Sep 27, 2010

My travel rituals

I don’t believe in those “ten things to pay attention to” or “ten things to take with you when you travel”. Despite all that travelling, I still have no check list when I pack my bag. It’s part of the fun. My line of thinking is: if something is missing, you can always go buy it. Relax, you are travelling, you cannot plan everything! Now this disclaimer does not mean that I don’t have rituals I developed over the years. So what are they?

Nice hotel comes with nice reception.
1.  Having spent a little fortune on it, I realized that a four wheel bag is everything. You don’t have to push or pull it. It almost glides on its own. Especially if it is a short business trip involving transfers to train/subway after the airplane, this is a lifesaver.

2. Obsessing with the weather is for the English:-). So I do not carry an umbrella. If I am going to New York in February, I do not check the weather. I know it is going to be damn cold. Same for Western Europe in June. For sure, it will not be as nice as home. So it depends on the destination and whether I am travelling somewhere for the first time.

Eurostar is a star. 

3. I take taxis where I can. Taxi drivers are always good to get a feel for a country and in Europe the likelihood that they will turn out to be Turkish is big. If not, they might be Algerian, Russian or Romanian that have sympathy votes for Turkey. Now why is this important except talking with him politics, football and other staff? The driver is the one you will ask for big screen bar or place to watch a Turkish team playing in a UEFA, for instance. He will tell you where all the other Turks will be to cheer with. In destinations like Beirut, after this bonding conversation, he will be your driver for the rest of the trip.

4. It is clear that I enjoy travelling. And that in style. That does not mean I can afford business class but I still have my luxuries. For instance, if you fly Air France to Americas, you get free champagne in economy class. I am always ready to stick to Air France for that! Turkish Airlines, on the other hand, has a very good Asian Vegetarian Meal instead of the standard food. Ask for it in advance or change your settings in the Miles& Miles program. Alternatively, if you are flying with free mileage, upgrade to business for extra 5000 miles (for Europe).

Just like James Bond, land, sea and air is the way to go.

5. Airline lounges are for stiff business men who play with their blackberries. I do my on-line check in and go to the airport as late as I possibly can. I’d rather hang out in duty free in my spare time. Heathrow has great prices for spirits. Brussels is best for Moet or Laurent Perrier.

6. This might come as a surprise but I am not into chatting with fellow passengers who sit next to me. I find it useless to know their names and lives. 90% of the time.

7. I always go to the immigration booth where the officer is of the opposite sex.

Nothing like a ferry.

8. When I am alone, I try to stay in a nicer hotel than I would usually stay with friends and spoil myself. There is nothing better than asking for room service or going down to the safety of the hotel’s bar or restaurant to have your soup and drink after a hard day, especially if you are in a lousy place (like say Budapest). Benefits: One, because you are the hotel’s guest, you will not be bothered. Two, all efforts will be made to speak with you in English. Three, mini bar is for losers. Shut that door!

9. I watch queues in the street: like where are people buying bread from, where are they having coffee, which bus line is the most crowded, etc. In Rome, do like Romans. Follow the locals.

10. Travelling is fun. There should be room for spontaneity. So if something goes wrong, I see this as an opportunity to have a conversation with a local person and get a meaningful grip of real life in the country.  It then makes a great story when you are back home.