ve set your sights on.

Naturally there are all kinds of guys from every country on earth, but just to get you started along the right path here’s a whimsical guide to impressing guys from the main backpacking nations around the world and to keeping hold of them, just in case you’re in the market for a more permanent souvenir…

Charming a Canadian

lucy_guyscanada2First impressions:
Renowned for their unabashed niceness, it’s not too tough to get off on the right foot with a Canuck. In fact, all you need to impress them off the bat is 10 minutes of Wiki-research. Memorise a few names to demonstrate your knowledge of his countrymen – famous faces that are generally thought to hail from south of the border. A brief internet stint will turn up a host of singers, actors, and (above all) comedians that you never knew came from Canada – and gushing about the comedy talents of John Candy, Mike Myers, Dan Aykroyd, or Jim Carrey will certainly gain you Canuck points.
Keep him interested:
Like most men, sports and beer are common interests of the Canuck – and of course the sport in question here is hockey. If you happen to find a random bar in Bangkok or a Palau pub that is showing Canada’s unofficial national sport (on paper it’s lacrosse!), just keep in mind two golden rules and you’ll soon melt even the frostiest of Canadian hearts. Always call it hockey, not ice hockey (for a Canadian there is no other kind), and never complain about the violence (that’s the best bit). If you can throw in a pitcher of cold beer and a plate of buffalo wings, you’ll have him eating out of your hand.
Under no circumstances:
Never ask a Canadian which part of the States he is from. Nothing irks a Canuck more than the presumption he’s American – not through any hatred of their southern neighbour, but just through a desire to be recognised (hence the presence of copious amount of maple leaves generally found covering Canadian luggage).



Bagging a Brit

lucy_guysengland2First impressions:
It’s pretty simple to make a decent first impression on a Brit – you just have to order a pint. OK, here comes a sweeping generalisation: British men tend to like a girl who can join in with the guys. Sure, in an ideal world they’re seeking a Pamela Anderson lookalike – but when she opens her mouth they often seek funny, crude and bloke-ish over giggly and appearance-obsessed. The first step to being a so-called geezer-bird (translation: a dude-chick) is enjoying a beer and a bit of toilet humour.
Keep him interested:
Once the preliminary pint-drinking is out of the way you can easily impress a Brit with your knowledge of their national sports – namely football, rugby, and cricket. Knowledge of the off-side trap is a definite winner. Master the ins, innings, overs, and outs of cricket and you could be talking wedding bells. But if he suggests an impromptu marriage, don’t take him too seriously. Sarcasm is his favourite weapon and if you hope to get anywhere with a Brit you have to take everything with a massive pinch of salt, not only to stop him hating your gullibility but also to save yourself from unintended offence!
Under no circumstances:
Don’t call it “soccer.” Most Brits are open to diluting the Queen’s English with a touch of American slang – if only to make them sound a little cooler – but to a Brit it is called football and never, ever soccer. And whatever you think of it, to most Brits its tantamount to a religion – so don’t expect to get far if you insult the beautiful game.


Scoring with a South African

lucy_guyssouthafricaFirst impressions:
This might seem like a ridiculous thing to say on a site frequented by independent travellers, but a good way to start with a South African is knowing where South Africa is! Considering the name of the country it seems an even more ridiculous statement, but amazingly the number of times South Africa gets confused for a continent is surpassed only by the number of times Africa get confused for a country. Find it on a map, memorise a couple of border nations, and you’ll be on the right path with the South African male.
Keep him interested:
Be Lara Croft. South Africans are fond of the outdoors and love a girl who can get down and dirty. But if you can manage to look super hot and stylish while bungee jumping or bush walking, the South African man could well be yours. Throw in some serious South Africa knowledge and you’ll be well on your way to taking home a human souvenir to meet your parents. The rules of rugby and cricket are good starters, proclaiming your love of biltong (a spicy version of jerky) will have him hooked, and then clinch it with a random fact about South Africa’s back of beyond (which, in the interests of your scoring success, is officially located in a town called Pofadder).
Under no circumstances:
Refrain from asking if there are wild animals roaming the streets. Think of all the animal-related questions you’d love to ask – and then keep them to yourself. He didn’t have a pet rhino in his childhood, he’s never seen a lion in the town square, and he never rode a zebra to school. You might well be asking in jest, but he’s most likely heard these comments a dozen times before in all seriousness, so he might just fail to see the funny side.

Enticing an Aussie

lucy_guysaustralia2First impressions:
Admire their drinking skills. Like many beer-mad nations Aussies like to believe they down more of the amber nectar than anyone else, and an offhand comment like ‘wow, you guys can really take your ale’ is a sure-fire conversation starter (unless you find the only Aussie tee-total backpacker in the world).
Keep him interested:
Keep the admin to a minimum. The Aussie is a low maintenance kind of guy, especially when he’s travelling, so fussing over whether your thongs (flip flops) match your thong (g-string) is unlikely to impress him. Anything involving the beach probably will, though, so sharpen your Frisbee skills, give surfing a go, and grab another stubby (beer). You can worry about the state of your hair once he’s gone to bed.
Under no circumstances:
You can’t expect him to ditch the wife beater. Australian men are generally an easygoing bunch, but you will have to learn to love that saggy singlet if you’re going to get along – it’s practically national dress.


Attracting an American

lucy_guysamerica2First impressions:
Don’t jump on the bandwagon. Sure, in recent years it’s become cool to hate on America and all who hail from within its borders, but obviously criticising someone’s homeland is unlikely to endear you to them. Have an open mind about your American beau having an open mind. They’re not all dumb, they do know where Canada is located, they don’t all think Superman is a real guy, and they don’t take kindly to people who believe every stupid rumour they’ve heard about Americans. Ask intelligent questions and the American backpacker might just notice you.
Keep him interested:
Swot up on sports. As you can see from the entries above, this is true of guys from every country – but Brits and those from the southern hemisphere tend to have a downer on American sports, so learning a few of baseball’s basic rules is sure to keep him interested. Find the nearest American-themed bar wherever you are and settle in for a few hours of baseball, football, or basketball. Of course, you don’t want to know too much – letting him teach you his passions will keep the conversation flowing until you know each other better. But a basic knowledge is a good idea, if only to stop you asking annoying questions like ‘why do they stop and chat every couple of minutes? Why can’t they just get on with it?’
Under no circumstances:
Don’t go on a rant about American beer. Some men you meet might agree with your tirade on the King of Beers, while others might be Miller men and most offended that you consider their beer of choice something akin to urine. And anyway, the wealth of craft breweries across the States makes the ‘American beer is crap’ argument moot. Other no-nos include mocking the language or claiming that American football is just a girly version of rugby.

