Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My top travel habits

I find that when I'm on the road, I have a couple of habits that always serve to make my trip more pleasant. I think a lot of us probably pick up these sorts of idiosyncrasies over time - and sometimes, they become important enough to be considered tradition, or even ritual.

What are your travel habits? Leave them in the comments below, or find me on Twitter!

I have to go to a grocery store

I love instant noodles, and every grocery that carries this many (via)
Okay, there is the usual stuff about how grocery shopping saves you major money on your trip. But food shops are also great places to learn some of the local language, find some new food items you may never have seen before, and learn about what everyday folks are using in their lives. Sometimes you'll find amazing things (Happy Hippos!), sometimes you'll find sort-of-bummer things (lightening creams, anyone?), and sometimes you'll just make a Grade A ass out of yourself.

In Prague when I was 21, I went to do a big grocery shop for my office (we would take turns cooking lunch for everyone in my little nonprofit), but no one told me I had to bring my own grocery bag. As the food piled up at the end of the conveyor belt, I started to get a bit concerned about the fact I had no way to carry it all... and then the cashier started serving the woman behind me... and obviously we had a massive language barrier. I looked like a total fool, making excessive arm-acoopy motions to a woman who thought I was a dunce, trying to convey how awkward it would be to carry all this stuff (awkward is a good word for it), but turns out - hey! The bags are yours if you pay extra!

Just a  lil' tip from me to you. That, and pay at least a few euro for Champagne, even in Paris. The dirt-cheap stuff tastes like feet.

I learn a surprising amount at post offices and embassies

Prague's post office (via)
My travel buddy didn't totally understand why I wanted to visit the post office in Phnom Penh. And I can't say I blame her, it sounds pretty lame. But when we got there, it was actually awesome - I was able to buy stamps as keepsakes, and they even had a whole counter that sold beautiful vintage stamps (allowing me to purchase one of Halley's Comet for my astrophysicist stepdad). There was also a massive schedule on the wall of when mail would be sent to which countries, which tells you a lot about where a country has strong or weak ties.

In Nepal, I found out that you don't actually put stamps on your mail, but rather bring it to the post office so that the postage doesn't get stolen for some quick cash. Also, if you ask nicely, the confused postal service employee will ink stamp your journal!

In Prague, the post office is gorgeous. And confusing. And the only way I could get a package delivered to me (never did sort out why my apartment wasn't good enough...). And gorgeous.

As for embassies, I've written about the US embassy in London before. Sad to say, the US embassy in Cambodia ain't much better. I think it's always worth a look to see how your home country advertises itself in other places.

There's nothing like a cappuccino

I've never been a major coffee drinker, except when I'm traveling. But I find caffeine pretty necessary for a day of wandering, touristing, exploring... and since I was always coffee-ignorant, I'd order a cappuccino wherever I went (requires no translation!). Since I drink it black when I make it myself, I have grown to only associate cappuccinos with travel, and I now make it a point to get one wherever I can, and sit and write in my journal. It's sort of my own idea of heaven.

I have to get to the airport ridiculously early

It used to be that I loved airports (more so than flying, frankly). They always felt so safe, perhaps because everything is so neatly organized and you can't really end up in the wrong place - so I'd love arriving early, with time to relax and eat and browse. But these days, I just always have the fear in the back of my head that something could go wrong, my flight could be messed up, I could get bumped off the flight, security could take seventeen years and steal my shoes... so yeah. This one's not much a fun habit, but it is one I can't seem to shake.

All right, kittens, I've shared mine - what are your habits?

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