Travel can be very addicting! So far, I’ve been to 10 countries and numerous states. Along the way, I’ve learned several helpful lessons. Most travelers have heard the country-specific advice, like don’t eat with your left hand in India, don’t point the bottom of your feet at people in China, or that the “ok” hand gesture is not so ok in Brazil. So here’s a few travel tips that could be applied nearly everywhere.
Do your research beforehand! Learn about the country’s climate, history, religion, special customs, holidays, etc.
Try to learn something in the local language before you go, even if it’s as simple as “Hello.” People appreciate the effort you make to understand them.
“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” – Unknown
Cross pack! If traveling with others you trust, put some clothes & essentials in another’s bag, so if yours is lost, you have something to fall back on.
Ziploc bags are a lifesaver. Especially when your luggage falls off the side of a boat. *sigh*
Be nice to the check-in staff; it’s not their fault airlines are inherently evil.
Food and drink is a key element of hospitality in many countries, especially out East. Unless you have a medical reason, don’t turn down what they offer you.
Don’t start riots. Most people won’t like you if you do.
Don’t drink the water! Unless you have made sure it’s been purified. This includes watching out for ice cubes and items washed in local water, like lettuce.
“You’re not a traveler if you can’t haggle; you’re a tourist. But you’re also not a traveler if you haggle for six hours; you’re a cheap jerk.” – Unknown
Make sure your travel documents are correct and up-to-date, if you don’t want to be in the sequal to “The Terminal.”
What’s your favorite or most helpful travel tip? Let’s keep the list going!
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
ISO 200 • f 3.5 • 1/1000 sec (both photos)
(Note: This panoramic was created by digitally stitching two photos together)
Everyone needs time to relax, and this globe-hopper is no exception! I took this photo at the Suan Bua Resort in Chiang Mai, Thailand, during a week of rest (and more exploration). While scenic pathways, Thai massage, and colorful butterflies & flowers are a good way to relax, Chiang Mai offers many more options for the more adventurous traveler.
Chiang Mai is the unofficial captial of northern Thailand, and a haven for Western tourists and retirees who want to visit somewhere with a temperate climate, good exchange rates, and lots of people who speak English. I had a tour guide who obviously loved her job, and she showed me some of the usual tourist destinations like the Tiger Kingdom, Maesa Elephant Camp, jungle zipline tours, a hill tribe trek, and a butterfly & orchid farm.
“The locals say you’ve not experienced Chiang Mai until you’ve seen the view from Doi Suthep, eaten a bowl of kao soi, and purchased an umbrella from Bo Sang,” claims one tourist site. When I was there, the locals talked about visiting the ruins of the old city wall and moat, shopping at the night bazaar, getting an authentic Thai massage, and checking out their most famous Buddhist temple, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. All of it sounds good to me! 😀
What is the most unique tourist site you’ve seen while traveling?
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 2.8 • 1/550 sec
Time for some more tourist tips! The city of Salzburg (lit. “Salt City”) was one of my favorite visits, because there was just so much to do! I posted earlier about The Sound of Music tours, but the city sports many other things to do. Some people come to hear all about the birthplace of Mozart, and another travel reviewer described the Salzburg as “a Disneyfied city with scrumptious cakes, sugar-coated mountains and one helluva fortress.”
I took this photo from the top of Festung Hohensalzburg, which roughly translates to “Fortress High (Above) Salzburg.” Appropriate, I guess. It was a good view of the city, and they had a great classical music concert. That was after a day of exploring the salt mines on the Austria/Germany border. If you’ve never ridden a speed slide into a cave, you have to try it! For those on a budget, even walking around the old town to see the baroque architecture and trying out the variety of food is a good way to spend the day. Salzburg was nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. A quick search online will reveal a long list of things to do, or not do, when visiting Salzburg. No matter what type of activities interest you, I would definitely recommend taking a trip here next time you’re in Europe!
Sound off if you’ve ever visited this city! What was your favorite thing to do or see?
Camera info: Canon Rebel 350D • lens EF 70-200mm f/2.8L
ISO 200 • f 4.0 • 1/1000 sec
I feel like resting today. Maybe because I haven’t been able to all week, or maybe it’s because this pic is just so… peaceful. I think that was the point. The resort I visited in Thailand displayed beautiful plants and simple architecture that gave the whole area an atmosphere of peace and refreshment. Not to mention they had Thai massage! 😀 I’m sure you are just as busy as I am, so I wanted to throw out some quick tips today on relaxation. After all, as journalist Sidney J. Harris wrote, “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
When most people think relaxation techniques, they think meditation, hypnosis, visualization, or other similar exercises. Sure, that works great for some people, but I’m just not New Age-y like that. What can I do, then? Part of a conference I attended included brainstorming other ideas to help ourselves relax. There are four main areas in our lives that we need to deal with: spiritual, physical, interpersonal, and emotional. Different forms of relaxation affect each area. Here’s some we came up with:
- Spiritual: Quiet times, prayer, Sabbath rest, thanksgiving/worship, Scripture readings, meditating on God & his character, knowing your purpose and keeping focused
- Physical: Exercise, sports, spa time, sleep, punching bags, dancing and other favorite activities
- Interpersonal: Cultivating significant relationships, friends, fun contests or games, sex (if you’re married), entertaining (if you’re an extrovert), pets, kids
- Emotional: Counseling, tear-jerker movies, listening to music, humor/laughter
- Other/multiple categories: Cooking, ditching unnecessary responsibilities, TV, chocolate, wine, nature, reading, beach/vacay, drawing, knitting, photography, other hobbies
Ok, now it’s your turn! What would you add to the list? What’s your favorite way to relax?
Camera info: Fuji Finepix A303 / Automatic Point & Shoot
ISO 100 • f 7 • 1/350 sec
Even on a semi-deserted island in the middle of nowhere, you can’t get away from sports! On a trip to Indonesia, I visited one island that only took ten minutes to walk from one shore to the other. There was a village on the island, and the people were excited to have tourists visit them and learn about their culture. They showed us everything they could think of, including one of their favorite pastimes – sailboat racing!
The rules were pretty simple: sail out to a certain island a good distance away, make a loop around it, and come back before anyone else. Oh yeah, and don’t dump yourself and the boat into the ocean in the meantime! Easier said than done. Several of the men from our tour group hopped in the boats with the locals to give it a try. At least we gave the islanders a laugh! They lined up to watch our guys attempt to maneuver those big sails (or, in some cases, just bail water as fast as they could while the “experts” steered). Either way, whether from shore or on the ocean, we all had a good time.
Sailboat racing is actually a very popular sport around South Asia. There are championships and boating clubs & associations in some countries. Others, like our islander friends, just have informal competitions to connect with their communities. No matter what the community or sport, it seems that competition is part of human nature. Just try and beat that!
What is your community’s favorite sport? Does taking part make you more connected with them?