Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Some Lessons from Travel

Here are some things I learned on this trip.  You’d think I would know these things by now, but I don’t.

  1. Don’t go in the first place. Travel is a curse. Psych! Just kidding!  It’s an adventure! Sometimes it’s more adventurous than others.
  2. Take spares and duplicates of essential items. My glasses, which came from large retail outlet with a stylized star (an asterisk with two arms missing) in its logo, lost one of the nose pads. I could of course have worn them but I might as well have put white tape on the bridge and sported a pocket protector. Sometimes you get what you pay for. These are the same glasses that shed a screw in the frame in August on our way to Lynchburg. I didn’t have a spare then (Becky did, though) but I did this time. 
  3. Use a checklist when you pack.  You can make your own or get one off the web. A study done in several major hospitals indicated that surgical teams were less likely to omit important steps or items if they used a simple checklist.  I didn’t use one this time and forgot to pack a charger for our new Nikon.  My omission meant we had to improvise to recharge the battery which kept dying prematurely.
  4. If you forget something you need, improvise!  Like Bear Grylls, see what there is in the environment you can use to survive. Hotels, for example, usually have boxes of cell phone charger cables that you can use or have.  With our camera, I bought a USB connecting cable from the local Radio Shack and used it to charge the camera from a USB port on the laptop. It worked, even when we were traveling and the goofy battery went out again. We recharged it off the laptop’s battery, which is much bigger. (I know, I am a technical genius.)
  5. Take proven equipment.  Our camera was about a month old, and, not knowing what I was doing, I didn’t “condition” the rechargeable battery—i.e. discharge and charge it several times, which makes the battery “recognize” its full capacity (Sheez—I sound like an elementary principal.) (I love elementary principals! They are so cool! Don’t make me repeat fourth grade just because I made mild fun of you!)  I also tested washable clothes I took to Europe this summer (only to be partly thwarted when the room we were in was incredibly humid. We had to squeeze, blow dry and iron garments to get them to the point that they were only slightly moist). I’d also add it’s not a good idea to take a new pair of shoes, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of walking.  Blisters are not fun.
  6. Check your GPS against a good map. Huh.  Word just put the previous sentence in bold, automatically. Amazing. I learned this lesson again this trip. No matter how good your GPS is, it will make mistakes and select weird routings.  A good map helps keep it (and you) on course.  “Recalculating…”
  7. Know where you are and know which way north is. If I had followed these rules we would not have gone 15 miles out of our way one dark and rainy night, turning a five-minute trip into a hour’s ordeal. Knowing where you are comes from the map (or #8) and knowing where north is helps with directions.  I have a good sense of direction once I know where north is. On this trip, I had trouble clicking that in. It was two days before I got it. It’s easier during the day when the sun is out, or if you can get a shot at the north star. Or use a compass. I plan to take one next time. Just call me Daniel Boone.
  8.  Ask directions. Take a lady—your wife, female partner, friend, co-worker or relative—for this purpose.  I am not kidding. Men hate to stop and ask for directions. They don’t want to appear dependent on someone else and would continue driving for an hour in the wrong direction than stop and ask someone, a process that would take thirty seconds. Men also do this because we’re stupid. (Sorry, guys, just broke the bro code there.  We’ll watch some football and drink some suds later, dude.)
Actual recreated dialogue from various trips (Becky drives because she likes to. I navigate because I like to and I need to appear to be doing something useful.):
Becky: Which way do we go?
Me: This way…I think…
Becky: You think? You don’t know? What does the map say?
Me: Nothing. I didn’t bring one. The GPS says we’re right.
Becky: I hate that thing.
Me: It doesn’t hate you. It wants to help you.
Becky: Let’s stop and ask someone.
Me: That would make me feel inadequate. Besides, that makes too much sense. And I’m stupid. I would never do anything like that.
Becky: I’m going to ask that old guy over there.

And she does, and comes back with directions and a couple of recipes. Amazing. Do women go to school to learn to do this?

  1. Ask the locals about food and attractions. Rachael Ray says to do this but so does Becky.  We’ve eaten in some terrific places and seen some great sights because she asked a local. I wish we had asked a local about the OASIS Aquarium in Burlington. Not very good, I’m afraid.
  2. Take lots of pictures even if you’re not very good at it. Becky is very good at photography and took over 500 pictures on a ten-day trip to Europe in June/July.  I took about four.  With digital cameras, you’re not out much if you take a lot of pictures and most of them stink. Who knows, you might learn to be a better photographer.
  3. Expect the unexpected. After all, travel is an adventure…isn’t it?

P.S. I hope you will add your travel tips in the comments section.  Judy Smith, I know you are a seasoned traveler. What tips do you have that I didn’t cover? Anyone is welcome to add to this discussion. Thank you.

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