Sunday, January 11, 2015

Stop Following The Crowd

In a previous post I responded to 21 Travel Resolutions To Make For 2015, a post by Suzy Strutner, writing for the Huffington Post. Today I thought I’d offer a few more suggestions not covered by Suzy in her post. But first, a word or two from Albert:

“The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.” ~ Albert Einstein

Using the wisdom of Albert Einstein as my guide, I offer these additions to Strutner’s selection:
  • Break out of your comfort zone and try something different (a new location, food, activity)
  • Travel Solo (if you normally travel with others, or travel with others if you normally go alone )
  • Book and organise your own vacation, don't leave it to a travel agent
  • It's never too early to start planning your next holiday, so start now!
Break out of your comfort zone and try something different
Too often we like to stick to the tried and tested; whether choice of literature, genre of movies, favourite foods, make of car, or travel destinations. The problem with this is that we can miss out on so many exciting, new, and different experiences. 

Breaking out of your comfort zone does not mean you should push yourself to indulge in dangerous activities of either the athletic type, or feel the need to partake in exotic meals of the culinary variety. For instance, you will never see me bungee jumping head first into a river, or white-water rafting down raging rapids. Neither will you find me eating fried Tarantula’s, drinking warm Yak blood, swallowing the raw testes of newly slaughtered rams, or trying other such exotic fare!

There are plenty of other, more pleasant ways to break out of your comfort zone. If you have a tendency to drive everywhere, get out of the car and walk more. If you catch planes—take a train instead. Looking for something to eat or drink? Check out what and where the locals eat and drink. I remember wandering through New York City’s Chinatown district one day, and walking into a small restaurant filled with Chinese diners. Pointing to a selection of dishes on display, I sat down to a full plate of rice, chicken, and vegetables that cost me a mere $3.00. One of the cheapest meals I have ever enjoyed.

Travel Solo
Some people can’t stand their own company! Still others can’t abide silence or solitude. Then there are those who never shut up! A pause in a conversation is a pause too long. It is a hole that needs to be filled, and filled as quickly as possible. Hopefully, you will never encounter these three character traits in the one person, but if you do, make a mental note right now to never travel with them. Better that you should travel alone, or not travel at all, than burden yourself with such a travel companion. 

Personally, I love to travel alone. I delight in the freedom it gives me to follow my own interests, to travel at my own pace, and to stay out late and to sleep in even later. As for silence and solitude, on long road trips I leave the radio off and the CDs at home. This allows my thoughts to float through my head in whatever random order they choose. I also like how solo travel encourages me to meet the locals and other travellers, to pay more attention to my surroundings, and to develop new skills I didn’t think I was capable of (a great boost to my self-confidence).

Book and Organise Your Own Vacation
Be the master of your own destiny! The advent of the Internet puts the ability to research, book and organise a vacation in your own hands. Your planning and organisational skills improve, as does your confidence and ability to deal with actual or potential problems on your own.

When I headed off on my first round the world trip in more than 30 years, in 2008, I made use of a travel agent, and have no regrets that I did. Again in 2010, I used a travel agent to book my main flights, but booked internal flights and accommodations myself. In 2010 and again in 2014 I went completely solo. That is, I researched, booked and organised all my own flights, accommodations, travel insurance, and all other aspects of my trips myself.

This may not seem like a big deal, but as a senior (I’m now 66), and solo traveller, the temptation to leave all the organisation to others is very — um, tempting! As already noted, doing everything myself has been great for my organisational and problem solving skills, self-confidence, and self-esteem. I hope to be travelling for many years to come, and as much as possible I will plan and organise these trips myself.

Start Planning Your Next Trip Now
It’s never too late, or too early to start thinking about and planning your next vacation. In fact, doing so can help you focus on budgeting, saving, and keeping on top of your spending habits and future purchases. Planning ahead—even one to three years ahead—forces you to reconsider every major purchase you might be contemplating. 

Do you really need a bigger television, laptop, tablet device, the latest iPhone/iPad, fancy-schmancy meal, seasonal outfit, or…? Well, you get the idea. For myself, planning and saving towards my next trip starts from the moment I touch down in Adelaide, my home town. In deed, I have taken to telling family and friends that I am back home for a holiday from my holiday.

I find that it helps to quantify your expenses before you spend your hard earned money on the latest iPad, or whatever it is you think you absolutely must have. In my case, my income consists of a fortnightly pension which is supplemented by money from my retirement fund. I try and bear in mind that every one-hundred dollars I spend on non-essential items could instead give me another night in a budget hotel in Paris or London, or several nights in any number of other cities around the world.

