I know… road trips again? and yep. This trip was so driving heavy that I found myself having to find new ways to make it bearable, because even with my amazing partner and our endless conversations and stops, being consistently stuck in a hot car with your butt falling asleep is always going to be a pain – so much fun, but also a pain.
I’ve talked about games to play, budget points to discuss, responsibilities to dole out, and the importance of knowing the people you are traveling with – emphasis on the driver – again, I know I have covered this stuff extensively (1, 2). But despite my years of experience with many different groups, at many different ages, under many different circumstances, I was surprised at the things that I had never thought about before to help you pass the time or make your travel more fun or comfortable.
First, most of my road trips – at least in the last few years – have really been all about the destination instead of the actual trip. But because we were having a lot of fun – and disasters – along the way, I realized how much better it is when you aren’t all about getting there. After all, that is exactly what makes it a road trip!
So, beyond all the rules and bits of advice I’ve mentioned elsewhere, here are a few more tid-bits that are more important of you don’t mind throwing the path to get to your destination a little bit out the window.
First, don’t be afraid to stop beyond what you have planned. As a kid I remember driving out of Colorado – our final destination – in a detour to see one last monument. While I didn’t appreciate it then (it was a really long trip!), I understand and appreciate deviating from the path now. In Kansas, We pulled over at one stop just because the outlook was just too pretty to pass up. These stops can make your drive longer but also breaks them up and lets you see things you otherwise never would have noticed.
Second, don’t marry yourself to anyone place, but feel free to make it all up as you go. This really paid off in Wichita – if you have been following along – and finding an easier hotel. Sometimes when you travel, your plans will change just because your timeline just doesn’t line up at the end of the day. Again, setting definite points are great, but being free to explore is even better.
Third and final (for now), tell absolutely everyone that you are road tripping. I never thought this was important until the one waitress offered us water for the road. Sometimes people surprise you with kindness when they know you are going to be on the road a lot. Whether this is an extra cup of water or suggestions of things to do or see, getting something from a local source can do wonders for your trip. I don’t care if it’s advice for one more stop you’d never think to visit, or a cold glass of water, you loose nothing by talking to other people.
Again, this is all for now but this trip only inspired my love for travel and road trips more and more, so I am sure that down the road, I’ll think of many more points to share.
So, we’re months later but yay! we’ve made it to talking about the Fourth of July! But since it is months late, you may ask – and rightfully so – why? Why should I take the time in the middle of September to write about an event so far back and so far away?
Well there are a few pretty good reasons actually.
First, this is where this post naturally landed – in fact, there are a few floating posts that could easily have come before this, pushing this post even further back in our schedule.
Second, as it turns out, Kansas is an oddly popular place to visit around the Fourth of July; there were multiple groups I ran into flying to and from Kansas and others I heard talking on the plane who make the trek every year just because of where they get to see fireworks. These girls were somewhere off of a lake for the weekend, but I was somewhere a little different.
The days leading up to the Fourth, Wamego, Kansas comes alive with carnivals and activities that all lead up to the firework-extravaganza called “Boomtown”. This entails the carnival, a parade, car show, an ice cream social, and, of course, food.
It takes about 40 minute from the base to get here but there are parking lots all over the area that donate to groups like the boy scouts (who help show you were to park) so we didn’t mind getting there in the afternoon despite the crowds we knew would show up. We brought a twin sized comforter and were surprised that there was actually really close parking and enough room to lay out. Unfortunately, it was busy enough that we didn’t get to run around seeing any other activity.
It’s recommended that you bring a radio and tune into the given station to hear the music alongside the fireworks, but leading up, if you are on one of the baseball fields, there are food booths and a live band that plays – the covers were really good and we had so much fun singing along.
Then the sun sets and I haven’t seen a firework show like it. The display is absolutely stunning for the whole half an hour that it runs and the field is flat so no trees will block your view. It also seems that the distance laws in California are different because the fireworks in Kansas felt like they were right above us the whole time.
The hardest part of the whole evening, of course, is going home. My advice: pick a driver who is calm and collected and can handle driving in tight spaces with crazy drivers all around them. It took us about an hour to get out of the close lot and then we had the 40 minute drive home. The other advice: go to the bathroom as close to the firework show as you can or right after and don’t mind sitting in the car for as long as it takes.
Still, it was an amazing show and well worth the wait in the sun and the time in the car.
