As one travels, one will inevitably learn many things. You learn about yourself, about the world, and about traveling as a hobby. Here is a short list of things that struck me as important.
This is always a must in my opinion. Its no fun to walk around with big bags. Even if you’re going to put them down right when you arrive, who wants to deal with all that stuff!? Some tips if you’re packing *really* light (I think Jimi and I had packs that were about 30 pounds).
- Get a super-absorbent shammy-style towel. In the words of Douglas Adams, “You’ve got to know where your towel is.” And that’s true, a personal towel will come in handy time and time again. But regular bath towels are far too big. Instead, get one of these (I found mine in the automotive section of WalMart).
- Bring a multi-tool pocket knife. This allows you to mend, destroy, create, and do a lot of things with just one little tool. I actually forgot to bring one, but as destiny would have it, we *found* one after about 28 hours in Europe. It proved priceless for lots of little things. (CAREFUL, don’t try to bring this on a plane)
- Pack T-Shirts. Sure, they’re not quite as trendy, but its better to have those little guys than lots of annoying shirts with collars and buttons. After a few days you don’t give a damn how you look.
Know generally what’s in the area. Try Wikitravel or just the regular internet. I also like Lonely Planet and Lets Go guides. (Although I would suggest taking select pages or photocopies rather than entire books because they’re huge and scream TOURIST!)
If you’ve got friends where you’re going, know people who have been before you, or are friendly with strangers… Ask other people what to do. It is a lot easier than reading those stupid tourist books, and you usually get quality suggestions. I’d suggest spending a lot of time on this. If it hadn’t been for a friend’s suggestion in Paris, we would have never visited Toulon!
I try to have a sketchy plan for the next 24 hours at all times. It’s good to have this to keep a little focused. However, be prepared to be flexible.
Don’t plan too much
Because I see life as a hilarious adventure, its hard for me to see anything that happens as misfortune. If you plan everything out to the second, it removes a lot of the adventure, and potentially eliminates the hilarity of things going very well or very badly.
If you allow chance to play a big role in your travels, you let in a lot of room for luck. Luck is what really makes the best stories. “We followed a tight schedule and saw all of the sites” is kinof boring. “We really had no idea what we were doing and next thing you know, we were eating crepes wearing a giant chicken suit” is a lot more entertaining. Also, if you are letting luck play a role in your travels, planning to far in advance can mean losing money on non-refundable reservations and things. Plus, if you have to sleep on the street one night… Hilarious adventure, right?
I’ll save the long soliloquy on how much you learn about your self, your soul, life in general, and the human condition for another post… But I think I learned about all that stuff too. Of course, its hard to nail down when exactly that happens.