People in my life have probably not assumed I was going to stop giving advice just because they are technically out of hearing range. And after six weeks, I am starting to feel the need for “sharing” because pretty much no one on the road is going to listen to my opinions, including the woman who gave me a manicure today and filed my nails so they looked like salamander toes.
This is not my hand after the manicure. This is actual salamander toes.
I might have a few useful travel insights so when I think of something incredibly profound, I will write about it, but not things that show up everywhere else, like packing light or telling the cab driver to turn on the meter por favor.
So my first piece of advice:
No day tripping!
Day tripping is the bus ride or train trip to the cute little town that has art galleries, a quaint harbor, a 16th century church. Guide books often suggest ideas for day trips, probably because their authors assume most travelers have very limited time and want to see a lot.
I have learned the hard way that if it’s not worth more than a day, it’s probably not worth a day. The hour long bus ride or train ride actually soaks up most of the day because you have to get to and from the bus or train, and factor in departure times on two ends. And when you add the time you will take for lunch, you don’t have much time left to see much of anything or even hang out.
Of course, that might be a blessing because when you get there, you may wonder what all the excitement was about. The guide book may not have mentioned that your destination is loaded with corporate retailers and overpriced cafes (Sausalito, California; Kyrenia, Cyprus; Bath, England), or mostly shut down (Suchitoto, El Salvador; Szentendre, Hungary). Or that there will be a million people like you looking at the same shipwreck and buying the same $5 glass of fresh lemonade. Yes, I used up a day to see a shipwreck. Here it is.
And unless you have a really entertaining travel partner with you, you will probably arrive back at your lodging exhausted and kind of let down.
There are exceptions to the rule! Carol and I did a day trip to see the Taj Mahal because Agra is not otherwise interesting, and you can’t go to northern India and ignore its most famous icon. Another exception would be something that is your passion. For example, if you love traditional Japanese pottery, you will probably want to go to Tachikui to see the Tamba ceramics when you are in Kyoto. I was glad I made the day trip to the Hungarian horse show because I am a horse person. I’m sure there are other exceptions — just read between the lines of the guidebooks and do the cost-benefit analysis before you head for the bus station.
Bottom line, if you are looking for a distraction from where you are staying, consider taking a day off to see a movie or photograph everything you can find that is periwinkle blue or find a cooking class. I hope to take this advice soon.
Kate and Margot, Americans living in Amman, Jordan and vacationing in Cyprus, who are sharing the house I am in. Their advice: embrace the culture, learn some Arabic, eat falafel, ask whether the Hamman is co-ed and bring your own toilet paper.