The Ten Commandments of Travel
The Well-Traveled Will Say AMEN
If you have ever gone from Point A to Point B you've learned a thing or two along the way. Usually we learn the hard way, by process of trial and error. My husband did his best to teach this truism to our teenagers: "Don't insist on making every mistake in the book yourself. I've already made most of them. Learn from me and skip a few."
This truth absolutely applies to travel. Why make all the mistakes yourself, learning as you go. Take a little advice from those of us who have already been around the block a time or two. Learn from us. In that spirit, I offer you:
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF TRAVEL
l. Never, ever, pass up an opportunity to go to the bathroom. You never know how long it might be before you get the chance again or what the condition of the bathroom will be when you finally find it.
2. A trip with friends can be a lot of fun. But - travel with friends with the greatest of caution. Nothing has the potential to ruin a friendship faster than hitting the road together. Traveling is a continuous series of making small decisions. Trying to make all those decisions by committee will lead to wasted time, money and excruciating frustration. When vacationing with anyone outside your immediate family, the best advice is to make as many arrangements as humanly possible in advance, like on a cruise or a tour group. Still, even under the best of circumstances - Danger! Danger! Will Robinson!!!
3. Try the local cuisine. Why travel if all you are going to do in Rome is look for a McDonald's? In most countries I've been to, most of my memories are from me eating my way from one town to the next. Best pizza I ever had was in Wengen, Switzerland, which is at the top of one of the Alps. The toppings on this pizza were mussels and white asparagus. I still dream about it. My children, who had all been to five of the seven continents before they entered high school (Army Brats), became convinced that in Heaven we will eat pizza, french fries, and cokes because you can find some version of those three items anywhere on the planet. It might not be pizza like you've ever tasted before, but everybody has pizza of one kind or another.
4. Take an extra jacket. You can always take it off if it gets too hot. But there is nothing worse than being cold all day when there is nothing you can do about it except spend $80 on a sweatshirt at a tourist trap. Which leads directly to number five:
5. Avoid tourist traps. Tourist junk is tourist junk all over the world. Why go all the way to Iguazu, Argentina, to buy a snow globe made in China? Get a postcard you can frame when you get home, or better yet, buy a watercolor from the artist selling them on the street. You'll recall your adventures every time you walk past it in your house for the next twenty years. Also do not spend your precious time shopping for souvenirs for the folks back home. Your pictures and tales of your adventures are the best gifts to share with them. Besides - tourist junk is tourist junk everywhere.
6. Forget fashion when it comes to footwear. No matter what adventures are planned for any given day, odds are by the end of the day your feet are going to hurt. To ensure the next day's adventure is just as enjoyable as today's was, wear good walking shoes, whether they match your outfit or not.
7. Leave some cash at your house. You will certainly be broke by the time you return. I mean, seriously broke. Like no money to put gas in the car till next pay day (unless you plan well enough to arrive home on payday!) A funny thing happens to money on vacation. It takes on the attributes of Monopoly money. You tend to spend it like there is no tomorrow. But you know what? Tomorrow always comes once the vacation is over.
8. Never, ever, under any circumstances, pack everything you need in one bag. Luggage gets lost. This is a law of nature. Make sure each one of your bags (and never take more than you can carry by yourself) needs to contain everything you'd need for at least an overnight stay in the event the other one gets lost somewhere between your hometown and your first port of call. Yes, that means buying an extra toothbrush. If you can't afford that luxury, you probably can't afford to leave home.
9. Within reason, let your children pack their own bag and make them carry their own bag. It is the best way to make them understand why they can't take every toy they own on vacation.
10. Finally, take security seriously. The back alleys of Naples are not Disneyland. There are real dangers out there in the big, bad world, and acting like you are immune just because you are on vacation is not only naive - it's stupid. Also remember that your rights as an American do not extend to other countries. Once there, you are subject to their laws - and customs. Things are different in other countries. That's why you go there. But follow the laws and learn enough of the customs to avoid trouble. Having your stay in some new and exotic place extended indefinitely and involuntarily is not a good thing.
By all means, GO! The more of this amazing world that you see for yourself, the more you will want to see. But don't go uninformed. Knowing a thing or two (or ten!) about traveling will expeditiously increase your chances of having the time of your life.