So as I have mentioned before, I went camping this weekend and, while it was a lot of fun, so much went wrong in a fabulously, messy way. I’ve written a lot about how important it is to go over all your details before you set out on a trip just to avoid any unpleasantness down the road.
Well, easier said than done, apparently.
This was our first time using a period tent since a friend of our just bought an extra one off of another friend. We weren’t sure if we were going to use it as a sleeping tent or as a cooking tent but this time around the former was planned.
Packing was so easy. Without a tent, I could change things up. We used wardrobe bags (like the kind you might store your winter clothes in when they aren’t in use) instead of suitcases which laid out nicely in the bed of the truck and, since we are now using Coleman cots instead of smaller ground mats, we still had plenty of weight to hold down the driving tarp.
Well, when things settled and our tent arrived (about two hours after we did), we went around making camp. Between five of us, we had three tents of different designs and a Dragon Wing to set up. We had everything set up except our tent before starting in, and that is where things went to hell.
The body of the tent itself is a single unit: a canvas roof and sides sewn together opening at each corner with pole holes at the top. Then there are poles; 6 sides and a double, stacked center pole twice as thick as the others. The poles are on a system that are held vertical by pulled ropes and steaks.
This is where two errors in planning popped up. First, as we uncoiled ropes we discovered two were frayed to the point where they no longer helped hold the tent upright. This was quickly remedied by borrowed rope but unveiled the larger issue: our number two, tent was hanging about a foot of the ground. That’s right, our poles were about a foot too long.
I ended up digging pole holes which cut down our gap, but after a short frustration meltdown, I said F-it and finished setting things up (this is also were I started digging holes). Luckily, our cots (once the holes were dug) were a few inches above the bottom of the fabric. All in all it wasn’t too bad.
Cut to late that night, when getting into bed, I heard a small rip. It was dark and I wasn’t too concerned, so I went straight to sleep. In the morning when I work up, I noticed issue number three: my Coleman air mattress that goes with my cot was eating me, ie it was deflating and quick. My sister is quite a bit heavier than I am and her mattress was still exceedingly full so I knew it was an issue with my bed, not just basic air mattress things.
Then I got out of bed and looked down; issue number four: I was covered in feathers. I didn’t investigate further. I just saw the feathers, said nope, and went about my morning. Then I told my friends and one wanted to come look. On the second inspection, it looked even more like I had slaughtered a chicken in my bed (or at least plucked). Turns out I had ripped a hole in my down-comforter along two seams and that one square was linked to two others. Once again, I put the bed back and lived with it through the weekend – though I did run one more square out before the weekend was out.
Some of these we could have planned for – checking on the air mattresses before every trip and setting up new tents before getting to camp even if it is from someone you trust (apparently we did get the wrong poles and at least the cot part was comfortable without the mattress part) – and others we really couldn’t have – how could I have known about the blanket? However, as I have said time and again, you have to choose on trips like these how you are going to react.
We rolled with every punch life handed us and our weekend was so much better for it. We laughed and I am sure we’ll keep laughing through to the next one. Until next week,
The first time I really traveled solo, I was living in London (a totally different kind of traveling solo – I knew I’d meet people since I was in school so I count this as ‘less solo’ and not really ‘travel’) and heading out to Paris and Lyon for my reading week break. While this is not my first time writing about this trip (<= the first post of about 9 across 4 months of posts), after almost two years since heading out, I found that I have a few things left to say.
Now, this post is not about Paris, Lyon, or France – it is purely about what I have learned from traveling solo and how it has changed me since.
1. Stop being so nice. – I know, I know, this is so far from what I normally recommend. I am all about smiling at strangers, saying hello, and putting your best foot forward, but it is important to know when to stop. Whether it’s an aggressive stranger or panhandler, or a situation that just makes you uncomfortable (and I’m sorry to say, ladies, but you are bound to happen upon at least one of these), you do not have to be nice about how you say no. Just say that word (No!) and walk away.
This can be really uncomfortable, especially for women who have been trained that taking a stand just makes you a bitch. Worse, many of us have had bad altercations because we have said no or stood up for ourselves. Here is my counter: when you are traveling solo, being complacent will not get you out of a bad situation, and you can always find people or a crowd that will make saying no easier, or at the very least, feel safer.
2. Take up space. – When I was living in London, I saw a lot of men who would sit with legs spread or bags seriously encroaching on others space (the word ‘man-spreading’ was not made up for nothing!) and while I don’t recommend following these spreaders example, don’t force yourself to be small to placate others.