Courting a Kiwi

lucy_guysnewzealand2First impressions:
Tune your ear to the finer points of the Kiwi accent. Just like asking a Canadian which part of the States he comes from, a guaranteed way to get off on the wrong foot with a Kiwi is to ask him which part of Australia he calls home. Downloading a few episodes of “Flight of the Conchords” could help you train your ear, plus as one of New Zealand’s favourite comedy exports it’ll give you a winning conversation starter as well.
Keep him interested:
Acknowledge his nation’s rugbying prowess. Rugby is the nation’s unofficial national sport as well as its unofficial religion. A few comments noting the All Blacks’ unmatched win-loss record will get you far, and knowing the difference between rugby league and rugby union will get you further. Announcing your opinion that Kiwis play rugby better than their southern hemisphere rivals Australia and South Africa will at worst get you another date and at best get him talking honeymoon destinations.
Under no circumstances:
Do not obsessively ask him to repeat words you find comical. Yes, it’s fun to get a Kiwi to order fish and chips in a restaurant, especially if you can prompt them into ordering seven portions. And of course the Kiwi pronunciation of the word six is always hilarious to an outsider. But after being begged to repeat these words a dozen times over while fellow travellers giggle inanely at their clipped vowels, it gets kinda old

Read more about romance on the road:
Read more of Lucy Corne’s articles on BootsnAll, and learn more about Lucy herself in her bio.
photos, top to bottom, by: Phil Hawksworth, Kevin O’Connor (and may not be used without permission), Fritz Park, OzStryker, Lucy Corne (and may not be used without permission

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Six Travel Types You Love to Loathe - bootsnall article

By Lucy Corne   |   March 8th, 2010

Travel is all about meeting people: locals, fellow wanderers, enthusiastic tour guides, con men and perhaps even your soul mate. You might set out as a solo traveler, but it’s impossible to stay alone for long.
Of course, the problem is that sometimes you might prefer to go it alone. That’s when you meet one of those dreaded travelers.
They linger in hostel common rooms, they strike up conversations on buses, they corner you at famous landmarks, they try to exchange words in restaurants as you’re engulfed in your solo diner’s security blanket – a good book.
These travellers drive you nuts and they make you crave your solitude, but as much as they annoy you, travel just wouldn’t be the same without them.
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TYPE ONE: The Penny-Pinching Hippie

pennypinchinghippie
The traveler vs. tourist debate rages on: tourists observe while travelers experience, but snobbish backpackers might do well to remember that ‘tourists’ also spend money when they travel – lots of it. When did travel become all about spending as little as possible?
Everyone’s met this type of traveler – a dreadlocked, barefooted meat-hater who likes to brag about their lack of luggage and how they managed to live in India for a month on $100. Wake up and smell the incense, hippies: sure, grass-roots travel is all about avoiding multi-nationals in favour of local businesses, but shelling out two or three dollars a day is worse than spending vast chunks of change in five-star hotels – at least that creates employment.
You want to scream at them that spending less than the locals does not make you one of them, nor does it make you a superior traveler. But as infuriating as the penny-pincher is, you’re glad of them when you need to vent after a stressful day of haggling with traders or arguing with deceitful tour guides. You have to have someone to take your travel angers out on, and challenging the miser on their cheap travel philosophy is better than screaming at the next local who approaches you to practice their English.

TYPE TWO: The Klingon

klingon
We’re not talking alien life forms here, nor Star Trek aficionados (although they might also make it onto this list). Think of those people you meet en route who travel alone but can’t bear to be alone.
You meet in the hostel bar then hook up to visit a temple or sample the local nightlife but as far as you’re concerned that’s where the relationship ends. Sadly, the Klingon has other ideas.
You find them lingering outside your dorm wondering “what are we doing today?” and you quickly discover that when they asked for your email/cell number/Facebook ID that they actually intended to use it.
Of course Klingons do have their uses, and if you’re feeling a little lonely, you know they’ll always be there to provide some company. Granted, they’ll also be there to annoy the hell out of you when you’re craving solitude, and alas, scraping off a Klingon can be a tricky business – these are sensitive beings. You could try lauding the virtues of solo travel and how it helps you grow.
Failing that, change your travel plans and move on – unannounced of course.

TYPE THREE: The Bragger

bragger
“Everybody hates me because I’ve been everywhere,” they claim on first meeting, but this is not entirely true. It’s correct that people don’t like the bragger, but it’s really because they claim to have been everywhere.
They might fill a passport a year or they might wander just as much as those around them, but the difference is that they feel the need to shout their travel exploits from the rooftops.
Dig deeper and you’ll find the bragger is often a novice traveler. Uneasy with their own accomplishments, they feel the need to shove them in others’ faces. If you want to play them at their own game, then pulling out your tales of Moldovan wine tasting, Burmese hiking trips or counting polar bears in Greenland will probably make them realize that they’re not the only ones who know how to strap on a backpack.
Or why not take the high road and just let them boast? If nothing else the bragger creates a wonderfully harmonious atmosphere since they tend to serve as a common enemy, uniting everyone else in their midst.

TYPE FOUR: The Late Starter

latestarter
This might be a controversial choice, but hear me out. Every ESL school, ex-pat bar or backpacker joint has its, erm, more senior members. Nine times out of ten they’re cool ex-hippies or worldly-wise grandmothers starting a new chapter. Their stories are cool, their experiences awesome and their attitudes inspiring.
But every so often you find yourself unable to avoid the traveler who everyone refers to as ‘Weird Older Guy.’ He thinks he’s 21. He lingers lecherously around female travelers trying unsuccessfully to strike up conversation. And however much you admire his spirit it’s kind of like hanging out with your friend’s dad (or your dad’s friend) – odd and uncomfortable.
Your first instinct will be to give the late starter a wide berth, but give the old guy a try – he (or she) is bound have some cool tales to tell. If it all gets too weird and he’s inviting you to strip clubs or all-night drinking sessions, appeal to his ego – tell him he has more energy than you and you just can’t keep up.

