From airport queues and delayed flights to getting caught up by a scam, travel isn’t always picture perfect memories and good times. As with any other time in your life, travel has it’s low points, and these can hit a little harder when you’re far away from home. From the small and petty to the more problematic issues, here’s Part I of my quick guide on how to navigate the lower points in your travels.
Flying isn’t the most comfortable travelling experience, and it’s even less so when it’s a full house. Lack of personal space, climbing over your neighbour to use the loo, slower service, food options running out and long waits at either end are all part of it. Sometimes you might even be asked to change flights or have your luggage sent separately due to weight restrictions being pushed over.
If you can’t afford the premium/business/first class ticket (lets be honest…that’s most of us!) then the best you can do is:
- Pack smart – you’re more likely to have your luggage bumped if you’re overweight or close to it
- Get comfortable – having plenty of water with you, a travel cushion, a good set of headphones and sleep mask are all things that will help keep you as comfortable as possible
- Book in advance – locking in a window or aisle seat when you secure your tickets mean that you won’t be sandwiched in between other travellers (if you prefer your own space)
- Be on time – there’s nothing worse than sitting on a full flight after a long time boarding only to find there are late passengers. Do your fellow travellers a solid and get to the gate on time
Despite the allowance of one piece per person, a lot of the time there still never seems to be enough room for everyone’s bags! A result of the above or simply due to people not packing smartly, sometimes you get to your designated seat to find that there’s no room in the overhead locker.
Best way to make sure you have space for yours:
- Be at the boarding gate early and be ready to board. If you’re one of the first in your section to find your seat, you’ll also be one of the first to lock away your bags;
- Stick to check-in luggage, and only take a handbag/small satchel on board. These can be stowed under the seat in front of you so there’s no need to fight for space in the lockers above;
- If you are travelling with carry on, make sure it meets the size requirements of the airline and try and stick to the one piece – this will mean you have less to store away so you’ll likely find room, and also helps your fellow travellers by leaving space for theirs.
Landing at your destination you’ll usually feel one of two things – ecstatic that you are finally there and itching to go explore or dreadfully tired and aching to climb into bed. No matter the feeling, disembarking the aircraft can be a slow and sometimes arduous exercise. Impatient people pushing past the rows in front of them, people forgetting the tight space and knocking your noggin when getting their luggage down or screaming/squealing children acting out after being cramped in a small space for hours on end (who can blame ’em!).
If you’re like me, and you like to get on and get off as quick as possible, try the following:
- Book a seat at the front (or rear, on domestic flights) of the plane. This puts you in the first few rows who will get to leave before the rest of the plane;
- Be organised! Have all of your items packed back away before decent, your jacket on and bag at the ready so as to not hold up the line;
- Have patience. Unlike rocking up to your destination in a bus or car, there’s a lot of set up and safety to put in place when a plane pulls up to the terminal. Just have faith that the airline is efficient and is doing everything it can to have this in place as quickly as possible. Also go easy on your fellow passengers – flying isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and so sometimes people can forget their manners. Offering assistance with peoples bags or letting one or two people pass is not only a nice thing to do, it’ll also set your mood right and not have you bugging out over the wait!
This one especially applies to the solo travellers out there – whether you’re travelling about to your own itinerary or are part of a travel tour group, the loneliness that strikes us abroad can sting a little hard. When you find yourself in a foreign country you can be faced with culture shock, language barriers, petty theft, new customs and no familiar faces to turn to when it all gets too much. Even amidst the greatest of experiences, that sting of homesickness can strike and when you’re in a place far away and unfamiliar it can hit a little harder than usual.
During my solo trip around Europe, this first hit me in Cinque Terre. I was a few weeks into my trip and had seen London, made my way through Venice and then Pisa. Arriving at my destination, I found I was surrounded by loved up couples and families playing on the beach. I didn’t once see somebody wandering about on their own, and in a small town my loneliness felt even more apparent. It was only then that not being able to really communicate with anyone else (my Italian wasn’t anywhere up to the standard it had to be and few people spoke fluent English) that I felt incredibly alone. Needless to say, in between enjoying the delicious food, gorgeous beaches, hiking and stunning scenery, I found myself curled up on my bed, crying my eyes out. Emotions…right!??
I’m sorry to say, but I don’t think anything can totally cure loneliness/homesickness like this except for time, distraction and letting out a little cry now and then. Some things I would recommend however:
- Create a happy playlist! If you’re ever feeling down or are missing home to your bones, play out a list of your happiest tunes. Whether it’s to get you through a plane or train ride, get you going in the morning or a soundtrack to a room service dinner (and cry) in bed. Music can be a great mood booster;
- Make sure you have Skype/WhatsApp/Viber on your devices. These free apps allow for free communication with your loved ones back home, so long as there’s a Wi-Fi connection available. Touching base with family or friends every so often can do wonders when you feel a little alone;
- Make friends! If you’re like me, and you’re not confident enough to strike up a random conversation with a stranger at breakfast or at a bar, joining walking tours in new cities can be a great and easy way to meet other travellers. You could even find somebody who’s keen to meet up outside of the tour and find adventures with you in town! As with anything, there’s also an app for that! I featured the Outbound app in a previous post of mine here, but there’s also one just for the ladies ‘Tourlina’ which is worth checking out. These apps connect you with other travellers in the same area as well as events and meet ups you can join!
- Take a small memento from home. Whether it’s a piece of jewellery, photographs, a card or item of clothing. No matter what it is, having a little piece of home on the road with you provides a little bit of comfort.
Technology means we not only avoid looking like an easy to target tourist with a large paper map, but that we can get around in new places far more efficiently with distances, different routes, nearby points of interest and more. However, if you find yourself out of wifi or out of a phone you can find yourselves out of sorts and out of place!
These days many of us have easy access to smart phones and tablets, putting pretty powerful technology right in the palm of our hands! Google Maps is a go-to when it comes to navigating new places, whether it’s by car, on foot or public transport. But there are also other great apps out there, such as MAPS.ME, that provide detailed offline maps of countries all over the world helping you explore new cities with ease.
A tip from one traveller to another – grab that folded tourist map from the hotel counter or backpackers lounge and keep it on you for those ‘just in case’ moments.
Expectation VS Reality
Whether it’s expecting the worst or the very, very best, expectations set us up with a particular point of view or feeling about a person or place. It’s difficult to go into situations with no expectations at all – it’s only natural that our minds will wander and begin to play out scenarios or form a view before we’ve managed to experience it for ourselves. Sometimes, we can be pleasantly surprised, with something going beyond what we expected or breaking our expectations altogether! Other times, reality can bite. We can set ourselves up for a very particular experience and when that doesn’t happen, or plans go awry it’s easy to get a little down about it (picture me, visiting the Eiffel Tower for the first time having had a fight with my partner on the way there, watching it light up as tears ran down my face while we stood apart not talking – not the worst of experiences but definitely not like I had imagined! We made up before we left that night so it ended on a much happier note!).
The best thing to do is to take a moment and remind yourself how wonderful it is that you’re able to be there experiencing that place/person/feeling in the first place, then weigh up just how much it really matters that it played out differently to how you thought it would.