Repeat after me: I deserve to take up space!
Why is this important to note when traveling solo? In part, staying small allows others to take over the space that you are vacating (see point one on why that can cause an issue!), taking advantage of you. On another point, if you pay for a trip, especially a solo trip where you get to dictate your every activity, you get to enjoy said trip and all the freedom that is waiting for you.
3. Do what you want to do. – As I have said, for most of us, solo trips are selfish in that we go on them so we can do what WE actually want to do without anyone else dictating their whims to us. During your travels, however, you may meet people who you choose to day-trip with which is amazing. Just because you make these friends does not mean that you give up what you want to see and/or do. If you really like someone or a group, set up a time after your individual activities to go out and eat, drink, or whatever else.
Again, never feel bad for doing what you actually want! I know from experience that you will absolutely regret it. Hell, this goes for traveling with people as well! Don’t feel bad for taking a day to do what you want – just let the person planning the trip know so no pre-bought tickets are wasted on you!
4. Don’t ask permission for going and taking action. – Basically, don’t let anyone else’s nay-saying stop you from going on a solo adventure.
Maybe your friend has always wanted to go somewhere and it was supposed to be the two of you. Now imagine you have the opportunity to go and, with all your research, you have so much stuff you want to do there. Unfortunately, your friend either isn’t serious about finding a time or way to actually go or keeps finding excuses not to get their butt in gear. Or maybe you have a family thing that pops up – I’m not talking a wedding or a funeral or a once in a lifetime event for someone close to you – suddenly, and someone starts calling you selfish for not postponing.
Should you really wait? I know it’s hard but I say no. With the friend, tell them you are ready to go and you will go again with them later when they are actually committed (you never know when you will have the chance again!). When it comes to the family member, this can be really tough and personal but you really have to make the choice based on your situation.
5. Seriously, stop being so ‘nice’! – This is not only the theme of this whole post, but it’s so important it has to be stated twice.
As a girl, we’ve been trained to be docile, polite, and step aside so that others are comfortable and as a solo traveler this is not only going to take so much of your experience away before you even set out, it can also put you in bad (even dangerous) situations. So don’t be led by others, say no and mean it and make them know you mean it, feel free to walk away, and don’t apologize for taking up space you deserve or not consulting others when making you decisions.
So there it is, my 10th post inspired by one trip – who know there was so much to say!
A few final (and positive) notes, I want to say that there is an amazing freedom to solo travel that can never be fully articulated. Even if you are reading this list thinking ‘I could never do that!’, trust me, when you are out there, you will feel it. It’s empowering and exhilarating.
As I mentioned in my opening, I have discovered that taking these lessons into the real world has done me a world of good. If you can travel through an unknown city, claiming your space, dictating what you do and every choice you make, and not letting others stand in your way (again, this doesn’t mean you are rude just to be rude!), why wouldn’t you want this freedom in your everyday life? I am talking more assuredly, looking people in the eye, standing taller, and telling people when they have crossed a line. Sure, you can get all of this by traveling generally but it’s a whole different level when it’s all up to you; a privilege and a responsibility.
So, that’s all for me. I’d love to hear what lessons you have learned or what you are afraid of when traveling alone, or if you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!
It seems odd in our day and age of everyone from our oldest citizens to our youngest plugged in at all times – smart watches to mini-computers on our phones and tablets to digital book readers to individual TVs on airplanes – that any planes that travel across the country (I’m talking the 5 hour flight across the continental United States or the equivalent LA to Hawaii plane ride) could not be built to keep up with us.
The majority of planes will have all the extravagances we’ve come to somehow need from an USB port to your individual television that allows you to pick your own entertainment – whether games, shows, movies or radio – but, as I learned coming home from Boston, not all these planes have been updated. Again, I’m not talking the dingy plane from LA to San Francisco here (this flight is an hour so, of course, you don’t have time to use the extra amenities).
With this in mind, it’s important to always have some back up supplies whenever you are planning on getting into an airplane – especially if you have little ones! And I know that I have spent the last two weeks talking about what a pain it is to have stuff in a carry-on bag when space is limited, but if you pick well, these are a few things you really should have.