TYPE FIVE: The Giggling, Guzzling Gap Year Student

gapyearstudent
There comes a time when your travel preferences change.
Call it grouchiness, call it jealousy, but listening to a group of teens screeching about how wasted they got last night while you’re trying to write in your journal rarely makes it onto a ‘top travel experiences’ list. I’m sure lots of them are lovely, but for every young traveler eager to explore the world, there’s a gaggle of gap year students whose main goal is another stamp in the passport and another notch on the backpack. And if that means stumbling in at 3am and keeping their peers awake with noisy dorm sex then so be it.
Just be grateful if you don’t have to hear about it the next day.
Of course, if you’re much over 25, they’ll be pretty keen to avoid you, too (perhaps seeing you as Type Four, above). If you do get trapped in a ‘flashback to freshman year,’ telling them you’re teetotal should do the trick.

TYPE SIX: The One Who Should’ve Stayed Home

stayhome
For all the faults the Penny Pinchers, Klingons and co. have, they are nothing compared to this guy. He’s the traveler who seems to hate travel.
At his worst he’s racist and offensive – at best he constantly criticizes whatever country he’s in, claiming that the food/weather/landscape/culture is better back home.
His reason for traveling is a mystery. Perhaps he seeks to convince himself of his own superiority. Perhaps he just loves a good moan. Or perhaps his goal is to irritate every traveler who crosses his path.
Thanks to their love of confrontation you will never win an argument with Type Six. The best plan of attack is to remain obscenely cheerful and tell them how wonderful the country you’re visiting is – even if you don’t believe it!
Mindless optimism is the only thing they’ll shrink from, which is the only plus point of having these folks around. You might have lost your passport, been royally ripped off, spent 15 hours on a cramped and toilet-less bus and checked into the grottiest hostel in town all in the same day, but butting heads with this obnoxious wanderer will turn you into the country in question’s most vocal supporter.
Further reading:
Find out more about Lucy Corne, and read her other BootsnAll articles


The 7 Deadly Sins of Travel -bootsnall article

By Lucy Corne   |   October 26th, 2009

If you travel often I’m sure that at some point you’ve found yourself listening to a fellow backpack-toting wanderer berate his peers for not being ‘good travellers’. But really, is there such a thing as a good traveller? I mean, it’s hardly rocket science is it? Jumping on and off trains, packing and unpacking your bag or finding a place to sleep for the night – not endeavours that require any specialist skills.
Of course, while the nuts and bolts of travel are easy to master, there are always a few ways that you can screw up, ways to offend your hosts or make other travellers cringe. Whether you’re a novice nomad or a seasoned explorer, you’re still at risk of committing one of the seven deadly sins.
I’m not talking about the list of seven you might remember from high school Religious Ed class. Sloth is practically a pre-requisite for a long-term backpacker and what’s a food market without a little greed and gluttony? Scratch pride, wrath, lust and envy from your guilt list – if you’re planning to globetrot, the list you need to worry about covers the seven deadly sins of travel.

Sin 1: Taking budget travel too seriously

hagglingTravelling on a budget certainly has its advantages. It keeps you away from the real world of bills and office cubicles for longer and generally those who are watching the pennies opt for local hotels, bars and stores rather than lining the pockets of already-rich conglomerates. But at least once per country (much more often in India) you happen across a traveller who really puts the ‘budget’ in budget travel.
They haggle until their chosen trader turns to tears, they sleep on station platforms, eat nothing but boiled rice, buy no trinkets or souvenirs and opt to travel on bus roofs rather than cough up for even the cheapest of fares.
When boasting about how little they spend they seem to forget that budget travel only works if you actually inject the little cash you have straight into local businesses. Keeping your notes safely tucked into your money belt and bragging how you manage to spend less than the locals benefits no-one but you and gives a bad name to every budget traveller that follows in your miserly wake.

Sin 2: Giving to beggars

BeggingWe’ve all been there. You’re browsing a bustling market or sitting down to a roadside lunch when a familiar tug at your sleeve makes you look down. Staring back at you is a pair of adorable, imploring eyes attached to an outstretched hand. But however small and cute the child or however heart-wrenching the tale, handing our cash to beggars is always a travel faux pas.
It’s a quick-fix solution that’s as much about making the traveller feel good as it is about the supplicant getting a decent lunch. Last year, Slumdog Millionaire did a fabulous job of bringing the truth behind child begging rings to a wider audience, making us aware that our small change ends up not in the hands of the endearing child doing the asking, but with the adults they work for.
Most travellers who hand out cash on demand wouldn’t dream of giving to beggars back home, but a certain guilt kicks in when poverty surrounds you. Naturally, a few of your dollars would be well appreciated in impoverished parts of the globe, but rather than giving empty donations to anyone who holds out a hand, look for a local charity to donate to instead. Find one that caters to street kids, offering them food, shelter or education. That way you know your money is going where it can do the most good, rather than lining the pockets of unscrupulous Fagins.

Sin 3: Staying on the road too long

KhaoSanRoadOK, so travelling for long periods of time is hardly a sin, provided you’re spending some cash (and not handing any to beggars!), but if you stay away longer than you meant to it can turn you into a less-than-agreeable traveller.
If you’ve ever lingered a little too long, you’ll know the kind of thing I mean. You start to think that everyone you meet is out to rip you off, you get a little too assertive when someone helps themselves to a spot ahead of you in line and the language barrier starts to be an annoying headache rather than an entertaining challenge.
Sometimes the traveller’s biggest sin is travelling a touch too much. If you’re snapping at someone who’s simply stopped to welcome you to their land or you can’t remember the last time you said anything nice about your current location, it might be time to confess your sins and pay your penance – heading back to your homeland to be reminded just why you stayed away so long in the first place.

