Travel Tips For When The Going Gets Rough
There are any number of obstacles to get in the way of your happiness: rain, cancelled trains, ridiculously long lines, etc. and while none of it’s going to make or break your vacation (Lesson #1: just be chill. About everything. It’s better that way), it is annoying. And after enough annoying, it can get down right irritating.
But better than throwing your hands up in anger, here’s a few tips for being ready when Lesson #1 just isn’t possible.
2. Don’t be afraid of your embassy.
Once when I had my things stolen while I was out on the town, and I was in a sticky situation because they’d taken my passport right along with my wallet and 50 euros. For a few days, I paced around unsure how to tackle the situation—and to be honest, just a tad scared that I wouldn’t be allowed in my embassy without ID—but when I finally bit the bullet and showed up, it was smooth sailing. It’s why I always say pack an extra copy of your passport, color copy if possible, and something else with your name and picture, whether it be a driver’s license or a university card.
3. Take at least one presentable outfit with you.
And I don’t mean clubbing clothes. Whether you’re interning, vacationing, or backpacking around, it’s never bad form to pack at least one outfit that’s decent. First, airport security is nicer to the better dressed, ditto for the shops and restaurants wherever you’re going.
Second, in the event that something happens (heaven forbid) and you have to work with a foreign government to sort it out, you’re going to want to put your best shirt forward. Third, you never know if you’re going to get lucky and want to stay wherever you are. Sure, it’s a long shot, but you might need one worthy interview outfit.
4. Buy travel insurance.
Even if you don’t think you need it or have never used it before, trust me, it’s better safe than sorry. Say you lose your backpack, step on a splinter, or get a little woozie after you ate at that hot spot right off the road..if you have traveler’s insurance, you’re taken care of. It’s certainly not what you want to be worrying about after all of these things happen. So worry about it before and then don’t worry about it again; it’s simple.
5. Walk like you know where you’re going.
I am constantly looking at a map, have blonde hair, and a ridiculously loud laugh; I’m certainly not “blend in” material. So whenever I travel, I forget about trying to look like a native and instead do what I do best: walk with purpose. The key isn’t always to fly under the radar (and sometimes that won’t even be possible), it’s to look confident, and that doesn’t take very much work.
I know the backpack is heavy, but walk straight with your shoulders back. It may be a beautiful city, but make sure you’ve got your eyes on eye-level. When you’re in the subway, or listening to a foreign conversation, or trying to internally translate something without pulling out your phone or asking someone, wear an expression of calmness, and definitely not one of confusion. And please, for the love of God, have a bag (or pockets) that zip. It’s crucial.
6. Be flexible and stay creative.
I left a hostel once at 5:00 am in the morning to catch a train to Vienna. It was April, and despite the promise of warm weather made by the meteorologist the day before, it was freezing. And raining. Although my Northface was perfect for me, I knew my pack was going to get dangerously wet, and the iPad in the back zipper wasn’t going to like it very much. So I borrowed a giant trashbag and I wore it like a poncho to the train station. Sure, it wasn’t Burberry, but it wasn’t bad either.
I do this a lot, substituting one thing for another, when it’s not possible to get exactly what I want. No washer? I forego washing the big things and get the essentials (underwear, socks) clean with shampoo in the sink and hang it on the window, radiator, or bunk to dry. No bandaid? Tape and a cotton ball will do until you get to TESCO. Just get into survival mode; it’s kind of fun!
7. Don’t be too loud on the subway.
Or any public transportation for that matter. This will just save you lots of mean glances—no one wants to hear a conversation loudly blasted across a train car. Plus drawing attention to yourself (especially if you don’t speak the language, or aren’t speaking it at the moment) will only make you conspicuous, which you definitely don’t want. So save the all-night gab fest for when you’re safely at your stop—it will benefit everyone.
Some things are unavoidable and sometimes your luck just runs out. But take a breather, nothing lasts forever!