1. Book/Book Reader.
Personally, I am a classic book person – paper and weight – however, I fully understand peoples love of electronic book readers that allow you to bring as many books with you as you want with none of the heft to worry about. If you bring the electronic version (and this really goes for anything that needs a plug to charge), you must, must, must pre-charge! Not to mention bringing all of the needed chargers so you have something to read on the way back. Again, I love a book-book – no need to charge, worry about the charge, and I love the feel of weight transfer that happens once you get passed the center of a novel.
If you don’t remember to pack one – or if you haven’t hit a book store in time for getting to the airport – stop by the airport bookstore. Many novels have started getting their start here and the variety is seriously worth looking through. I have worked in publishing and the airport novel is a real thing!
2. A portable battery pack.
These come in all shapes, sizes, and loads now and, if you plan on using your phone, you will really want one. Again there are things you will really need to check here. Just like any other electronic, you must charge this before hand or it really won’t do you any kind of good. Remember that the charger for the battery pack is not usually the same as the chord you use to charge from the pack but you will need both. Finally, remember that these really are necessary when you’re on a lower tech plane since they won’t have the installed USB ports!
If you are stuck on an airplane for hours, why not let yourself get creative? Take the time to unplug from everything – for me, this excludes music – and just go for it. If you want, here are a few ideas to get you going. First, on one short ride (an hour which was more like 40 minutes with take off and landing) I did a sketch page of character poses and designs – no erasers and just go. Don’t forget to write the start and finishing time as well as your when and where. My second suggestion is for sketching or writing. Put your music on shuffle and for every song write a small ficlet or a small sketch inspired by the song but only lasting as long as the song plays (this means 2-5 minute outputs) and again, title and date them.
This mean you most definitely need to remember your supplies (whatever those may be), including sharpeners, extra lead and erasers, just in case.
4. Downloaded movie.
Sometimes, despite all the data telling us we should, we just don’t want to unplug. Our lives are so busy, all we want is a few hours we have to spend on a plane catching up on a new movie we missed or an old favorite that just lets you unwind. Again, you have to bring your charger because you will definitely need it – and remember that you’ll have to really think about your device! Everything from storage and data needs to size may cause you issues. You can also look at what your airline offers. You may not have all the built in tech features but you may get wifi and some have downloadable offerings – all you have to do is bring the device to play the features.
5. A personalized Sleep Kit.
Another way to unplug is to just take a nap. This isn’t always easy with aisle sizes shrinking, more people in the plane, and all the other noises that are just part of plane travel You can customize this for your own particular needs. You can pack everything from melatonin or other sleep aids, eye mask, ear plugs, ect. Then if you want to really use the time to get in the beauty routine, consider adding in your favorite, hard working moisturizer, eye cream, and lip balm. Flying is rough on your skin and it’s a flight, not a runway show; why not use the time to your benefit?
That’s it for my suggestions. And let’s just be honest, whether you flight is tech’ed out or not, if you pack well and make your choices based on your needs, are any of these really a problem to pack?
So, if you are following along from last weeks discussion/advice on carry-on bags and air travel, you will remember that my final point was to simply Be Kind. In my advice, I also mentioned that I was going to talk about bad behavior and some of the truly horrendous things I’ve seen in my last few travels and how to avoid being these people who make life more difficult for everyone.
I have two quick points to start us off:
Firstly, I was never going to write this post, because, let’s be honest, we’ve all seen people misbehaving in airports and all immediately think ‘but I’d never do that!’, however, it’s easier to fall into bad behavior in a stressful situation (ie, traveling) than one would think. Then seeing certain situations – as will be detailed below – I felt the need to ask: when did we all forget how to travel well?
And, secondly, it may seem weird to address this to ‘Airport Guests’, after all, it’s not like you are staying at the airport like you might a hotel room or any other lodging, however, in both of these cases, you are technically a customer. Most of the time, we find that people behave better when they think of themselves as a guest – a person who may be served while there but who is generally expected t0 do their part and respect their host – rather than a simple customer – a person who is spending money in exchange for goods and services.
Therefore, if you are traveling, think of yourselves as a guests, with those travel employees not as your servers but as your hosts who are more than happy to help you out, but who also have every right not to do your bidding just because you demand it. (In this, I am in no way saying that anyone who works as a server deserves less respect; this actually works for all kinds of service oriented jobs!)
Anyway, while a lot of boorish behavior I have seen deals with luggage, I want to highlight two whoops moments (one seen and one experienced and neither really luggage related) to see what to do and not to do in the high stress world of travel: where everything can/will go a bit topsy-turvy.
