30 April 2012



Z IS FOR ZZZ’S

Sleep is crucial for our regular, day to day, life. Traveling doesn’t diminish the need for it either, in fact, it’s more crucial to be rested when you’re traveling. Being out of our comfort zone had be stressful, even if we’re not conscious of the stress. Paying attention to road signs, time, ETA’s, managing luggage, and always making sure you have all the documents you need on hand in unfamiliar settings uses up more energy than normal.

Sleep patterns and energy levels are hugely affected, add to the mix that you may not get a chance to sleep comfortably for a while yet, particularly if you’re flying for more than 4 hours. Learning how to sleep upright or at a whim is not something easily learned or accomplished under the best circumstances, but here’s a website with good tips on sleeping on airplanes. Some tips for jet lag as well.

For road trips, sleeping can be just as much of a challenge, particularly with long drives. Reclining a seat is easier but not necessarily more comfortable. And convincing yourself to pull over on the side of the road for a few minutes isn’t necessarily easy either. Depending on the highway shoulders, turn offs, or rest stops available to you. Caffeine and food might help keep you awake, but if you’re tired enough your body will shut down and it’s best to find strategies to prevent that from falling asleep at the wheel.

My tips for road trip sleep:
Pack in advance (or have a go bag) so that you can get at least 6-8 hours sleep the night before. Make sure your car has a pillow and blanket for everybody in the car.
Have a good play list. Radio stations are unreliable for good entertainment.
Have a good breakfast, one with protein.
Caffeine isn’t bad, but save energy drinks for desperate measures.
Eat as you get hungry, not just for something to do. Being full or stuffed makes you sleepy.
Pack along some gum.
Every 4 hours stop, get out of the car and walk around for 5 min.
If this doesn’t wake you up, then pull over and snooze.

Hopefully road trips are planned with people that will talk to you instead of doze off. Good conversation can keep you awake and pass the time much faster than anything else. General road trip tips and tips to sleeping in a car.

Any sleeping tips to share?

28 April 2012



Y IS FOR YOUTH

Speaking of experiences, I wanted all I could get when I was in high school. I had this notion that I wanted as many experiences as possible as soon as possible as only those experience had as a young person counted.

I’m not sure where I got that notion from, seeing now that I’m 10 years older and still savouring so many new experiences. It’s helped to see my parents traveling and still enjoying themselves and creating new experiences still, reminding me that my age doesn’t take away from the importance of the experiences I have created for myself and I’m actually relieved that I’m not able to experience everything at once. I think I’d be overwhelmed otherwise. I’m more relaxed about adventures and traveling because I’ve learned that everything has its time and place.

27 April 2012


X IS FOR eXPERIENCE

OK, so I cheating a little with the letters, but really, what word starting with X really relates to travel?

That statement should be interpreted as I was too lazy to spend more than 15 minutes flipping through the pages of the dictionary.

In all seriousness, I said a number of years ago that I would rather spend my time and money on experiences than on things. For me, traveling is largely about gathering experiences and growing from them. To meet other traveling or wandering souls and making connections with them.

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”
--Maya Angelou

26 April 2012



W IS FOR WALKING

My family had an eye-opening experience not too long ago: my parents were on vacation and my dad wasn’t able to walk to enjoy the benefits of being in a place where he could relax and do some sight seeing. He’s still on the road to recovery but it made me realize that if you can’t walk traveling and adventures really becomes difficult.

Airports are massive, antiquities equally so, and going from one location to another requires the ability to walk. You don’t realize how much you actually do until something hurts from the minute you wake up to the minute you fall asleep.

So I’m grateful for my ability to walk, and run, to where I need to so I can continue my adventures.

And it’s great exercise.



"All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking."
--Friedrich Nietzsche


"An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day."
--Henry David Thoreau

25 April 2012


V IS FOR VACATION

I have this love/hate relationship with vacations. I love to travel and explore and have adventures, and the best time to do that is your 2 week vacation block from work. But what I find about myself, and other people who “vacation”, is that you end up coming back from vacation more tired than you left. It’s sort of the same with weekends: all week people look forward to having “time off” but end up doing more on their “day off” than they did during the workweek.

Not that I do that to the extreme, but I do find I defeat the purpose of “day off” and “vacation” when I plan to do a lot with that time instead of chilling out.

For my mental health, I think it’s going to become far more important to make a point of chilling out on weekends and incorporating a lot more stay-cations. I mean, why else would I spend all my time away from your house, at work, to pay for something I never see and have hobbies I never do?


