Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for July 23rd, 2008

Travel habits picked up along the way 13

Posted on July 23, 2008 by jimparedes

As someone who travels a lot on work related trips, a plan and a schedule are so important to have. There are things that need to be accomplished, flights to be arranged and taken, accommodations to be set, meetings to be attended and a million other things to consider to make sure everything goes well.

With the amount of travel I have done in my life and will still set out to do, I’ve developed some habits that have made me tide through them sometimes seamlessly, and at other times merely surviving through the skin of my teeth. But at the very least, I can say that with the habits I have learned, things get done even in the worst of situations. Most importantly, I have continued to largely enjoy traveling as part of my work. If I stopped enjoying it, my career as a world performer  (I sing in a band) would have to stop.

I thought I’d share with you in this article some ‘must dos’ or ‘must pack’  advice just in case you plan on a career that will often find you on the road. Here they are:

1) A good toiletry bag and lots of zip lock.

Bottles of cologne, shampoos and other liquids always evaporate somehow and can soil one’s toiletry bag. Put them in zip locks to prevent contaminating medicines, shaving kits, and other stuff.

2) Throw a good handy Swiss knife in your luggage.
I have discovered that occasions always arise when I always end up needing a knife, a nail cutter, a tiny screw driver to fix my sunglasses,  a nail file, a pair of scissors, etc. You never know what you will need it for, but you surely will. Get the best, most elaborate Victorinox Swiss knife you can get, the one with the magnifying glass, toothpick, ball pen, etc. It will always be useful.

A spokesman of the knife company  said it in jest but no less brilliantly when he reacted to the story that the TV adventure hero McGyver was going to stop a fleet of tanks with just a grenade and a Swiss knife. He uttered, ‘what does he need a grenade for?’

3) Flatten and roll up your clothes as a space saver.

A traveler will ALWAYS need more baggage space for stuff picked up along the way.

4) Always get a calling card from the hotel front desk and bring it with you.

If you are ever lost, it comes in really handy. On the 6th leg of a long trip, I sometimes forget the name of the hotel I am staying in, and that can be problematic when I have to take a cab back to the hotel after a city tour.

5) Put a big, bright and screaming sticker on your luggage for easy identification.

It helps in spotting your bags when  so many look the same as hundreds of them on the conveyor  belt are passing  by.

6) Pack extra batteries (already charged if they are rechargeable) for your camera.

It would be quite a disaster to be in a beautiful, scenic place and discover that your camera is without any power.

7) Write down on a piece of paper important information like passport, credit card, cell phone service info and emergency numbers to call in case you lose them.

I have lost my wallet with 4 credit cards to pickpockets in Rome and I was lucky to have all the info with me and so had the loss reported within minutes saving me the trouble of having to explain unauthorized and illegal purchases.

8) Bring the usual emergency medicines—pain killers, acetaminophens, anti-allergy tablets, anti-diarrhea pills, and other prescribed stuff you need to take daily.

For all daily medicines, bring extras in case you face a delay in coming home.

9) Check the expiration date of your passport.

Some countries demand that a passport’s validity is at the very least good for 6 months. To avoid the embarrassment of being interviewed extensively for this reason, or worse, being denied entry, keep your travel docs updated.

10) When shopping, learn a few local words that will help you when you want to bring the price down or get a bargain.

Most of the time,  the effort is appreciated by the locals and it can translate to better prices. And while you are at it, know the words for ‘toilet’, ‘thank you’, and the tipping practices.

11) In a poor country, don’t haggle for too big a discount because they often give it.

The truth is, you can afford not to, and they need the money more than you need the merchandise. I sometimes feel that it is too exploitative to bleed them for more discounts when the goods are already at bargain basement prices. And don’t be way too generous with your tipping too. Too much unnecessary tipping can be disruptive and spoil them as The Lonely Planet book on Nepal advices.

12) Lastly,  allow yourself a day or two to just savor the local setting.

Go where the spirit moves you.

‘A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving’, as  Lao Tzu likes to put it. It is a good attitude to have. In my case, it is not rare for me to just hop on a bus, destination unknown, and get off when I see a lot of  people congregated in some park, plaza, a historical landmark or a shopping center. As long as I have a calling card of the hotel, and some taxi money in case I can’t figure out the train or bus routes back to the hotel, I gallivant  around,  as I always feel safe and excited enough to meet the locals, enjoy strange accents, go ‘adventure eating’, or just get lost in the new setting.

Every travel, in my view must make you feel somehow more expanded, and more at home in the world. James Baldwin put it so well when he said, ‘I met a lot of people in Europe.  I even encountered myself.’

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