Sometimes it’s helpful to know what not to do. I’ve heard that the wisest people learn from other’s mistakes, but with my rush-headlong-into-everything attitude about travel, I’ve run into many situations where I realized I was making one of those “life lessons” mistakes. Here are five I’ve made that you would do well to avoid.
|"I don't have a cell phone, I didn't confirm my travel plans, |
and I missed my train! I guess this builds character..."
1. Don’t be shy when you need to figure something out. When you need directions, seek out a friendly person who can help you instead of agonizing over the map. If you need more information about where this train is going, what the staticky intercom announcement said, or which trolley takes you downtown, ask. I learned that bus drivers are usually brusque when you ask them to tell you where your stop is, but handling a little rudeness is ten times better than getting stranded by the side of a highway and doubling back because you missed your stop.
2. Don’t travel without a cell phone. I’ve tried it once, and it did not end well. Pay phones are rare and a hassle, and it’s awkward to try to explain to a stranger that you need to borrow their cell phone for an emergency call. I was incredibly happy to have a cell phone when I fell and injured my tailbone while out hiking on the coast of San Juan island— I could call a taxi instead of limping the 10 miles back to the hostel.
3. Don’t miss a chance to confirm travel plans. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “I pretty much know where the bus station is,” and found myself completely lost. If you have wi-fi, take a second to check the details of your plans for the day. It makes life so much easier.
4. Don’t zone out. I have a habit of going into a trance when I take a walk. Newly arrived in Utah, I decided to stroll around the neighborhood where my host family lived. I passed a pleasant hour wandering around. The next thing I knew, I sort of “woke up” and realized I had absolutely no idea where I was. This is fine when I’m in my hometown, but it was pretty disorienting in the middle of an unfamiliar city.
5. Don’t freak out. Okay, if you’re getting mugged or shot at, you can freak out, but don’t get all worked up about the non-life-threatening stuff. Jet-lagged in Europe, I could have saved myself a lot of stomachaches and headaches if I had just relaxed and focused on being rational through the uncertain plans and the missed trains. I did much better in Colorado, when I calmly decided to spend the night in an IHOP rather than freaking out about having nowhere to stay. When you’re calm, your problem-solving skills are ten times better.
Anyone have anything to add to the list?
Have a travel question? Leave a comment and I’ll answer in a blog.