"I honestly if I get a vacation I'm gonna go and sit on my couch in New York ‘cause that's the one place I haven't been for a very long time."
--Matt Damon

"Sand in my Shoes" by Dido

24 April 2012


U IS FOR UNDERWEAR

I don’t know about you, but an old pair of underwear feels awful. And even if you havent’ had a shower in days, nothing feels as good as a fresh pair of underpants. So I always, always have enough underwear for the duration of the whole trip plus two more, even if I’m supposed to be packing light.


"I'm superstitious... but not like wear the same underwear for two weeks superstitious."
--Kate Hudson

23 April 2012



T IS FOR TOILET

If you remember my C is for Camping post you’ll remember that I don’t camp. Not typically a big deal unless the power goes out worldwide or I’m on a road trip, driving up some empty road, and there isn’t a gas station for the next hour and I need to use a toilet really badly. I don’t camp, so I dont’ squat. And I certainly wouldn’t be making my first few attempts on flat, bald prairie land.

At an airport or bus station, it never fails that when you really have to go there’s a line up something like this:

21 April 2012



S IS FOR SIGHTSEEING

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”
--G. K. Chesterton

20 April 2012



R IS FOR ROADTRIP

I’ve had the most numerous amount of adventures with my little cars.

Some of my fondest memories come from the road trips I’ve undertaken. My first car was a manual with 4 speeds and reverse. For a little car it was pretty fuel inefficient and couldn’t accelerate very well. I should have been more grateful that my parents had bought me the car and paid my insurance for a number of years because that car was indestructible and aptly named by my friend, Terias McKlay, the Pygmy Hummer.


My next car was a newer, automatic version of my first car. I had it such a short time that the only thing I can remember is selling it to a different friend of mine.


My third car was yet another newer version of the previous car, once again a manual version though this time with 5 gears. That was the vehicle I had driven from Alberta to Cape Breton and back in 2008. What an adventure that was. I had wracked up more than 200,000km on it before my dad convinced me to trade it for a Red Hyundai Accent.


While I did end up owning a Smart Car for a short period of time, it was the Accent that I put on 90,000 km in the last 3 years. Even though I find driving the huge distances sometimes boring and cumbersome, especially with a time constraint, I’ve always had a huge sense of freedom when I’m driving far too fast on a prairie road.

19 April 2012



Q IS FOR QUEUE

When you travel, this is what you do a lot of: stand in a queue.

18 April 2012



P IS FOR PLAN

Planning for a vacation is easy. Planning for an adventure is impossible simply because it defeats the purpose of an adventure. But sometimes the best laid plans can go awry and depending on your attitude you can see the situation as an adventure or a disaster.

I have to admit, I’ve done both. I’ve been impatient and entitled in my approach to a trip and when I recall what happened it all sucked: the drive up sucked, the security staff sucked, the airline staff sucked, etc etc. When I’ve approached a trip with an open mind and relaxed attitude then I recall the trips with more humour and take the delays or mishaps in stride.

"Adventure is not outside man; it is within."
--George Eliot

"An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered."
--Gilbert K. Chesterton

"Excursion Around the Bay" by Great Big Sea

17 April 2012



O IS FOR ORGANIZATION

This is a tough one to talk about. On one hand you don't want to get fixated on the small details of a trip because you expect an adventure. On the flip side, if there is no game plan or some thought put into what you pack or how to get to where you're going your adventure can get fairly miserable. If not for you, then for the people around you.

If that last sentence seems a bit confusing, let me share a little story about a friend I had. My husband and I were staying around Belfast and a friend from my home town was in England visiting her then boyfriend. Before we had left on our respective trips we had agreed to meet up in Belfast. I had waited for an email from her to confirm that they were indeed still coming several days before my husband and I were going to be there. Nothing yet.

The day before I was sent her flight information, minutes after she had booked the flight and B&B. Picking them up worked out alright, thankfully, but finding their B&B was a bit of a mission. Neither of them knew the address or the name of where they were staying. We spent a good two hours trying to get them to where they needed to go.

The rest of the weekend was pretty awesome: sight seeing and eating out and going to pubs. The frequent damper on the weekend was that because my friend and her boyfriend booked everything the night before they paid at least triple for their travel expenses than they would have if everything had been booked the week previous. This left them with less money to go out and enjoy themselves like they had originally planned.

