The Little Book Of Travel

What happens when you’ve been travelling so hard even your luggage hurts?Dv

In the past three weeks I’ve been on a madcap rollercoaster of packing, unpacking, checking in, out and checking up online with my friends.

Not the least, I’ve visited three continents. Surreal. So I started wondering, how do they do it, those frequent flyers who seem to glide through continents the way the rest of us cruise the duty free aisles? What’s the secret of serenity while travelling so hard even your luggage hurts? How does one travel well?

When your passport is caked in baggage stamps..DV

When your passport has no more pages and is caked in baggage stamps and your lungs are full of stale cabin air, how do you keep that beatific supermodel smile intact, even behind dark glasses? Maybe it’s practice, maybe you have to be born to it with peripatetic parents as some of us are. Nature or nurture, who knows..

The best way to flex your flying muscles is, of course to Fly, but you can boost your travel training anytime by choosing overnight buses and trains, staying awake in airports for a 6AM no-frills flight, getting the red-eye from New York to LA or the 7pm “luxury coach” with other hapless backpackers from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. You’ll arrive in the morning, nicely sizzled and ready to take any guest house offered you by the touts who throng the bus depot.

Don’t do it. That’s way lies the sybaritic luxury of the spider house, cockroach central and The Grey Room.

You can’t always know before you go… but you can plan on the fly.

Plan your trip lightly but well. Decide as you go and don’t be hidebound by schedules, like the guy I met in the Himalayas, who’d meticulously planned his trip round India, booked every train, with three day stops in places of interest and two hour layovers in others. He was almost horrified by the staggering beauty and charm of places in which he’d merely scheduled a train change and the sheer banality of the ones he’d deemed of touristic interest.

You can’t always know before you go, but you can be sensitive to prevailing winds and plan on the fly.

There are some rules to travelling well, much as I hate to curtail the fun with admonitions, so I’ve compiled a few travel pointers, if you will, a Little Book Of Travel.

The Little Book Of Travel

Beginning

  • Prepare: Eat more lightly, try spicy foods (or whatever your destination offers) to acclimatise, look at protection: probiotics, sunscreens, hats, TSA locks and policies.
  • Pack: Only a carry-on bag, ever (unless you’re relocating, or, say, travelling to study, teach or work: then one case and carry on.) Plan to dress for local customs, i.e: shorts in Bangkok, good, shorts in Delhi, not so good.

Middle

  • Play: Phone and tablet games and apps, Kindles,your required reading list for next term: you’ll need ’em. SpellTower keeps me sane. The Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are readily available to buy for your tablet, but try WikiTravel as well: it’s free, has user contribution and sees things from another angle. ThornTree is great too if you want advice on where and how to go.
  • Listen: Music, movies, podcasts: may be the few words you hear in your own language. On that note, try Duolingo or some other language app: don’t be that person who only speaks their native tongue. Meditation apps and visualisation tapes keep you centred.
  • Fly: Water, water, everywhere: drink it, spray your face with it, carry wet wipes. A small bottle of Lavender oil revives the jaded senses and guards against the pleasures of your neighbour’s unshod feet.
  • Stay: If in Asia or somewhere where life is more ad hoc and accommodation is plentiful and cheap, book the first jet lag nights online then choose the rest yourself. Remember, inexpensive doesn’t have to be dire: I’ve stayed in palaces on a budget and beautiful wall-paintings in Rajasthan come free. Everywhere else, don’t be scared of the odd airbnb crash, or even a hostel, some of them are trendy, well-appointed and have be-curtained bunks. Really.
  • Shop: When you see it, if you want it, grab it. That vendor will not be there tomorrow/you’ll never find this street again/sometimes There Can Be Only One.

End

  • Leave: Check under the bed/pillow/comforter and all the flat surfaces: you’ll need those chargers/lipglosses/ iPhone later, won’t you?! Try not to get home the day before work, your body will thank you for it, but if you do, that Rooibos Tea you brought back will keep your eyes open, at least the first morning.

Travel Well!

 

Photograph: Cape Town Arrival, by Dear Velvet