Sin 4: Failing to respect the local culture

ShirtlessIf you are someone who likes to set apart the travellers from the tourists, you’d probably think this particular sin is committed exclusively by the latter. But snobbery aside, the traveller and the tourist are one and the same – we all jump on and off buses, trains and planes then pay to sleep in a bed that hundreds have used before us. And at some point we’re all guilty of saying yes to a couple of cultural no-nos.
It might be an innocent error, like the package tourist not moderating their clothing as they head from the sheltered environment of the hotel pool to the wider world of Egypt’s tombs or India’s palaces. It might be an unwittingly insensitive offence like donning camouflaged shorts in a region fresh out of a civil war. But sometimes those who’ve been wandering the world for great lengths of time feel that they know it all and can do no wrong. They don’t think twice before exchanging a passionate kiss on the street or using a sunny afternoon as an excuse for a few drinks in the park.
Behaving in a way that doesn’t raise any eyebrows at home might not be illegal, but skimpy clothing, chugging beer and grabbing your boyfriend’s ass could well offend a few locals. And the consequences of your acts don’t end just because your trip does – if you’ve upset the locals, it’ll be the next group of travellers who pay the price.

Sin 5: Getting carried away with the culture

KimonosEnveloping yourself in local customs is part of the reason we travel. We want to sample original flavours, see unusual architecture, learn foreign tongues and experience the new traditions that come with a different religion. But have you ever stumbled across a traveller who’s perhaps plunged too far into the local culture?
You know the type – they don kimonos, saris or robes to go about their daily affairs, would never dream of eating a hamburger and cringe at the very notion of socialising with one of their countrymen.
Respecting a culture is one thing, but adopting it as your own can sometimes cause offence. It’s no bad thing to dress appropriately, but traditional clothing often comes with all kinds of rules unapparent to an interested outsider.
Without specialist knowledge you don’t know that the haircut you’ve opted for is really reserved only for the highest holy men or that your chosen necklace is in fact the attire sported by married women only. Assuming membership of someone else’s culture could cause offence. Plus, your fellow travellers will all agree that you look ridiculous.

Sin 6: Expecting everything to go to plan

DelayedNo matter how many years you’ve been roaming the globe, things will always go wrong. Trains will break down, hotels will fill up, attractions will close on the only day you could possibly visit and food poisoning will put you out of action just as you had some life-affirming adventure planned.
The key is to accept the setbacks as a natural part of your trip. Expecting everything to run smoothly is to set foot on the road to disappointment and a sure-fire way to ruin your trip. Part of the fun of ditching your routine and seeing the world is not knowing how things will go from one day to the next – waking up each morning with no idea where you’ll sleep that night.
By all means have a notion of where you’d like your day to end up, but when every enquiry leads to a dead end and every plan comes crashing down, don’t let it get to you. Just revel in the fact that, unlike most of your friends toiling through their 9-5 jobs, you have nowhere to be and no one to answer to.

Sin 7: Judging other travellers

TouristSignPeople say that travel broadens the mind, so you might expect to find a tad more tolerance between fellow travellers. Instead, I find myself constantly up against different types of travel snob, people who consider themselves superior for a wealth of bizarre reasons. They travel for longer, rough it more, stray further from the beaten track or simply carry less luggage and therefore feel the need to look down on anyone who doesn’t meet their standards.
I can never work out why we all spend so much time worrying how others are spending their vacations. Who cares if someone opts for package tours or carries vast amounts of designer luggage to their five-star hotels? As long as each traveller enjoys their cherished time away from the office without offending local sensibilities then it doesn’t matter whether they choose luxury resorts or 30-bed dorms.
If you spend your time sorting out the ‘good travellers’ from the bad, you run the risk of ruining your trip, while those package tourists who irk you so much are guiltlessly enjoying their two-week adventure.

Photo credits: 1 by Tom Maisey on Flickr, 2 by uncultured on Flickr, 3 by Houston Marsh on Flickr, 4 by Kaj17 on Flickr, 5 by Buck82 on Flickr, 6 by Renato @ Mainland China on Flickr, 7 by Seth W. on

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What I’ve Learned From Life And Travel -bootsnall article

By Jennifer MIller   |   October 24th, 2012

I was born to gypsies, gestating on Lago de Atitlan in the highlands of Guatemala, making my appearance in the forests of Ontario, Canada at the other end of the continent. My path has wound it’s way across many continents and countries in my short 38 years, and now there is a parade of little feet walking behind me as I have become a gypsy mama myself. I can’t imagine any other life. I’m thankful for so many aspects of the freedom of my life and the ability to travel far and wide, but the things I’m most thankful for are the lessons my nomadic path is teaching me as I continue to put one foot in front of the other, on desert paths and jungle tracks, lonely beaches, and high mountain passes. What is this life, if not the culmination of the lessons we’ve learned? Here are a few of mine…

-This is your life


Stuck in the suburbs? Knee deep in debt or diapers? Freezing cold camped on a mountain face? Drowning in the monsoon rains of Southeast Asia? Barefoot on a beach at sunset? This is your life. This. Right now. This breath. When the last breath is gone, you can’t get it back. The next breath, as out of reach as the moon. The only moment you have is the one you’re in. Take the breath. Live the breath. It’s all part of the path: the joy, the pain, the preparation, the suffering, the happiness, the things that suck, the things that bless your socks off.
This. Is. Your. Life.
Live it. Don’t waste it. Be in your life, don’t wish it away. Change the things you don’t like. Set your own sails toward the destiny you design for yourself. Chase hard after your dreams. Very little is truly out of reach. But whatever you do, wherever you are, don’t miss the lesson in it. Don’t miss the moment by pining for something else. There is nothing else. This is it. Make it epic.

-There are no experts. Do it YOUR way.

If there is one downside to the internet era it is the throng of voices continually shouting about life: yours, mine, theirs. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is selling you something, even if it’s just an idea. Even me. The internet is a wonderful resource for expanding your mind, growing your passions, discovering new ideas, and gathering dreams. It’s also a terrible place for miring yourself in the myriad of choices and drowning in the sea of indecision created by the conflicting voices.
Just because someone has a blog doesn’t make them an expert. Just because someone is an expert doesn’t make them right. Just because someone is right doesn’t mean you have to do it their way.
Life is like a coin: you can spend it any way you like, but you may only spend it once.
Why would you spend it on anything other than what pleases you most?
Your parents spent their coin their way. Your friends have their own coins in their own pockets. The people you admire are spending on their dreams, and that’s what you love about them. Don’t waste your coin trying to replicate someone else’s purchase.
You get to do your life, your way. It doesn’t have to look like mine. I don’t even have to like, or appreciate, or approve of your life. The question, at the end of the 80-year long haul will be: how do you feel about how you spent your parade of days?
Don’t waste it. Do it your way.

