Travel enough and you are undoubtedly going to find yourself in a situation where you are trying to mentally score your trip on the crapola meter. This meter ranges from level 1 boring to level 10 phoning home for bail money. No matter where your trip scores, your excitement and anticipation savored prior has been shattered. This is where a little planning, or lack of, can turn everything around. Vacationer and traveler are two very different things. The word vacation brings forth images of sunbathing on a beach half way around the world, paying for overpriced westernized food, hokey entertainment, and gawked at by locals when stepping out of the all inclusive resort. The traveler explores sights unseen, immerses in different cultures, and introduces the taste buds to flavors unfamiliar. A traveler will come away educated and better for their experience. A vacationer took a mental nap.
Without the constraints of a planned vacation, the traveler is left to his own devises. A seasoned sailor always finds it easy to pick out the new cruiser from the old cruisers. While sitting in St. Thomas the new cruisers will say they are sailing to St Lucia, the veteran cruiser says they are sailing towards St Lucia. Let’s face it, sometimes the winds of fate just take us someplace else. A little less planning can be a good thing.
There is a trick to not planning. I wise traveler will have plan for not having a plan. A good map that covers 300 miles in all directions of intended destination is key. Prior to your trip circle your destination with one color and as many locations around it with other colors. I rank the colors according to the level of interest I have in alternate destinations.
Check accommodation availability in the alternate locations. A simple question like “Do you have many rooms available the week of the 19th through the 25th?” will let you know that you are probably not going to be sleeping in a park if you end up in that town during that week.
A torrential downpour can be a wonderful experience when trekking through the rain forest. When it stops the colors come alive, the sounds are a symphony and the clean smell is a boost no combination of energy drinks and power bars can compete with. Four days of deluge is quite a hindrance when exploring pre-Columbian ruins.
Prior to the trip look at weather patterns in the area. Many times one place is prone to rain and another is not. Instead of waiting it out in the hotel, if things look like they may not change head for an alternate with better weather. How many friends have told us all about their “vacation” that rained the whole time?
Not what it is cracked up to be? Without attempting to shed a bad light on Panama, I was let down by what I expected the old pirate haven to be like. I had read about the forts and all the pirates that had called Panama City their home port. After two days of airbrushed school busses speeding around every corner blaring Mach Daddy, I needed a whole new environment. My trusty map had a circle around the town of Boquete up in the mountains. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of it. The Land of Eternal Spring lived up to its name. The temperature was perfect the whole time compared to the blaring heat in Panama City. Everything was a third of the price and the people were the friendliest I had ever encountered. Boquete is small with a large ex-pat population so most everyone spoke English.
Don’t be afraid to venture out to find something you did not plan on seeing. It may turn out to be much better than your original idea.
Complaining travel partners
Sometimes there is just no pleasing someone. A little psychology can go a long way. The whiner may be used to being in control and finds themselves in a follower role. Try asking their advice on what they think would be better to visit with a choice of a couple of options. You may find that giving them a little control changes their attitude and makes the trip fun for everyone. Some people have a hard time accepting others as leaders regardless of experience. You may feel like you are trying to be helpful by exerting your experience but end up making it worse.
Always carry toilet paper when travelling in third world and developing countries.
Know what is lacking in the area before you go.
Keep a copy of your passport in a plastic sandwich bag with you at all times. Know the local laws.
Getting arrested for something that is perfectly acceptable at home can ruin the best of trips.
Travel insurance is real handy if you get sick along the way.
Don’t keep all of your money in one place.
Don’t plan so hard for your next trip. Being prepared is better than a iron clad plan. Being locked into an itinerary can keep you from truly enjoying what is out there to experience. Looking back over the past 30 years of traveling I can say with all honesty, the best trips turned out to be the ones that started out in a very different direction.