As much as I would love to swap my 64Gb iPad 2 for the latest (and lighter) iPad Air, I have decided to forgo the upgrade for as long as possible. Mind you, this decision is made easier knowing that there will always be a newer model in the offing within months of the latest release. So why rush? Besides, the cost of a high capacity iPad Air in Australia—say, a 64Gb model—is around half the price of an Adelaide to New York City return ticket (or Adelaide to almost anywhere in Europe, for that matter). Knowing I have a perfectly good iPad 2 as well as half a return ticket to the rest of the world sitting in my bank account, is a great incentive to keep saving, and to make sure any purchases I do make are absolutely essential.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Welcome to 2015

The Huffington Post writer, Suzy Strutner recently offered 21 Travel Resolutions To Make For 2015 which all make very good sense (despite the fact that there were only 19 suggestions in the article), but then, who's counting?

Well, actually, I was. Anyway, among her suggestions I particularly liked:
  • Get lost
  • Start a conversation with a local
  • Read something on the history of your destination before you get there
  • Be spontaneous and open to straying from your itinerary
Get Lost
Of course, there is 'lost' and there is lost. While I have never been completely lost, and therefore at risk of personal danger, I have found myself wandering through some of the far corners of major cities well away from the usual tourist haunts. The key to this type of getting lost is to make sure you are doing it during daylight hours, and not after dark - which may well result in the risk of personal danger. During the day, it is much easier to pick out landmarks that help orientate and guide you through unfamiliar neighbourhoods. If you do find yourself running out of daylight, head to the nearest major road or avenue. These tend to be well patronized and well lit. If you can't find access to public transport like a subway station to get you back to familiar ground, you should at least have a better chance of finding a taxi along a major thoroughfare to get you safely back to your hotel or accommodations.

Start a Conversation
To be honest, I'm not great at starting conversations with complete strangers, but I am more than happy to respond to complete strangers if they start conversations with me. In this way, I have met a number of people during my extended travels, and those meetings have all helped to make my trips more memorable and enjoyable. With the advent of social networking online, it is much easier to maintain contact with people you meet on the road, and I have added several contacts to my Facebook page after having met friendly locals during my travels. Of course, the other benefit of getting to the know the locals is that you also get to know something about the country you are visiting and what makes it, and its citizens tick.

Read Some History
I am a great believer in this suggestion. I have always been a voracious reader, and now that I am travelling again, I make a point of reading as many non-fiction books with subject matter that matches the country or city I am planning to visit. This is made so much easier to do with tablet devices like iPads, Kindle's, and other any number of other eReaders now available at very reasonable prices.

My iPad has hundreds of books stored on it, and while most of these are fictional novels, I also have a large selection of historical non-fiction books as well. I great source for free eBooks, one I have written about on numerous occasions, is Gutenberg dot Org. It is a rare day when I can't find a good book on that site on almost any topic or country you care to name.

Be Spontaneous
I know some people who are not happy travellers unless they have preplanned and booked every aspect of their journey. The problem with this is that there is no room to manoeuvre if schedules get changed, delays occur, or if they want to make even minor changes to their itinerary during the course of their travels. I must admit that I have tendency to go to the other extreme on this question. I like to leave my itinerary as flexible as possible.

For example, after spending almost four weeks in New York City during my 2012 trip to America, I took in Lancaster and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (seven nights); Washington, DC (five nights); Savannah, Georgia (ten nights); New Orleans, Louisiana (five nights); and Tucson and Flagstaff, Arizona (fifteen nights). The trip was bookended with four or five nights in Los Angeles. While my arrival and departure dates were fixed, and my accommodations in New York City were also pre-booked and confirmed, pretty much everything else I eventually did was worked out as I went along.

Of course, not everyone has the luxury of spending three months in the USA, or the freedom to indulge their whims as I did, but the principle remains the same: Build some flexibility into your vacation, no matter how long to give the unexpected a chance to surprise you and enhance your trip in ways you had not planned on.

Since Suzy Strutner's article was a couple shy of the promised 21 suggestions I thought I'd offer a few more of my own:
  • Break out of your comfort zone and try something different (a new location, food, activity)
  • Travel Solo (if you normally travel with others, or travel with others if you normally go alone )
  • Book and organise your own vacation, don't leave it to a travel agent
  • It's never too early to start planning your next holiday, so start now!
I will cover these suggestions in a future post. For now, I hope you are looking forward to a New Year filled with health, happiness, much love and lots of travel.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mannum, South Australia

I recently spent a day in Mannum, a picturesque country town nestled along the banks of the River Murray in South Australia. This three minute video uses photographs, video footage and sound to 'paint a picture' of this delightful town, which is less than 90 minutes from the centre of Adelaide.

In the video can be seen two ferries used to transport vehicles and pedestrians across the Murray 24-hours a day, seven days a week throughout the year. House boats are available for hire in Mannum and other towns along the river, and are very popular with city dwellers and visitors to the region. The area is a bird watchers delight with all manner of native birds calling the river or its environs home. 

Most of the bird sounds on the video belong to the native, Major Mitchell Cockatoo, large white birds that nest along the river in their thousands. Also seen in the video are several pelicans, and the numerous seagulls which, despite being many miles from the ocean, seem to have also made the area home.

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