-Apply strategy


Why do people give up so easily? Most people don’t succeed wildly at the life of their dreams; why is that? My Dad would tell you that almost any problem can be solved, almost any obstacle overcome if you will only, “Apply strategy to the situation.” Those words ring out of my childhood, which was one long lesson in taking what was at hand and solving the problem.
Hate your job? Change your career. Wish you were traveling? Take a leap and book a plane ticket, a year from now to give you time and impetus to put the necessary things in order. Struggling with a disability of some sort? There are ways around most. Does that sound harsh coming from someone without one? The man who taught me to “apply strategy” has the use of only one arm and he taught me to build log cabins, build sailboats and sail them, travel the world, speak multiple languages, and get by when none of them applied – hunt, fish, can my own food, drive, light a one match fire, skim a snowmobile over the stretch of open water between ice and shoreline, skin and cook a shark, and use a speargun. Every morning I’d button the cuff of his shirt for him. My dad isn’t disabled, he simply has to apply strategy to the situation.
We know single parents, families with kids in wheel chairs, families with eight kids, people who are all on their own, highly intelligent university educated folks, and people who are so dyslexic they can barely read the cereal box, people with careers, and people who busk for a living who are all out there doing the thing they dream of. How do they do it? There’s no formula, but what they all have in common: my dad’s lesson:
Stop making excuses for failure and apply strategy to your situation.

 

-Keep your stick on the ice


Another of my Dad’s sage one liners, with which he ends most emails to me, knowing well my tendency toward skating wildly in many directions.
In short, don’t lose your fracking head and blow your whole life. Plan. Execute. Enjoy. It’s hard to keep your focus over the long haul of a lifetime; I’m noticing that as I slide into middle age. There are moments when it seems completely rational to piss it all away. Don’t do it. Step back from the cliff. Think carefully. Proceed intentionally and with caution.
Epic lives may look like they are lived as a series of wild leaps into the unknown by courageous individuals. They are not. Epic lives are built as a series of well prepared, calculated risks taken with care to minimize the potential for disaster.
Keep your stick on the ice. Be responsible for yourself and others. Do the right thing. Man up. Stay the course. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Play the game and play it hard, to win.
It turns out, often, we do reap what we sow.

 

-Pick up strays

People, not pets. “Don’t talk to strangers,” has to be the single worst piece of cultural brainwashing done to my generation. For starters, the people (statistically) most likely to hurt you are friends and family, and secondly, all of the best people are strangers.
My kids don’t go to school. I actively employ strangers to teach them. We talk to strangers daily. We invite them for dinner at least three times a week Yes, complete strangers, even the unwashed hippie variety. Especially the unwashed hippie variety. We trade them a meal for lessons. They tell us stories, share music or art; we learn.
Short list of lessons learned from strangers over dinner:
  • The fine art of swinging poi balls
  • Irish guitar instruction
  • Jazz guitar instruction
  • Celtic fiddle instruction
  • The finer points of Mennonite theology
  • What it’s like, first hand, to sit in the cockpit of an Israeli fighter jet over Palestine
  • What it was like, first hand, to grow up in Harlem during the 40’s
  • How to do string tricks
  • How to weave with a back strap loom
  • That it’s all fun and games until you’re decked by a big Swede
  • The difference, by smell, between pot and hash
  • That clothing really is optional
  • How to launch a paraglider
That’s the short list. I could go on.
Do yourself a favor, talk to strangers and start picking up strays.

 

-It’s a marathon, not a sprint


Life. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Every runner knows you’re going to hit the wall and die by the trail if you hit it, full on, out of the gate. You have to pace yourself. You have to train properly. You have to plan your attack. Don’t make a fool of yourself by running like a bull on the loose in Pamplona the moment you break free. Take a longer view.
Too many folks launch out of high school into college and out of college into a career, full steam ahead, without thought to where the path is taking them and whether or not it’s even somewhere they want to go. They hit the ground running hard with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt, an education in a field you can’t get a job in, add a house, a car, and a soccer mom, and pretty soon you look up and realize you’ve hit that wall.
Someone should discuss these things with young people, before they’re “stuck” in the system. Someone should give young people a year to travel and open their minds and explore their own persons enough to know who they are and what they want so that they can see their race clearly, mark the path, and run deliberately. We could do that for the young people in our lives, couldn’t we? By sharing what we’ve learned. By allowing them the freedom to run their own races without impunity, social or otherwise?
Set your eyes on the goal, find your passion, and chase hard after it with the dogged consistency of an Iron Man triathlete.
The tortoise is right: Slow and steady wins the race.

 

-Dream: Always dream


It is my theory that there is no life without a dream, only existence. To be truly alive, we must dream, and we must feed our dreams. For me, travel is both dream and dream food. Outside of my comfort zone I see most clearly.  Doors open, obstacles become challenges to overcome, and I realize that virtually anything is within my reach if I will put my mind to it.
Start small. The dream to have one child leads to four. The dream bicycle Maritime Canada leads to a year of cycling in Europe & Africa, which in turn leads to four and a half years of non-stop travel and a complete career makeover. The important thing is to have a dream, to be working solidly at it and achieving it by degrees. One dream will lead to another. They grow in scope and sequence. Before you know it you’ll be leading one of those epic lives you envy.
Dream big dreams.

 

-Time carries us away from all things

This is a lesson hard won, for me. It has been earth shaking in it’s depth, both the good and the bad. The Buddhists have a teaching that compares life to a river that is relentlessly flowing. It appears to be constant, but that is an illusion. You can’t step into the same river twice. The same is true with life, yours and that of others. Change is the only constant in the universe, and we’re spinning away from one side of the sun as surely as we’re spinning towards the other.
There are going to be epic highs and bone crushing lows. There will be great loves and devastating heartbreaks. There will be moments of insane wealth and abject poverty, in one sense or another. You’ll be surrounded by friends and also by enemies. You’ll walk continents in storybook adventure style and you’ll return home like a lonely pilgrim. The only thing those moments have in common is that they are passing. The beautiful as surely as the horrific.
Another pearl from my Daddy’s wisdom file: “If you can just keep breathing, sister, time will carry you away from all things.”