Not that my husband and I had any sort of plan of what we were going to do that weekend, but it was a test of patience and our friendship to have a couple traveling with you that doesn't travel the same way you do. My husband and I are pretty easy going but we like to have a few things together before we set out, especially if it means being able to cash in on a deal.

16 April 2012



N IS FOR NUTRITION

Whether camping, road tripping, or air planing, your diet changes. Partially because of what's available to you and partially because of what you feel like eating.

Personally, I think airline and airport food options and quality has vastly improved. There are not only restaurants serving lighter options, but the "convenience" outlets have become fresher and tastier as well.

At least, in the airports that I have frequented.

It's nice because to me traveling doesn't qualify as a reason to "cheat" on my diet. And feeling stuffed with little chance to move around is uncomfortable.

Road trips, on the other hand, is a reason to "cheat" for me. I mean, what else was a drive through made for? It's an irrational thought because I am not really moving any more than if I was traveling in a plane.

Camping, from what I hear many people tell me about, is also a reason to eat junk for however long the trip is. Hamburgers, hot dogs, popcorn, beer, marshmallows, etc. not that those things can't be healthy but a lack of refrigeration capabilities limits how healthy you can really eat. Your potential saving grace could be that you go on hikes or go swimming or something.

Operative word being potential.

14 April 2012



M IS FOR MONEY

There are really only a few things that you need when you go traveling: clean under wear, a tooth brush, a pillow, and money to buy the rest.

And really, you don't even have to pack the first three items if have enough money to buy those items over and over again.

Way back when, before the Euro, money to travel to different countries was significantly more difficult. Ordering all the foreseeable money was difficult. I mean, it's never smart to travel with a big wad of currency around I your pocket.

In the year 2000, the last time I went with my family to Germany, the Euro was first introduced just in bank account values. It was also the first time my mom user her debit card in an ATM and withdrew money in DM. In 2002 the actual bills were put into circulation and the DM, deutsch mark, was phased out, along with a dozen other currencies. As young as I was when that happened, I just imagined all sorts of doors opening for travel.



Gone would be the days of ordering money or traveler's cheques.

I can't remember the last time when I didn't just go up to an ATM and withdraw money in that location's currency or pay with a credit card of my own country.

I don't think I would be entirely wrong to say that travel has become easier in part because accessing your own money has become easier.

13 April 2012



L IS FOR LANGUAGE

Language is a tricky thing. People can speak the same language, in my case, English, and use familiar words but the meaning can be something totally different. This is an ongoing situation for my husband and myself. Then there are moments when people don’t speak the same language at all and connection can still be formed between people using broken sentences, facial expressions, and hand gestures.

It kind of takes me back to my first year in nursing where I had to take a communications class. We talked about what leaves you with a more lasting impression: verbal communication and body language. I would say almost 90% of people in my class agreed that body language made more of an impact than what somebody said. Apparently, up to 70% of what people communicate is with body language.

Though there are a number of articles citing that body language can vary greatly from culture to culture, it is startling to notice that there are also many similarities: you can just know when somebody is happy or hurt, friendly or aggressive, aloof or cheerful. I think it’s important to acknowledge this because what did we do before English was the universal language of technology and business? Obviously a lot of miscommunication, but I think still enough patience and compassion to try to communicate.

“I speak two languages, Body and English."
--Mae West

“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.”
--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

12 April 2012



K IS FOR KNOWLEDGE

I think there are two kinds of knowledge relating to travel. The first is the knowledge that there is a world out there beyond your own. A knowledge that comes from reading books and listening to others from places not your own home. A knowledge of history, culture, and language can also be gleaned from research without exploration. It’s often beneficial to have this knowledge before traveling, but it doesn’t give you the whole picture.

But then there is knowledge acquired from the travel, the journey, itself. Local people and museums have a history and insight that’s invaluable. Life lessons can sometimes only be learned going out of your comfort zone.

The third kind of knowledge that people can but don’t necessarily learn from travel is about themselves. Self-reflection is a scary thing: admitting to yourself what you do right and what you do wrong takes a lot of courage. Allowing your outlook to be influenced by discoveries along your journey happens less with travelers than we might expect.

“There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it”
--Charles F. Kettering



“The longest journey a man must take is the eighteen inches from his head to his heart”
--Unknown



“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people.”
--Albert Einstein

11 April 2012


J IS FOR JOURNEY

In my post for D is for Destination, I took note that destination and journey were inseparable concepts. How do you talk about one without the other?

