Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/8/2016 (1667 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Many of the travel tips I provide in this column tend to lean towards travel safety and security. This week I have taken a much broader view of the subject taken from a life in no small part dedicated to the joys of seeing other parts of the world and discovering so much about different cultures and history.
1. A country can’t be seen in a day
Like so many, I am an avid enthusiast of ocean cruises. The itineraries are planned in such a way that, most often, the port stops in a country are no more than for a few hours of a single day. Some of the more recent itineraries will extend the time to an overnight in port, still leaving only about 24-30 hours to explore the destination. Even at that, since the meals are already supplied free of charge on board, we don’t even stay ashore to sample the real cuisine of the country we are in, for however short a period.
So many I have talked with after returning from a cruise will express how much they loved the limited perception they gained of a country from a day stop, and insist they will to go back and see more of it.
The reality is that few make it a point to return. They miss the real adventure that comes from meeting and experiencing a more in-depth impression of the people and the nation. My trip to Paris last fall, as the origination point for an upcoming river cruise, gave me a taste for the country of which I wanted to see more. By going back this spring and travelling through northern France, I really got a better sense of the soul of the people by visiting the remembrance sites of the First World War, which leads to my second tip.
2. A country can’t be seen in a week
Travel has become a bit of a scorecard, and I too have been guilty of that. I have visited more than 65 countries, but the truth is many of them have been all too short to capture a real sense of the people who live there, or understand how history has shaped their views, and often ours as well.
It is understandable, since we have limited time for holidays. Rather than trying to see an entire country, concentrate on one region. We all want to see the big-ticket items like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or the statue of David in Florence, but behind these long lineups is a broader region waiting to be discovered.
Make a point of staying in the Tuscany region for a week, or going up to Lugano, the predominantly Italian portion of Switzerland, with a separate trip to the Southern Italian regions as soon as possible after. By doing this you will come to know the country, the people, and yourself so much better.
3. Start travelling early
Regardless of how old you may be reading this column today, if you haven’t begun travelling extensively, you have already waited too long.
I have seen it happen too many times; people waiting for retirement to start their planned journeys around the world. Unexpected health problems arise and dreams are sabotaged. Even in good health, the activities we would partake in during our younger years may not be doable later on.
And as much as I also appreciate going south to one of the usual hotspots during our cold winter months, there are other warm areas to visit besides Mexico and the Caribbean. Start breaking that pattern by making first trips to South American, for example, where it is likely equally warm, at least once every three years.
4. Darn the budget
Most people have to work hard to save enough to go on a major holiday, so it is natural to plan that trip within a prescribed spending plan. At the same time, being penny wise, without the freedom to splurge on occasion, can limit your chances of really experiencing the memory that may be the most lasting of the trip. My philosophy has been that I will pay the price for my last minute, unplanned spending opportunity by cutting back on the costly things I do when I get back home again. I know I am not likely to return soon, or ever, to the country I am visiting. Whatever it is that has moved me, I will not likely have another chance, so I blow the budget for a few hours. I have never been sorry for doing so.
5. What do you do with your memories?
Most people take far more pictures when they travel than they do at home, even of family. These are the unique events and places that you want to transcribe for future reference. Yet so often they remain in the camera, in the computer, or on a disc forever, never to be looked at again.
The days of the slide show, thankfully, are mostly gone, and the number of people who print their range of photos as singles has also diminished.
I suggest two alternatives. There are a large number of companies that print photo books at a reasonable cost. I have used both Photobook Canada (photobookcanada.com) and Shutterfly in the U.S. (shutterfly.com). They are easy to use, provide a perfect storage site for your photos, and the hardcover options make for perfect table-top presentations that allow friends to go through your entire trip without the long, and sometimes boring, explanations that come with flipping through individual photos. Another alternative I have used is the creation of a calendar, highlighting the key events of the trip. Every month a different memory is triggered, and has always had calming effect, even when the days or weeks of the month are hectic and stressful.
Read Ron’s blog at www.thattravelguy.ca. Listen to Ron’s latest podcast every Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. via his website or on demand on iTunes.
A writer and a podcaster, Ron's travel column appears in the Winnipeg Free Press every Saturday in the Destinations and Diversions section.