 

-It’s not a contest


Life isn’t. Travel isn’t either. So why do we insist on continuous comparison? How I spend my coin has no bearing on how you spend yours. The number of flags I collect isn’t what makes my journey worthwhile.
The other night we sat on the beach, watching a ruby sunset melt into the Andaman Sea, celebrating with new friends (some of the strangers I referenced above). It was a perfectly lovely evening with shrimp on the BBQ, local rum in the coconuts, and guitar music floating over the crash of the waves. It was almost a perfect evening, except for the big blond American guy and the young Aussie who insisted on spending the whole evening in a member-measuring contest over their kite-surfing adventures.
Our friends Chris and Thomas, kite-surfing instructors extraordinaire just sat back and enjoyed the show, no pressure to engage the two loud blow hards. When they wandered off to smoke a joint on the beach I whispered to my husband, “Why is everything a pissing contest with the kite surfing crowd?” Chris and Thomas chuckled, poured another drink, and we mellowed into the buttery moon rising beyond the palm trees. When the guys returned, still blustering loudly about wind and their conquests my daughter leaned in and whispered, with a wink: “I wonder who won… you know… the contest!” Indeed.
If you’re at the stage of life where engaging in the comparison game seems hard to resist, let me offer you a piece of advice: don’t. There are always people who have done more than you and always folks who have done less. In one group, you look like a failure, in the other, a wild success. In reality, you’re neither, you’re just spending your coin, like everyone else. If you have the least bit of sense you’ll be spending it on the things that fuel your dreams and make you happy and not on keeping up with our curly haired kite surfing dude.

 

-If all else fails, take a walk

An extraordinarily long one if you can, the longer the better. A year long walk is a good start.
Travel is healing in ways that little else is, and you wouldn’t be the first person to recover from a train wreck (emotionally, physically, or financially) by hitting the road. If you’ve hit the wall, if your career is in shambles, if the economy has failed you, if your marriage has disintegrated, if a death has left you bereft, if winter is just looking too long and too cold to bear this year: Take a walk.
Travel won’t help you escape your problems, but it has a way of giving you the time to see more clearly, to focus on what matters most to you for a little while, and perhaps to reinvent yourself.
I was born because my parents decided to take a walk.
Life is full of lessons, these are just a few, and they’re mine. What are yours? What is the world teaching you as you live and breathe and walk the paths across continents?

To read more inspirational stories and advice, check out the following articles and resources:


Can Travel Really Change Who You Are? -bootsnall articles

Imagine the freedom and potential for change that could arise when removed from your habitual environment. You could be free. Free from the constraints of society, free from social obligations, free from your reflection in the eyes of others, and free to imagine yourself in any way you want.

This is what I desperately sought and this is why I ran away from home at 16.

I believed travel would be the only way I could ever see myself in a different light and change who I was. So I traveled. I went through Europe, the Middle East, and even Africa. The journey opened my eyes to the world and changed my life. Not only did I learn the street skills necessary in order to survive and travel with no money, but I also learned about people and life, and in doing so, I understood the limits of travel as a medium for self-change.
The first time you travel, you become a child again. You return to a familiar state of mind when the world appeared always new and constantly full of mystery. The environment is foreign and somewhat frightening, everyone is speaking gibberish, and you’re not sure where to find a place to relieve yourself. So you do the only thing you can do, and I don’t mean pee your pants, you adapt.



One of the most remarkable aspects of the human condition is that we are all equipped with the ability to adapt to most anything. Whether you’re chest deep in poo, or forced to stand on a 9 hour train ride, we manage to survive, adapt, and thereby grow. We experience, we learn, we conquer our fears and then evolve into a more confident being.
In many regards, this travel-induced process inspires an inner renaissance. As you continue to adapt to ever changing scenes on the road, you become a mentally stronger and a more confident person. You realize that despite a lack of communication, people are people everywhere. You gain remarkable perspective, which enables you to critically analyze your own cultures faults and triumphs. You discover that happiness is relative. Though it sounds very hippie–esque, you become a child of the world. This is the kind of change, the kind of rebirth that travel affords.
However, traveling cannot change the very foundations of your person. Your own culture and upbringing can never be truly replaced or forgotten. You will always essentially be who you are. Take the wolf boy for example, who helped qualify the debate on whether culture was learned or ingrained. Although after being taught of civilization, he could never truly become a civilized person and always reverted back to the animal inside. In other words, the culture one is born into stays for life. It is this truth that makes it impossible for us to change the very essence of who we are.
Understanding this truth in ones youth or even as an adult is not easy. It is a test where success is often compromised by denial, and our inherently short memory span. Each country you enter presents an opportunity to reinvent yourself. However, the new you can only last for a few days before you become your true self again. For an unfortunate few, this can continue, country after country and year after year without ever coming to terms.
When you do realize the limits of travel as a force of inner change, there is nothing to do then but accept yourself the best you can. This is what it means to mature and truly grow mentally and even spiritually. It is then that the constant interaction innate to travel will force you to accept yourself, and in doing so, help you flourish.
Although it took many countries, I eventually realized that I am still a product of my roots. I cannot escape the reflection of myself. I cannot be someone else. I can only accept the things I don’t like about myself and learn to love them. Today, I harness travel to support my true growth and confidence.
In the end, there is no better education for ones mind and soul than travel. This is especially true in ones youth. Not only does it teach you about the world, but it forces you to mature at a much faster pace. The result of which is a smarter, happier, and more confident you.

Backpacking Then vs. Now: Does Travel Wisdom Come with Age?-Botsnall article


By Tristan Cano   |   August 11th, 2010   |

I’m 29 years old,  and from what I understand (source: MTV) there’s a slippery slope of some description and I am on it. I’m not sure where it’s leading, but it’s almost certainly somewhere which is not very cool. Or at least, not very cool in the eyes of my teenage niece. Rather hopefully I pleaded with her that I was still down with the kids,” and quicker than you could say ‘Hannah Montana’, she responded with a withering glance and a silent ‘L’ sign, formed by her thumb and index finger. At the time I had no idea what she meant. I do now. I’m inconsolable.
Momentarily setting aside the pangs of an arguably premature mid-life crisis, I decided to take definitive action. Wiping the thick layer of dust from my backpack I got myself an InterRail ticket (Eurail for you non-Europeans) and set off on a journey around Europe to recreate, as best I could, the free spirit of my youth. 75% of people who buy a Eurail pass are under 25, but it only took a few days on the tracks to realize that that maybe, just maybe, there were some advantages to traveling with a more mature head on one’s shoulders …

-Hotels vs. hostels?

hostel
Obviously there is much to be said about the new friends one makes and the shared experiences to be enjoyed in dorm-style accommodation. Indeed, some of my best times have been spent in the bar or common room of a travelers hostel. However, age often brings the luxury of having a bit more money in one’s pockets and nowadays, given a choice, I’m of the view that nothing beats a private room with a nice firm double bed, a power-shower and perhaps a mini bar to call my own.
I actually stayed in a hotel in Budapest which had a trouser press in the room. A trouser press for heaven’s sake! Needless to say I opted to give Budapest’s famed nightlife a miss in favor of six miniature bottles of the best Hungarian vodka and an evening spent ironing a concertina of creases into my combats. Happy days!