Every quote or blog post I read never fails to highlight that the journey to a destination is more important than the destination. So I leave you with more quotes about traveling and journeys.

"Free and Easy" by Dierks Bentley



We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.
--Anais Nin



To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.
--Chinese Proverb


“What people forget is a journey to nowhere starts with a single step, too.”
--Chuck Palahniuk


10 April 2012


I IS FOR INTERNET

Seriously, what would we do without WiFi everywhere?

How would we check-in for our flights? Check the weather of our destination? Get phone numbers for taxis? Check out local events? Inform your parents you’re alive?

Internet is vastly becoming a necessity for travel and sometimes I find therein lies the problem. It’s a useful tool but it’s so all-consuming that we can never just leave our work at work, or home situations at home. And it feels like we can’t “get away from it all” anymore because most people are convinced we need a gamut of devices that all connect to the internet to keep our lives organized.

It’s a wonder how people managed at all before the internet.

I’d like to think though, that people took more time to connect with the people in their world and treasured their experiences instead of thinking “How can I turn this situation into an awesome Facebook/Twittter/etc update?”

09 April 2012


H IS FOR HYGIENE

Whether you’re camping, going on a road trip, or flying with airplanes, at the end of the journey everybody feels somewhere along the gross spectrum and just wants to have a shower. And the problem of how to get said shower always arises when your journey doesn’t go as planned.

For the last couple years I’ve taken with me a change of clothes so I have something to change into at the end of the longest leg of my flight. Thankfully there are a lot of stores available once you get past security that sell toiletries, particularly, deodorant. It’s not the same as having a shower, but I’ve found it’s a good half measure until I can get to one.

It’s kind of a wonder, with all of the amenities airports offer before and after security, gyms and showers haven’t been incorporated yet.

07 April 2012


G IS FOR GADGETS

When I’m traveling, either by car or by airplane, I feel like there are more children aboard than when I was a kid. I also don’t know how any of these children would survive if they each didn’t have an iPad or PSVista or laptop of their own.

Sure my mom tried experimenting with having a TV running during long road trips, powered by the cigarette lighter. But she wouldn’t be a techie if she hadn’t tried before minivans made DVD players a standard feature.

Granted, I have my own fair share of gadgets to keep me occupied during those layover moments, but I never leave home without a notebook to scribble in or something to read. It leads to over-packing and a bit of redundancy when you have a laptop and an iPod already in a bag. It’s only that I feel like I’m missing out on the travel experience if I’m absorbed in my gadgets.

On the other hand, they’re so useful, not just to occupy yourself during the dullest of the travel moments. You can book hotel rooms, check out restaurants in upcoming locations, check the weather, convert money, etc etc.

There is an app for everything, after all.

06 April 2012


F IS FOR FLYING

The world has become such a small place now that we can fly just about anywhere, even though it can still be pricey to get to some places. But now that people spend hours traveling across continents whereas it used to take weeks or months we have the ability to see and do more than in all previous generations.

Although in the last 11 years the way people fly as a means to travel has changed drastically: exponentially heightened security. I can remember a time when you didn’t have to be at the airport 2-3 hours before your flight and security was just walking through a gate. There was no such thing as liquid restriction or having “random” secondary security screenings. It almost feels like there’s almost too much hassle to travel by airplane because of all the waiting before, during, and after flights.

On the other hand, online check-in, airport WiFi, personalized entertainment screens, and more food kiosks has made the waiting bearable and sometimes enjoyable. I find I answer a much larger volume of e-mails, take time to read, and have time to write, though I have been distracted on many occasions by the in-flight and personalized entertainment systems. Where else can I catch up on ALL of the movies that I haven’t bothered to watch in the last 6 months?

In spite of my fear of heights I actually enjoy flying as a mode of travel and I still get excited like a little kid during take-off and landing. There are no passenger trains in the Canadian prairies so the only way to get anywhere is putting the effort into driving oneself. Planes are the only way to travel where you don’t have to do the driving yourself actually have the choice of sleeping the whole journey away.

05 April 2012


E IS FOR ETIQUETTE

Etiquette is a tricky thing, I’ve learned.

Being from a “western” English speaking country I thought the etiquette I learned in Canada would transfer to many other places. Unfortunately, there are even places in Canada where I’ve made faux pas.

