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Finally, you’ve arrived at your destination. You’ve planned ahead, read up on the currencies, are properly packed and ready to enjoy whatever adventures may present themselves. In the third and final part of our Why Not . . . Travel Internationally? series, I’d like to share with you some simple advice on how to enjoy your trip, help you put your mind at ease so that you can relax and savor the wonderful trip you’ve waited and saved up for for so long.
While At Your Destination(s)
1. Currency Exchange – As I shared in Part One, traveler’s cheques have fallen by the wayside, and as long as you are traveling in a country with secure banking systems, you’ll find that ATMs/bank machines/cash points are nearly everywhere. This is an easy way to access the proper currency without paying high exchange fees. Remember, your bank will most likely charge a fee for international withdrawals and potentially a percentage depending upon how much you withdrawal, so look into this before you leave. (Click here to learn more about currency exchange.)
You may be wondering if you should bring any of your country’s currency with you and exchange. I would only keep my country’s currency in my wallet for traveling to the airport and arriving back at home, but there is no need to carry cash with you that you will eventually exchange. As long as you have a debit and/or credit card, and know you will have access to an ATM upon arrival, it eliminates the potential of losing the cash you have on your person.
2. Use Public Transportation – Even if you are someone who prefers to walk often while traveling abroad, you will still want to become acquainted with the public transportation system in the city you are visiting. It was my experience that even riding on the Tube every day, I stilled walked at least six miles daily while in London. In large metropolitan areas such as London and Paris – subway, bus, train, taxi and bikes are available. In smaller communities you will have access to the high speed rail system which is quite reasonable and something to consider if you want to move from town to town, as well as buses most of the time.
Using bikes is a wonderful idea if you want to be your own tour guide and see more of the city. Click here to learn more about London’s Barclay public biking system and here to learn about Paris’s Vélib’ .
Both the Tube (London) and Metro (Paris) are fairly easy to navigate with time and a good map of all the lines. There are many helpful websites to assist with most questions you have.
3. When to Hail a Cab – Having chosen both routes (hailed a taxi from the train to my accommodations and another time choosing not to), I would highly recommend choosing the luxury of a cab to take you to and from the airport/train to your accommodations to avoid stress, exhaustion, loss of time and unnecessary frustration. When you have your luggage, hopping on and off subway trains can be excruciating especially in peak hours when trains are packed and the stairs never end. The extra 30 Euros spent I quickly discovered was more than worth it.
The Ecocab taxis in Paris were recommended and what I ended up using in Paris to and from, and I was very impressed with their service. You can book them online prior to the day you need it, as well as pay online which makes travel even smoother.
4. Style – This is one instance when how you dress can mean the difference between being safe or being a target. When it comes to deciding what you are going to wear, first dress appropriately for the weather, but then dress in such a way that does scream “tourist”. Pickpockets and thieves see easy targets simply based on what you’re wearing and how you are behaving, so dress wisely.
On the less serious side, wear quality walking shoes (flats work fine especially if you want to retain your style quotient which includes what helps define my sartorial choices). However, I will suggest, make sure you’ve had a pedicure as long nails when jammed repeatedly into the front of your shoe after walking more than a handful of miles a day can cause bruising. (Just another excuse to schedule a spa pedicure before you leave!)
Scarves are a wonderful choice no matter where you are traveling as they serve as a stylish accessory as well as a layer when the weather changes its mind. Also, if you have access to anyone living where you are traveling, check in with them before you leave to see how they would suggest you pack (sweaters, rain coat, etc).
Most importantly, dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and makes you feel like yourself.
5. Protect Your Valuables – Always be aware of where your purse/wallet/handbag is at all times. Never leave it unattended or turn your back on it. When walking, keep your purse tucked under your arm or firmly clutched so someone can’t rip it out of your hands. Upon arrival, make sure you know where your passport is and where you can keep it during your stay that is assuredly safe.
6. Camera – To begin with, make sure the camera or device you are using to take pictures is fully charged (and make sure to pack the charger). Everyone takes pictures differently, but don’t be afraid to take both posed and candid images. Include people in scenery shots more often than not as it makes the image more personal (unless you want scenery shots). Have fun with poses and remember, capturing it on film is a way of creating a visual journal. So be creative and don’t edit yourself, so that when you look back ten years from now, you’ll be able to relive it all again from memory.
7. Journal – If you’re like me, you love to write the daily events down so that you can remember all that you did long after your trip is done. Allow yourself time each day if possible to find a quiet thirty minutes or so – in a cafe, at a park or somewhere that you enjoy – and let your pen go to town. At the time you may think there is no way you could ever forget all that has happened, but trust me, you will forget certain details that upon rereading about years down the road will make you smile and appreciate your decision to keep a journal.
You’ve just touched down and turned the key in your door arriving home from your world wind adventure. What to do now?
8. Time to Adjust – Depending upon how much of a time change your are dealing with, your jet lag will vary. With the nine hour time difference I dealt with this summer, it took me three or four days to get my body back into its regular sleep schedule. Your emotions too may be frazzled simply because you aren’t getting your regular amount of sleep, so be patient with yourself.
9. Pick up Your Mail – If possible, have your mail carrier deliver your held mail all at once on the day you arrive home (or day following) to save yourself a trip. If that’s not available, make sure you pick up your mail and go through it check and see that all bills are indeed paid and letters that need to be read aren’t being read too late.
10. Savor it – If you can, allow yourself a day or more to just savor all that you have just experienced. Have a few friends over, open a bottle of wine and catch them up on all that happened. Sometimes we arrive home from vacation only to quickly transition into our regular routine without giving ourselves time to savor and digest all that we have just experienced. Remember travel (if done well) is meant to help us evolve and provide moments for lessons and growth. This is only possible when we slow down for a moment and let it all sink in.