 

-Cultural activities vs. hangovers?

hangover
As a teenager, I took great satisfaction from drawing miniature penises all over the teachers’ stationery when they popped out of the classroom. Take that, society! However despite my sizeable contributions to the neo-nudism movement, it would have taken a lot more than wild horses to get the ‘phantom willy drawer’ to visit an art gallery at that age.
I preferred the idea of spending my evenings in foreign climes getting acquainted with unpalatable local tipples and spending the following day delicately nursing the mother of all headaches, certainly in no mood to get my head round all those post-impressionists in the Louvre in Paris or the head-splittingly vivid colors on show in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. Now, not only can I ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ my way round galleries with the best of them, but I actually quite enjoy getting up early and making more of my day too.

 

-Shared experiences with a life partner vs. gratuitous sex with strangers?

love
I’ve been in enough backpacker hostels to know that (even though I was never getting any!) there were like-minded solo travelers getting up to all sorts of mischief behind virtually every door. In fact when you are young, single and a million miles from home, I would have thought fornication of this sort would be practically mandatory: see Section 37(b)(ii) on your InterRail ‘Conditions of Travel’.
On the other hand and soppy though it may sound, there’s a great deal to be said about being able to share your travel experiences with a life partner. Casual relationships may last a few days or weeks but normally not much longer than a traveler’s return home. On the other hand, when you travel the world with a loved one, you can look forward to growing old together and boring your grandchildren into submission with tedious travel anecdotes.

 

-Efficiency vs. spontaneity?

lost
I arrived into Stazione di Roma knowing I had no more than 48 hours to see as much of Rome as possible. The spontaneity of youth is of course a great thing and takes you to unexpected places, but it also has its drawbacks. A younger version of me would no doubt have embarked on a bold lap of the city. Blistered feet and heavy backpack weighing me down, I would have settled for nothing less than the most inexpensive cockroach-infested hostel I could find. The Colosseum? No way, let’s check out that Museum of Cement, it must be good.
There’s no leaving it to chance nowadays though. Not only did sensible old me book his hotel room in advance, but I also arrived at the Eternal City with a street map and clear directions to the hotel. Add to that hours of nerdy research on Rome’s most interesting sights and finest eating establishments, and I am happy to say: I came, I saw, I conquered. Well, as much as one can conquer in 48 hours anyway.

 

-Haute cuisine vs. street food?

glasses
As a youngster I used to place ‘eating’ in the same category as ‘form-filling’. It was a dull and inevitable part of my life which just seem to get in the way of my unquenchable desire to ‘part-ay’. I suppose when you add this to the limited budgets and less sophisticated palates of some younger travelers, it is safe to say that many will often miss out on the excellent dining experiences on offer in most European cities.
Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with street food. It’s cheap, it’s local, it’s often very tasty. However, with age one learns to seek out the finer restaurants, order the right bottle of wine and generally go the extra mile in search of that perfect dining experience, which sometimes just can’t be recreated from a street stall.

 

-Savvy traveler vs. reckless youth?

gambling
I was reading a guide to Bratislava that discouraged first time visitors to the city from getting involved in ‘street gambling’. Street gambling? I mean, who in their right mind would see a group of dodgy-looking Slovakians exchanging sweaty bills on a street corner and think: I want a piece of that action. Then I thought about my own fearless naivety as a youngster and the compromising situations in which I inevitably found myself on my travels. In fact some of my most interesting travel stories involve scenarios which I would not think of negotiating my way into (and then out of) these days.
Although the recklessness of youth brings adventure, I am somewhat happier in the knowledge that my maturity and sensible demeanor make it less likely that I will become a victim of street crime or con artists. Certainly, I would ensure my passports and travelers cheques are safely locked away in my hotel safe before getting up to any monkey business.
Of course, there are the odd unanswerable pitfalls which befall travelers with a few grew hairs on their head. For example, although it was good news for Toby, my chiropractor’s son (who bought himself a gold-plated X-box as a result), a backpack seems to cause far more damage to my spine than it did as a teenager. I have also found ‘standards’ to be a somewhat limiting factor, since they stand in the way of my ability to find cheap accommodation or wear the same pair of underwear for three consecutive days.
Finally, I wonder what damage all this traveling does to one’s future career prospects. Backpacking is seen as an interesting, character-building addition to the CV of a 21 year old taking a gap year before entering employment. When you’re almost 30 it tends to make you look fidgety and unwilling to accept the grim reality that we must lead dull and dutiful lives now that our acne has cleared up.
Taking the above with the requisite pinch of salt, one may hazard to conclude that no-one is too old to don their back-pack full of dreams and set off into the unknown. It may just be that as we grow older and wiser we feel less inclined to partake in the proclivities of our footloose and fancy-free days. Certainly I am less willing to make the same sort of concessions I would have made without a thought in my starry-eyed youth.
But this is not to say that younger travelers have generally better or more enjoyable travel experiences, or that in my advanced age and infinite wisdom I somehow have the edge over all those back-pack-wearing Jonas Brothers look-a-likes. But it seems to be an undeniable, inescapable fact that as we grow older – for better or worse – our travel styles will too.