I learned that there are places in the world where asking about family history is a faux pas, and on the other hand there are certain things I don’t want people asking me because I think it’s rude. There’s also a way to conduct yourself: in Northern Ireland you can’t just wave to kids playing in the street, apparently you can get yourself killed. In Turkey, anything more than holding hands between couples is severely frowned upon.

You can’t be too careful about what you say and do, apparently, because there are places in this world not nearly as forgiving.

04 April 2012


D IS FOR DESTINY, DESTINATION

For some things, other people just use words better than I do:

"Elongo" by Bedouin Soundclash











"I consider a goal as a journey rather than a destination. And each year I set a new goal."
--Curtis Carlson



"Reformation, like education, is a journey, not a destination."
--Mary Harris Jones

03 April 2012


C IS FOR CAMPING

my parents grew up as city kids. Their holidays didn't involve tents or campers. It's no surprise that my experiences with camping involves camping trailers that included a kitchen, fridge, flushing toilet, and shower.

To this day I have never slept in a tent or on the ground.

A few years ago I had an interest to have that particular experience. But now, as a young professional, that interest has waned greatly and I've come to the conclusion many others have: society has not come this far to be sleeping in less than optimal conditions for their holidays.

Does my lack of camping experience make me a less experiences traveller? Possibly. Personally, I think that my only deficit in not knowing how to camp is that I am not adequately prepared to survive a zombie invasion.

Yep, this is as close as I get to sleeping on the ground

02 April 2012


B IS FOR BACKPACK

When you travel a lot you get into a mindset. It takes you seconds to think of everything you need and you rarely forget any of the essentials. Since I've been fairly stationary this last year I find myself taking longer to pack and missing to even think of essentials like toothbrush or a hair product. Fortunately I'm either able to borrow or buy a back up product for my one or two night stay.

Inspite of all of my mishaps with the contents of my bags the one lesson I have carried over has been to use back packs for my carry on luggage or as a day bag. Definitely not as fashionable as Louis Vuitton and I doubt Coach would start a backpack line, but sometimes practicality has to out win fashion.

I used to use a side bag until I noticed I was sitting crooked from getting used to a bag pulling me sideways. I thought about getting one of those little rolling small luggage pieces but then that's another piece you have to tie up your hands with. A back pack allows you to carry a fair load and keep your hands free. It really didn't take me long to buy a good backpack and stick with that.

Me with my backpack... Trusty little sucker

01 April 2012



During the month of February I read a number of blogs that had previously participated in the A to Z challenge that advised “Pick a theme”. It took me a good couple weeks to come up with a theme that I felt I could legitimately blog about which ended up being travelling. Travelling is something I’ve done a lot of, though by no means am I hardcore because I typically don’t give up the comforts of home. By comforts I mean a decent bed, a flushing toilet, internet access, and a functional shower.


A is for adventure & alcohol.

I have two topics for ‘A’ because I couldn’t decide which topic I wanted to blog about more. After some thinking I came to the conclusion that both alcohol and adventure were large parts of travelling.

Of course I’m talking about travelling for pleasure in this blog post.

It’s nice to have a plan, or itinerary, when you’re on vacation. It’s also very nice not to have a plan, and just see where the day takes you. I like to do a bit of both. I don’t like to make any plans about how I’m going to spend my vacation until I get to my destination. I enjoy just taking in the sights and sounds and letting the connections I make guide a little of what I do. I enjoy asking locals what their opinions on locations and activities are, where the best place for meals are, where the best shopping is, and so forth. Locals want to show off the best parts of their home (for the most part, some can be down right miserable) and if you’re willing to travel just a little wayward you can come back from your travels with some interesting experiences.

While alcohol isn’t a must when travelling, it can certainly add a spin to your travels. Granted, people on vacation who drink at a binge level engage in risky behaviour that typically ends up being quite embarrassing. I’d like to focus more on the moderate level of alcohol consumption that I typically engage in: a glass of wine or two with a meal, meeting friends after work for a beer or two, or just relaxing in a yard at dusk with a gin and tonic.

Alcohol is a social lubricant, definitely: people lose a bit of their inhibitions and just socialize more comfortably, even if they only nurse one drink the entire night. If you travel to European nations where alcohol has been a long standing part of the culture people tend to socialize around places where alcohol is served. Ie. Pubs. While there are pubs in North America they’re just not the same as European pubs, and socializing in them is different. Especially when you have pubs existing for over a hundred years.