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Sharky’s tips for travelling

These excellent tips were prepared by my sister, an inveterate* traveller and former guidebook writer, for her kids in advance of a road trip and overseas travel. The kids were roughly 12 and 10 years old at the time, but the tips are timeless. They’re very much in the spirit of Kevin Kelly, and I thought you might like them.

Some things I’ve learnt about travelling

Be here now. Look, listen, smell, feel, taste. Try to notice things. Be aware of what’s happening around you, use your instincts.

Be amazed! Breathtaking landscapes, awe-inspiring buildings, mind-blowing meals: travelling offers you some of the most intense experiences of wonder you’ll ever have. Take a minute to marvel at them. Try not to get jaded or over it.

The journey is the destination. Do as much as you can while accepting that you’ll never be able to do everything: travelling is about experiencing, not about ticking things off a list.

Try all the food. Even when you want to eat the kinds of things you eat at home, try as much as possible to eat whatever people eat where you’re travelling. It’s usually better and cheaper. If someone invites you to a home-cooked meal, always say yes (and eat everything, even if it makes you want to be sick).

Wash your hands. At some point, you’ll definitely get traveller’s diarrhoea (AKA Montezuma’s Revenge or Delhi Belly) but keeping your hands very clean is a good way to avoid it. And by the way, if you need to poo, poo, even if the bathroom isn’t lovely. Pooing in your pants is much worse than using a less-than-perfect loo.

Drink water! Often when you’re travelling you’re so busy doing things you forget to hydrate. Tap water isn’t always safe to drink, so find out first.

People in other places do things differently: not better, not worse, but differently. Try not to judge them. Instead, try to understand them. Ask questions if you can. You’ll find out more from local people than you ever will by reading a guidebook, a blog or a website. You speak two of the languages that are most widely spoken in the world! Use them, talk to people.

Travelling by choice, for pleasure, is an enormous privilege. Millions of people on earth are forced to travel even though they don’t want to, and millions of others will never leave the area where they were born. Try to appreciate how lucky you are to be travelling for fun. Privileges bring responsibility: the people you are visiting will judge people from your country or place of origin based on how you behave. Act accordingly: smile, say hello, say goodbye, say please, say thank you. Be respectful of local customs even if they are different from your own.

Trust in the kindness of strangers. Of course there are always people trying to rip travellers off and sometimes you have to be cautious, but there are far more people who genuinely want to help visitors. Try to trust people, accept their help and always say thank you.

Often, to visit incredible places and to have unforgettable experiences, you get tired and uncomfortable in the process. Planes get delayed. Cars get flat tires. Buses break down. These things happen. Try to be philosophical about it. Expect more hardship than you experience at home. Take a good book, snacks, and plenty of water and try to embrace the unexpected. Sometimes these are just things you deal with and sometimes they lead to incredible experiences you might never have had otherwise.

Useful things to pack (you might not need them, but you’ll be glad to have them if you do): knife, needle and thread, torch, ziploc bags, blister plasters, wet wipes.

Victoria Patience – Some things I’ve learnt about travelling

* I was sorely tempted by “invertebrate”…

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