How has your travel style changed as you’ve aged? Do you prefer the travel style of your youth or the way you travel as an older adult? Let us know in the comments!
Photos by: sukianto, gyrts, ~FreeBirD~, Celine Massa, monojussiAlex E. Proimos

Solo Travel: The Pros and Cons-Bootsnall article

I couldn’t possibly spend another night sharing a hostel room with Amanda, who insisted on sleeping naked between the dirty sheets of the rented bed. Having a travel partner had, in the past, proven to be beneficial and fun, but I was definitely questioning whether this trip would have been better off on my own.
Deciding whether to travel solo or with another person is an essential question to ask—and a decision not to be taken lightly. If you aren’t sure whether your next trip is fit for a one-man show or if you’d be better off with a buddy, here are nine things to keep in mind before you pack your bags.

1 – The Ultimate Freedom


PRO: Your vacation is your vacation—it is the ultimate self-indulgence. You don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules. What better way to find yourself than to immerse yourself in a new cultures and experiences and make them all your own? Once your initial fear and self-consciousness has passed, realizing how empowering solo travel can be is an exciting reason to go it alone. A trip plagued with uncertainty when you first arrive at your destination can be a huge confidence booster once you’ve completed your journey.
CON: It is common for first-time solo travelers to feel a bit hesitant about globetrotting alone. It can be scary negotiating a taxi ride or eating a meal by yourself, especially when you are used to being around other people. Traveling to a place where you don’t speak the local language can compound that fear. If being alone keeps you from fully exploring your destination, you may be better off with a partner.
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2 – Shed Your Shell


PRO: Solo travel opens doors to meeting people you normally wouldn’t have noticed or visiting places that wouldn’t have been on your itinerary because you define your trip. On your own you will quickly come to realize you aren’t the only one-man show, and the opportunities to mix and mingle are wide open. The only person stopping you … is you.
CON: Traveling alone can be especially intimidating if you tend to be shy or rely on others. When there is a language barrier, it may take you a longer to warm up to other people on the road, and when you travel with another person, there is a built-in sense of comfort from day one.

3 – Language Game

PRO: If you travel on your own, you are much more likely to learn a foreign language faster. You have no choice but to speak the language—or at least give it your best shot. Solo travel puts you in a better position to socialize with the local population and, conversely, makes it easier to learn how to say what you want to say.
CON: Traveling to a place with a foreign language always offers up its challenges, but with a travel partner, you can work together to creatively communicate with the locals. It is convenient to have someone else as you work your way through a local language, and you may even be lucky enough to have a travel partner who has a flair for the foreign tongue. If you know some Spanish and she speaks German, touring Europe is a lot easier.

4 – Conquer and Divide

PRO: When traveling with a buddy, you need to be at least willing to listen to her suggestions, even if you have no interest in what she wants to see or do. As a solo traveler, you may have to do a little more legwork to plan your trip but the decisions you make are your own. While it is nice to have the back-and-forth camaraderie and help of a friend, it also means she might begin to rely on you too much. She just bought another pair of shoes, but that’s not a big deal because you have extra room in your bag, right?
CON: With two people, you essentially have to do half the work. Brainstorming sessions open up doors to things you didn’t know about or places you’d never heard of before. Together you can find the best deals, scope out great restaurant reviews and pick the brains of people you both know separately for suggestions and ideas. One of you can pick up the luggage while the other flags down a ride. You can also get away with packing just one tube of toothpaste between the two of you.

5 – Setting the Schedule


PRO: You are a morning person, but your partner prefers to party through the night. Do you really want to sit around waiting for your friend to wake up or would you rather get up and go when you are ready? One of the biggest benefits of traveling on your own is that you make all of your decisions, especially when it comes to deciding what you want to do and when. If you want to breeze through a museum or skip it altogether for an afternoon relaxing with a cappuccino people watching … you can!
CON: Together you and your travel partner can bounce ideas off of each other as you plan the perfect day. She may open your eyes to a backdoor experience she heard about from a friend, and you might convince her that you should take the time to hit up some great restaurants you read about. As you build your travel schedule together, you might devise a unique plan that neither one of you could have created on your own.

6 – Cash Question

PRO: As a solo traveler, you can find great deals, especially if you are patient and flexible. It may be easier to fly standby and reap the benefits doled out by the airlines when you are on your own schedule. Bunking in a dorm room at a hostel can save you a chunk of change and introduce you to travelers like yourself. And with a keen sense of observation, you can scope out other single travelers looking to share a cab or split the cost of a multiple-person entry fee.
CON: Traveling with another person allows you to share the cost of many expenses on a trip. You can share hotel rooms, large meals and transportation costs. From sharing a guidebook to talking vendors down at street markets for purchasing more than one of the same item, the two of you can jointly get by on a lot less cash than if you go it solo.

7 – Safety in Numbers


PRO: On your own, you are more likely to be aware of your surroundings and belongings. You may be hyper-sensitive about what is going on around you and consciously make smarter decisions knowing you are alone. With a buddy, it is easy to become comfortable with each other and let your guards down in situations where you should be more aware of your safety.
CON: After dark, at border crossings and in otherwise questionable situations, it is always better to be accompanied by another person. You are less likely to be singled out as a crime victim if someone else is present, especially if you are a woman. On a train or bus, one of you can sleep while the other keeps an eye on your luggage, and when you’re accosted by street hawkers, you can both work to diffuse the situation and move on.

8 – A Piece of Home

PRO: If you’re hoping to escape into oblivion, traveling with another person might remind you too much of home—especially if your partner insists on comparing everything (the food, the climate, the people, the smells) to something familiar. In fact, you may become the person your partner relies on for a piece of home. In our global world, it is simple to take a couple comfort items with you and stay in touch through e-mail—a piece of home isn’t far away if you want it.
CON: For people who have little travel experience, a travel buddy can help ease the transition into a foreign environment. Homesickness is kept at bay and a familiar face and voice can make frustrating or lonely moments more tolerable. And—no questions asked—it is always easier to have a friend with you if you become sick away from home.

9 – Nothing More Than Memories

PRO: One of the biggest benefits of solo travel is that you’ll have a whole host of friends from around the world who share your memories. Hook up on social media and your memories (and future travel destinations) will never be further than a mouse click away.
CON: You’ve awoken to a beautiful sunrise over an isolated beach in the South Pacific. Or you’ve found that perfect meal in a hidden bistro in Italy. Or you’ve had a blast at a nightclub in South Africa. Those experiences are yours, but when you travel with a buddy, you have someone who shares your stories and memories long after you’ve returned home.

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