Tips from an Older (and Hopefully Wiser) Traveler

When I was 22, I thought for sure I knew everything. Then I got a real job, went traveling, got married, and had a child. It turns out I had a lot to learn still. Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned since then when it comes to travel.

You can’t get worthwhile things done without a bit of help. 

Even if you run the most solitary business that is completely online, even if you never have to talk to anyone on the phone, it’s next to impossible to succeed without the good faith and assistance of others. When you travel, this is doubly true. Be nice, be useful, be willing to lend a hand. It’s really hard for an asshole to get what he wants on a consistent basis—apart from a few exceptional exceptions like the late Steve Jobs.

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Water is Life, but Bottled Water Is Destruction

Drink more water than you think you need when partying, but don’t sweat it so much the rest of the time. The reason most people get hangovers is dehydration and a lack of B vitamins. drink a glass of water for each drink you down at night and you’ll be happier the next day.

But a key reason many travelers break their budget (and wreck the planet) is buying bottled water all day every day. Get something like a SteriPen or Camelbak All Clear and stop screwing Mother Nature.

no travel schedule

A lot of good stuff happens when you don’t plan out your whole travel schedule.

If you don’t leave big holes in your plans for great travel surprises, your trip is probably going to be quite predictable. And boring.

Things rarely happen as quickly as you want them to.

Even in the USA, the land of convenience, it takes way longer than you think it should to get through to a human on the phone, to get government forms processed, to get any kind of construction work done on a house. It’s only going to get worse when you go somewhere else—unless you’re moving to Switzerland. Patience goes hand in hand with travel and living abroad.

travel hurdles

Pay a few rupees more, get on a better bus…

Most problems on the road can be solved with time, money, or kindness.

You will face many obstacles when you go traveling, from bad plumbing to missed buses to flat tires to finding only one room left in a grotty backwater hotel. Sigh, assess the situation, and either deal with it or fix it. Sometimes just dealing with it is the only option. But if there’s a fix, you’ll usually need more money than you planned, more time than you planned, or some help from a kind stranger. So have some emergency cash and be kind to strangers—even when exasperated. (You do have the right to scream and yell at some point eventually in India. Everyone cracks at some point there…)

Comments
  1. GH

    Great post Tim. I appreciate your candor, as always. It always seems to boil down to the “Golden Rule,” whether traveling or living at home with other human beings. Unfortunately, in terms of power, the decent and idealistic often do not have enough input in the macro sense (e.g. the Middle East, where the individual people were the most hospitable we ever encountered, even as we see the tragic events events unfold now).

    Hassles now seem to be universal, as nations which are at once part of the “global economy” face internal economic pressures which produces endless paperwork for those foreigners who wish to live or travel long-term, and some people in certain countries worldwide (including the U.S.) scapege immigrants who do the jobs they previously (and often currently) did not wish to do.

    My main concern is that those who are honestly and genuinely concerned with sustainable travel do not always take into sufficient account the cost of “going green,” the lack of travel opportunities for the poor, nor the carbon footprint of using energy for transportation by plane, etc. We are already “in the red” in terms of the usage of mother nature’s reserves for 2013.

    Just as many poor American/global citizens would love to live eating delicious organic food but often cannot afford to do so because of systemic issues, so the options for “green travel” are more of an option of extremely educated and experienced people like yourself know the ins and outs, or those with incredible amounts of money to live in various green paradises in cities here and estates abroad.

    We need an MLK to preach the importance of sustainable and responsible travel, in humble opinion.

    • Anthony

      Little things can be done to save energy and resources, some of it starts with you, the rest needs a global push from the citizens to the politicians to change their attitudes about energy and the geo-political concerns.

      That said organics can not be consumed by 46 Million Americans and untold others around the 1st world that can’t afford it. It never has much to do with systemic issues but just the lack of money in the hands of the people that need the food the most.

      What is “Green Travel”, the slow boat to China? Given how many people are on an airliner, it has been proven to be the most effective way to travel.

      This system of slightly denying yourself something just adds to the stress level of the body, not good.

      • GH

        Anthony,

        I am not sure what you were saying in the rest of your reply, especially regarding “self-denial,” as I was not implying such a notion, but rather that the wealthy are able to enjoy the modern modes of “green travel” far more than the most, in my experience.

        And yes, poverty is generally systemic, in my view. Keeping people in ignorance via poor educational systems is a deliberate act by those in power — in this country generally republicans are in the fore. Try finding an edible, nutritious, vegetable in many cities in the USA.

        In terms of airplanes, they are one of the main sources of global warming and its consequences, so I am not sure that current fuel models are efficient or bode well for the future.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_aviation

        I would like to see less self-righteousness by the “green movement” when they transport themselves via inefficient technologies. Airplanes, ships, cars, trains, etc. must be made more efficient, in my view, else all forms travel will continue to imperil the earth and accelerate climate change — and speed is of the essence mainly for jet-setters, in my view. The usual suspects continue to profit in the meantime.

  2. GH

    Sorry for my typos above…

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