There are horizons to conquer as we choose to be on the road and while we are doing it, we encounter instances where we find lessons, anecdotes and experiences which helped mold us to become a seasoned-traveler and graduate us from the novitiate of travelling and with a rugged backpack, we choose to dwell on the lessons rather than the pitfalls.
The list I presents to you is a personal encounter I have had on the road and the lessons were handpicked from memory where I dwell to inspire.
- Plan before you ran – Just as with many others who pretend to be an ace-traveler, there were moments I would rather not plan but just follow where my heart leads me and yes, there were moments in my travels that it leads me to happiness and pure bliss but some also did not lead to where I felt more at ease and is rather, costly. When I went to Cambodia via Vietnam for the holidays and on my own, I miscalculated my need for a temporary place to stay while I wait for the bus which will bring me to Phnom Penh, I just boarded my flight and arrived in Saigon passed 1am, and sorry I was to know that the airport will not allow any arriving passengers to linger at the airport for more than the usual time they allot, I was forced to board a taxi and go to Pham Ngo Lao and scamper where to find a good place to stay for less than 3 hours. I ended up renting a room at the Saigon Backpackers for $21 which I used for only 3 hours. Costly? Yes it was and had I planned, I could have stayed somewhere else and save on my precious travel fund.
- Wear or tear – packing your stuffs and in deep consideration is the amount of clothes one gets to carry for the duration of the backpacking adventure to wherever destination it may be is nerve-wracking and it is never predictable. When I pack my clothes, I usually have no clue how many jackets to bring or how many jeans to wear plus the shirts and the shoes one has to bring. I have learn that in my many travels, I have brought more than I can use ergo, usually, I am paying more on the baggage excess on clothes I do not get to wear afterall. I even had a funny experience in Cambodia when I have to leave a bag (I gave my BENCH bag to the old lady who manned the reception of my hotel), gave 3 tshirts to my Tuktuk driver in Siem Reap, and in Vietnam, I left my jacket intentionally at the hotel, along with the towel I brought with me from the Philippines. I have to carry along lesser clothes nowadays than usual which are surprisingly breathtaking, importantly, it is lighter and cost less.
- Hostel, booking and more hostels– When I was on my first trip to Kuala Lumpur, my sister who resides in Canada and works for the Starwood Hotels and Resorts gifted me with a guest voucher for Sheraton Subangjaya. The perks for 5-star hotels are its sleek interiors and spacious room with uber-great rooms and bath and it came with a price. Though with a different rate for Sheraton, I have not seen anyone who shares my passion for travels for I am in the midst of snobbish business travelers and to say, Sheraton is very far from where I wanted to explore in Kuala Lumpur. The day after, I booked on a hostel in Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur and the rest is just fun. I transferred from the posh Sheraton to Hotel Chinatown but I am happy, more than that, my pocket also was satisfied.
- Locate the locals, not the map – The pitfall of travelling is our propensity to track out way from the urban wilderness through the dizzying maps the tourism office provides. Honestly, I only get to use maps whenever I board subway trains and I started to make use of it when I was in Osaka, Japan. Though in Japan, they have a very efficient way to get around the subway system, the interchanges is dizzying and very much different from the experience I have had riding subways in Hong Kong. But, when tracking destinations on foot, I usually asked the help of the locals whom I randomly met on the road. I asked mothers, students, store attendants and even policemen. Locals know the place better and more than your ability to interpret the map so trust them and besides, they are friendlier than you ever think of.
- Off the beaten to the beat-up wallet – on a recent trip to Macau, I was dumbfounded to be in the swathe of the dizzying tourists wanting to drop by to the Venetian Macao not to gamble but to take their photos and need I say I was one of them who detest if only I have a choice. I am a man of humble means and gambling is less of my attraction-must-see and more so, I am not into getting to casino only to get myself photographed in its artificial glory, but I did because I am in a group. However, while in Hong Kong, I made use of my free time to roam around on my own, to off-the-beaten paths and destinations. I save much and spend less yet I saw what mostly others who went to Hong Kong just for Disneyland and Ocean Park.
- Pass the passport – When travelling overseas, allow not your passport to depart away from your grip even if suspicious locals ask you to show them. The only persons who get to see your passport is you and the immigration officer at the kiosk. Though there are countries that randomly checks passport of backpackers and tourists wandering on the streets like in the case of Japan, a good safety deposit box or carrying your passport with you, concealed in your hand-carry or a body strap is the best option. My experience was when on a trip to Brunei, the hotel staff asked to get hold my passport and told me it will be for processing procedures but to forgotten to return them to me, I was panicky and retrieve them from the concierge. A fellow travel blogger who was robbed in the border of Singapore and Malaysia also lost his passport when the stranger asked for it and took it from his possessions. NEVER pass your passport beyond what is legally demanded and when in suspicion, hide it and never flaunt it. It is better for you to pretend going back to your hostel to get it than losing it to random muggers.
- Picture, picture, picture – Our propensity to take photos in virtually every places we have visited and entered are a must for mostly, Facebook purposes. However, know where it is wrong to take photos of you and observe it diligently to avoid getting tangled with agents of the law. A trip to China nearly cost us precious time and a jail time when our fellow travelers were accosted by airport police for taking photos at the immigration, just before we approach the kiosk for arrival visa processing. You can take tons and tons of photos in airports anywhere but not in its immigration areas, which is forbidden. Take no photos while in facing the immigration officer too unless your biometric and facial data is secured by its own scanners.
If we hit the snag as we travel, we have to see at the brighter side of it to avoid stress. If your plans usually do not come out perfectly the way you envisioned it to be, dwell in the thought that there are more into it than just what you feel at the moment. A misstep in travelling teaches us lessons to carry on to the next destination with ease and confidence.
Traveling gives us many opportunities to tell the story as we see them and our ultimate goal is to remain happy to share it and write them. The pitfalls are many but the lessons are great. It helps you become the traveler you wanted yourself to be and enjoy each journey.