When summer finally rolls around and you have some extra daylight on your hands, it’s a good time to escape to somewhere wet. It could be to a beach, lake, river or even a neighborhood pool. But my advice is to skip all the places everyone goes and try something new.
Just like anything else, traveling takes practice, patience and hard work. What do I do to make my trips as stress-free as possible? Here are a few of my battle-tested tips for a smooth journey.
Blanche DuBois may have always depended on the kindness of strangers, but it’s not an option on most airplanes these days. Manners at 30,000 feet are deteriorating, and strangers are starting mid-flight dustups over each others’ seats. You say you paid for a seat that reclines so why can’t you use what you paid for? Well, because it’s not that simple anymore.
Two back-to-back international trips this year — to Germany and South Africa — gave me a good reason to brush up on my world-traveler skills. Here are the main things I think about when I'm planning a trip abroad.
I love road trips. I've been crazy about them ever since the days when my parents loaded my two sisters and me into the Pontiac station wagon and went off to visit relatives or take a family vacation. On Sundays we would go for long family drives, and I always secretly wished my dad would aim the car toward the unknown and we'd be off on an unexpected adventure. Flying will never hold the anticipation and joy the highway does for me - but that doesn't mean the long and winding road can't be even sweeter.
Sometimes we want to indulge on a special vacation. We read "Zen-like ambience." How peaceful. "Oasis." Ah, yes. "Holistic therapy for body, mind and spirit." How rejuvenating. But how do those eat-your-heart-out amenities really stack up?
I love train travel. If I can choose between a plane and a train, I'll choose a train whenever I can. It makes the transition from one place to another a gradual one, with plenty of time to watch the world go by (to say nothing of the deep nap the train puts me in). And for some trips the travel time can be about the same, or close enough, once you factor in getting to the airport an hour and a half early and crawling through security. Plus, on a train there's no worry about fitting a bag in the overhead bin or struggling to hoist it up there.
Ah, the language barrier. No matter how much you're looking forward to your trip abroad, you can't ignore that nagging worry about interacting with people who speak a different language - and potential situations ranging from difficult to ego-crushing. Rest assured, however, that no one expects you to speak in full sentences or be able to conjugate verbs. What you should know, even before you even arrive in another country, is how to be polite. "Hello," "please" and "thank you" go a long way.
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