I’m getting ready to leave the US office of Global Next soon for another stint on the road. First is our “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Conference in Italy, followed by a research/journalism trip to Qatar, a short break for Thanksgiving at home, and then two university courses, one in Geneva, Switzerland and the other in Kabul, Afghanistan. All of this will take place before the year 2014 closes. As I prepare myself for these events, I think not only about all the preparation needed, but also about the actual “act” or shall we say “art” of traveling.
Philosophy of Travel
First you have to figure out your reason to travel – and keep that reason at the forefront of your mind if and when things go wrong. Reasons for travel vary from person to person – whether it’s for vacation, escape, seeing something unique, education or investing in the people of the world, that “reason” is the fuel that keeps you going when travel gets frustrating. And it will.
The reality is this – travel, at its best, takes effort. It can be one big, hot mess of airlines, hotels, schedules, traffic and people. But it is also an episode of seeing, learning, experiencing, understanding and connecting many of life’s most important dots. Yes, it’s a mess, but a mess that is well worth it.
You know how they say that packing light is always better? Well “they” are right. (I don’t really know who “they” are – but I assume they are some consortium of government officials, luggage manufacturers and shadowy underworld characters. At least that’s what I hope…) My goal with luggage is to find the perfect suitcase and figure out how little I will really need on any given trip. Here’s what I’ve decided.
- Never pack more than you need for one week. (Accept the fact that you’ll have to do laundry, either through your hotel or in a local laundromat).
- Rolling your clothes instead of folding them really does save space – and they are less wrinkled when you arrive.
- Buy your shampoo, body wash and larger toiletries when you arrive. Yes, they might be more expensive, but it’s worth it to travel lighter. Especially if you don’t want to check luggage.
- If you choose to go with just a carry-on bag, then you don’t have to worry about lost luggage or lost items from that luggage.
- If you can’t lift it – then you’ve packed too much. Likewise, if you can live inside your suitcase, it’s too much!
- Besides the pants you’re wearing I suggest bringing 2 other pair – and always make sure that what you bring can be worn in a variety of variations and combinations. And never more than 2 pairs of shoes. (But normal amounts of clean socks and underwear – I mean, that’s just good manners!)
- Bring and wear deodorant – seriously. I have thought about starting a side business called “RAH” (Random Acts of Hygiene) where I would randomly approach people who needed it and spray them down with deodorant. Somehow I feel I would be applauded as some sort of folk hero if I actually did this.
- If you can’t afford to lose it – don’t bring it. Things get lost or stolen – it’s a fact of life.
- Less is always better. When you get home from your trip, evaluate what you did and did not use as well as what you did and did not wear. It will be enlightening for your next travel adventure.
Airfare and Flights
I am not really a big fan of flying – which is a real shame since I spend so many hours of my life on flights. But here’s what I can tell you:
- I have found good ticket prices at the oddest times. Sometimes I get good prices when I book really far in advance (like 50-100 days.) But I’ve also found good sales just a few weeks before travel as well.
- But a recent study continues to reinforce the idea that booking earlier is better. The same study says that airline tickets are cheaper on Sundays and most expensive on Mondays. Read here for more.
- Be patient and courteous with other travelers. No one is happy with cramped travel conditions. Few people look forward to airline food. And everyone hates delays. Just be nice.
- In this day and age, there is never a reason to be bored. Bring books on your iPad, movies, music, whatever. There is plenty to do. Charge your electronics before travel and consider a backup battery pack for longer flights. (Don’t forget your adapters and converters for the country you’re visiting.)
- Look for those once-in-a-lifetime moments – I call them “divine moments” – when you just might meet someone, have a conversation or share a life-changing truth with someone who you will never see again. Be ready for moments like that – they add to your good travel stories!