5 Rules for the Smart Traveler

There are five simple rules that any traveler should follow, whether they are the ultimate ex-pat super traveler or someone who just got their travel-cherry freshly popped.

RULE # 5  Erase Expectations

Even as you pack your bags, you can see it now: paradise. Be it one of the tropical brand, complete with rushing waterfalls and sunny beaches, lazy palm trees leaning only for aesthetics (and your pleasure), and beautiful, flirty natives with wide white smiles, fountains of mixed drinks all but shooting out of their asses –

Or a snowy paradise, tucked up in an epic mountain range, the clean, fresh smell of pine in the air, your skis resting delicately on the edge of an open slope, and a clan of yeti’s below just waiting for you to discover them and get you a cover on National Geographic –

Insert scene of your choice here. But before you continue your cliche-filled wet dream, do one thing:

Stop it.

Being excited about travel is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. Kudos to you. But if you build up too many expectations, your dream trip (move, tour, ect.) can become a trip to the Land of Bitter Disappointment.

Remember two things: 1) life happens. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean life will stop trying to be a dick to you. Things may go wrong, so you have to be prepared. 2) As with any place in the world, there will always be a certain aspect of the everyday mundane. There is no shiny nirvana where everyone is happy all the time and everyone shits gold.  Not on this planet anyway.

Remember to take the place as it is and you will always find something special about it.

Be realistic, have fun.

RULE # 4 Travel Light

Just think before you pack that sentimental sack of rocks or your pet turtle Steve or your winter jacket (you’re going to Africa but you figure hey, just in case…), can you carry all that crap?

Sure, it’s easy enough to get it to the airport. But what about checking in? Airlines are bored of their usual way of screwing you in every orifice you have, so they’re getting creative and making new ones: yay! Huge fees for extra/overweight bags!

Then you reach your destination. Maybe the airport in the country you’re going to has those handy little carts to rent. Maybe it doesn’t. And how about fitting your bulbous sacks of shame in a shuttle or bus or in your taxi?

Next bus?

And an important side-note: can you watch everything at all times? Thieves happen, you know.

My advice? Always always always travel light. Chances are if you forget something absolutley vital, the country you’re going to also finds it vital and will have it available for you to purchase.

It’s your trip, your life, your stuff. Take what you want. But they have the old adage “less is more” for a reason. The less shit you have to carry, the more fun you’ll have. Do yourself a favor and lighten your own load before you drag it halfway across the planet.

RULE # 3 Learn the Language

She speaks perfect English. Just not for this fool.

(See RULE # 1)

It helps to do a little studying before you go somewhere that speaks a foreign language. You don’t have to be fluent, but having a little help in the language department makes everybody happy.

For reals.

It can help you find places, get to the bathroom, avoid being run over, and countless other things. Learning even a little bit of a new language can widen your world in unexpected ways.

Score.

RULE # 2 Don’t Panic

Take a deep breath.

Stop hyperventilating. Just breathe.

Okay.

Now.

Make a quick check. Anything broken?

Any blood?

Horrifying disfigurement?

Lost in a swirling vortex of pain and terror?

You’re still conscious, so it can’t be that bad.

Remember: DON’T PANIC.

Unless you’re being torn apart by a large predator, bitten by some poisonous monster miles from help, or captured by North Korea, panicking is a bad choice.

Otherwise, there are embassies in every country for a reason. Find yours, and all will be well.

For example: you lose your passport. Okay. That sucks. Most likely you will be stuck wherever you are until you can get a new one (usually a few weeks), and you might have to replace a visa or two.

First thing to do:

Locate you country’s embassy. Calmly and politely seek someone out. Even if they don’t speak your language, most people are sympathetic, kind home-town folks that are willing to help you out. (My suggestion  – ask older men, women who look like mothers, or police officers. If you’re a hot girl, ask a guy.)

Second thing:

Get to the embassy. Even if you have no money, there will be a way. Just remember that you are not on some alien planet where the rules of life are completely different. There is always a way, as long as you keep cool and collected. Your embassy will know what to do with you from there. Just make their job easier by not showing up shaking with terror and high amounts of adrenaline.

RULE # 1 Don’t Be a Dick

Can you find the dick in this picture?

If you can’t, I have some bad news for you: you might be a dick.

Nobody likes a selfish, inconsiderate asshole (not even the French). You should strive not to be a dick in your life in general, but especially when you travel.

Here is a list of self-diagnostic signs of dickery:

a) You don’t even attempt to use the local language

As previously shown, this does not help anybody. Can you imagine some foreigner coming up to you and saying something in Cantonese or Portuguese or Marathi, then getting frustrated when you don’t understand it?

Not everybody knows English. Sure, it’s an international language and if you’re in a bind, you’ll probably find SOMEONE who speaks a little. But the majority of people in foreign-speaking countries live their lives just fine without it, thank you. So if you want to visit someone’s home, don’t be a dick – learn some of the language.

b) You don’t learn to use the local currency

This is very much related to the previous sign of dickery. The fish stand in the market is not an automatic currency exchange booth. Just change your money beforehand and set aside the 5 minutes it takes to learn how to use local money.

c) You assume everyone around you is trying to cheat/rob you

Just because they’re different from you doesn’t mean they are a threat. Exercise caution within the bounds of common sense, but don’t yell at the little old lady selling you the blanket she probably spent weeks making with her own two, shaking hands, or the guy who has spent his entire life perfecting his artwork. Be fair.

d) You don’t try local food

You’ve just arrived in New Delhi, now where’s the McDonald’s?

This is a missed opportunity. If you don’t want to try the local food because you KNOW you’ll get food poisoning or 3 days later a tiny mutant alien baby will burst out of your stomach, then you are a dick.

If you don’t want to eat raw chicken, fine. Understandable. But if you pass by every chance to eat foreign food, not only are you missing out on a great experience, you’re basically telling the people of that country: ew.

And that just makes you a dick.

e) You throw a horrendous tantrum like a 3-year-old when you don’t get what you want

If I need to explain this, then you are hopeless, and can now leave my blog.

But go ahead.

Do it.

Throw a screaming fit.

You’ll never see those people again anyway, right?

But YOU will know. You will know deep down in your pathetic soul as you lay awake at night, alone in your cold, cold bed…

f) In general you ignore common human decency and do whatever you want, regardless of the consequences

This sign of dickery can include vandalism, littering, getting absolutely wasted in public, and other actions that would normally be considered rude at home. Just because you’re a visitor does not mean that these rules no longer apply to you. It’s like expecting your actions to have about as much impact as a turtle shell falling off of a cliff in Super Mario Bros.

Well, no matter where you are, I can guarantee it’s not the Mushroom Kingdom, so take it down a notch, Mario.

Not you.

The point: not everybody is on vacation. Give the people who live and work there a break. Drop the dickery and remember you’re a guest.

Okay, think you got it all? Then get out there and conquer shit.

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6 responses to “5 Rules for the Smart Traveler

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