04
07/2015

Things I Wish I Knew Before Travelling the World

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Expedia Canada recently contacted me with an interesting question: Is there anything I wish I had known before embarking on my travels ten years ago? My decade-long journey would take me to over 100 countries on 7 continents (not to mention every province and territory in Canada). Giving it some thought, here’s my answer:

Packing:
I’ve always packed too much. Always. It’s hard not to get caught in the Trap of the Ifs, that is, “if this happens, I’ll need that. “ Especially when it comes to toiletries and medications. Better to have told myself: “if this happens, you’ll deal with it.” Quite amazingly, you can buy whatever you need pretty much everywhere you go.

Flying
I avoid stress at airports by arriving early, but three nuggets of advice have made flying much more comfortable. 1) Wear compression socks on long-haul flights. I don’t know how they work, but they work. 2) Stay away from the tomato juice. High sodium just swells up the feet and makes you feel awful. 3) Put a pillow over the arm rest to make it softer and increase the surface area.

Jetlag
I used to hammer through jet lag, rather unsuccessfully, until I discovered the wonders of melatonin. All natural, no side effects, and nothing like the zombie-state sleeping pills put you into. Even a small dose does wonders for your sleep quality. Melatonin is available over-the-counter.

On the Go
With all the travel I oddly enough never expected to do so much transit. We’re too focused on the destinations and less on the hours we’ll spend on buses and trains and planes getting there. Before the trip, load up on books, podcasts, snacks, and anything you’ll need to make the journey more pleasant.

Ask for Help
Hey Robin Ten-Years-Ago, instead of running around lost for hours, or gambling on a decent place to eat, ask locals for help. They’re generally only too happy to offer assistance, advice, or directions. Speaking of which, ask at least two or three locals for directions and make sure they match up. Sometimes you’ll get the wrong information because they’re merely being polite.

Smile, Often
When you’re stressed or facing any weird situation, force your mouth to smile. A good smile diffuses most situations, de-escalates hostilities, and reminds you to stop taking everything so seriously.

Listen to your Instinct
On the road, our instincts act like a force field. It tells us when to leave the odd-smelling fish, avoid getting on the rickety bus, turn down the free drink, and say no to the seemingly can’t-lose deal to buy a rug/emeralds/jade statue. On the same note: never accept a Flaming Lamborghini from a flight attendant in a Hong Kong bar. Trust me on that one.

Plan for Randomness
We often plan our trips down to the finest detail, but the best moments are usually the most random ones. Make sure there’s room to jump on opportunities that might come up (occasionally that means people too!)

People Matter More than Places
Robin Ten-Years-Ago, you’re going to visit many incredible places, but it’s the people you meet who create the paradise you find. Surround yourself with great people and you’ll have a great time. If people around you are driving you nuts, change company before changing the location.

Avoid the Bad News
Brush up on your common sense, but avoid the Dangers and Annoyances sections of any guidebook, and be weary of negative news stories. They’ll just make you paranoid and neurotic. The odds of being safe are tremendously in your favour, especially if you don’t make silly decisions.

There’s No Wrong or Right Way to Travel
Second guessing myself robbed me of enjoying too many moments in the moment itself. Travel is a personal affair, and you don’t have to prove anything to anyone but yourself. Do what feels right and don’t look back.

Here’s five more essential travel tips to remember from Expedia. Personally, a reminder of all these expert travel tips is as helpful today as it would have been ten years ago. Hopefully they be useful for you too.

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