1. Documents – Have a photocopy of your passport photo page along to carry on the streets (other than official uses at airports, keep your passport in a safe place, such as a safe in your hotel room, or in your locked backpack/luggage). Ensure relevant visas have been obtained, or can be obtained upon entry into each country you plan to visit. Stash an extra copy of your flight documentation (especially if you do not have e-tickets). Have a contact list with emergency numbers: insurance policies, doctor, next of kin, credit cards.
2. Vacs and Meds – Complete all mandatory vaccinations for each destination through your nearest Travel Clinic. Some vaccines need to be started a few months before you travel.
Bring along enough of a supply of prescription medications to cover the time of your trip, plus extra in case of a delay.
3. Pack Light – Our rule of thumb is put out everything you “know” you need, and nothing you think “might” be needed (don’t cart a sweater if the chance of needing one is remote, for an unexpected cool spell – buy one. Rick takes two pants that zip off to shorts, and three shirts. I take 5 tops (cause mine are smaller) and one each of Capri pants, long pants, and crush-resistant skirt. Being on the move, no one knows you’ve worn the same shirt so many times it’s like a second skin. Don’t haul large containers of items you can buy along the way (like vitamins, shampoo, lotions, etc.)
Leave your expensive jewellery, paparazzi-type cameras at home, and ditch your fanny-pack – these scream “steal me”. DO deck yourself out with handicraft jewellery from street vendors to help the poor folk of the country make a living.
We carry no more than 40 lbs (17-19 kilos) between us. Update – 2014 – we have reduced our luggage weight to 30 lbs (14 kilos) between us, as many airlines around the world have reduced their carry-on weight limit to 7 kilos per person…the reduction had to come out of Rick’s half (smile).
4. Flight sense – Check your carry-on luggage to make sure everything will pass inspection. DO bring such items such as medications in your carry-on, in case your stowed luggage somehow goes wayward. During flight drink plenty of water, and not so much alcohol. Exercise your legs regularly in your seat, as well as standing or walking to lessen the chances of Thrombosis.
HOOREY! You’ve arrived at your destination!
5. Heath Maintenance – to minimize jet lag and fatigue give yourself a day or two to adjust to the new time zone. Pace yourself throughout your journey. When arriving at a new location scout out your hood before striking out to see the sites. Keep your auto-immune system high with adequate sleep, daily vitamins, eating fruit that can be peeled, and walk, walk, walk.
6. Expect the Unexpected – Don’t get hung up on preconceived notions of how things should be from our own societal perspective. Don’t get stressed out. If plan A doesn’t pan out, go on to Plan B or C, and if your plans should relegate down to G – it will no doubt be a Good story to tell the folks back home.
7. Follow the Sun – This is soooo Canadian. If visiting several countries on one trip, plan to wait until spring-has-sprung to visit the ones with bone-chilling winters. This also eliminates the need to pack heavy clothing, thus reducing the size and weight of your baggage.
8. 24/7 – If you are lucky enough to be travelling with a spouse/partner/friend plan to give each other some reprieve from an overabundance of togetherness – an occasional solo walk, a rule to not disturb each other while reading (an open book is a between the lines way to get in some “me” time ?, plan an afternoon where each separately pursues an attraction that is not high on the other’s list.
9. When in Rome…. Cultural etiquette tips; here are but a few.
When travelling in countries, such as China and India, it is beneficial to exercise wobbly western knees and thighs a few months prior to arrival to enhance strength and stamina in “squat toilet” usage.
If in one of the many cultures (Arab, Turk, African, Indian, Thai) where etiquette dictates using the right hand to scoop up delectable meats, lentils, and all manner of sumptuous nosh with bits of chapatti-type breads, best keep your left hand in pocket to avoid automatically using it for eating, as it is considered the “toileting” hand where a bucket of water is more common than tissue.
10. Immerse yourself in each culture, chat with the locals, follow the current concerns in the country, leave a favourable impression by how you dress, your demeanor, your respect for their culture and country – and relish in the “foreignness” fading away as you see the world through the eyes of others. The unbridled joy of travel is there for the taking – pack your bags and just do it!
Everyone smiles in the same language.
Safe Travels Always,
Irene & Rick