Coming home from Boston, my family landed in LAX which is the main LA thoroughfare, meaning it is a relatively large airport (but nothing like JFK or Heathrow!) but, in all my experiences, it is very well signed so that if you are paying attention, you shouldn’t end up too turned about.
Well, unless you were like the two early twenty-somethings we saw arguing with the two female security agents guarding the exit rout leading to the baggage claim – for those who are unclear, this is the hallway that is an exit only from the terminals which has no official security (metal detectors and ticket checks) and therefore cannot be used as an entry point to the terminals for any reason (which is why there are signs which specifically state the this is an exit point only and to check your baggage!).
This pair of young women were roughly explaining – one in anger and one through near tears – that they had been on the other side of the checkpoint but had gotten turned around while trying to transfer between flights, the next of which was set to board in half an hour. While one of the girls continued to be very combative (and very fond of interrupting), one of the guards explained that they could not verify that they had come through and, since it seemed like they had walked in through the outer doors before approaching the station, they would have to go though security (again) to reenter the terminal area.
The belligerent one began yelling (or at least something very reminiscent of it)n- hence why I can tell you so much about a conversation I heard in passing – about how they wouldn’t make their flight if they had to reenter security and how this was frankly (and I am censoring) total B.S. because they were not outside – they had just come down because they got lost trying to transfer.
After double checking their time to get to the plane, the guard very calmly (I was keeping track at this point and it all happened quickly) told them to head up to security and to tell the person sorting out the line what had happened and the time constraint, and they would do their best to get both girls to their plane as quickly as possible.
While the crying girl went into panic mode, the other got more belligerent but, finally, after another minute or so of arguing fruitlessly, and frankly wasting precious time they did not seem to have, the angrier one dragged her panicked and now sobbing counterpart off toward the exit and the security above, however, not before loudly exclaiming “I can’t believe these absolute *C-U-Next-Tuesdays!” (*again, this is censored).
Yep. So why was this so bad?
First, there are certain parts of airports that are exit only’s just as there are no public access areas – it’s part of security. These exits do not have bag scanners or metal detectors but pairs or single guards who are in charge of keeping the peace, keeping the flow of traffic moving, and making sure it all goes in one direction: out. Therefore, the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter the reason, you cannot enter at these points no matter how self-important you may think you are or what your situation may be. This really goes double if you are the ones that got turned around and didn’t follow the signs.
Second, you are yelling at a person who is one of the front-line defense of national security. You may know that you are not dangerous or carrying anything dangerous, and frankly, in this situation, the guards were not worried about these two girls being a danger. However, by yelling and causing this scene, these girls did distract them from their jobs which, again, is a matter of national security.
Thirdly, speaking to anybody the way this girl was is highly inappropriate and I do not just mean the language used. More critical to you traveling, however, most airports have posted warnings about physically and/or verbally abusing airport employees and the consequences of breaking these rules can be severe – forget missing your flight, you may end up on, at the very least, that airports no fly list if you behave badly enough.
Finally, I was shocked they were helped at all. As they say, ‘You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’ If they had been calmer and listened, these girls could have been up at security at least 5 minutes quicker and a lot less panicked. Who knows what other help could have been offered as well, but instead they acted out. We all know that traveling can be frustrating but no one deserves to have it taken out on them personally for doing their job, especially when they are helping you and your fellow travelers the best the can (even if it many not feel like it to you). So again: Be Kind.
The better way:
My sister and I had a huge diversion on of our early transfer flights through New York when we flew off to our graduation trip around the UK – big enough that we sprinted alongside an elderly Japanese couple who were traveling like we were so we wouldn’t miss our flight (this was with a two hour scheduled gap so that wasn’t a planning issue, but a weather fluke). By the time we got to the gate, they had just started boarding so we were not worried. However, we didn’t seem to have all our information in order because when we got to our boarding, we couldn’t get on the plane.
We were panicked.
We headed to the counter, which was a bit understaffed, but a lovely British gentleman got to us eventually and helped sort us out – unbeknownst to us, because of the way we had checked-in in LA and the delays, we were supposed to check in with the desk and let them know that we had made it and let them re-print the tickets for the last legs of your journey. To this day I do not know why this was in all the details, but that’s what happened.
There was confusion and panic and the verge of tears, but no anger and no language and we were helped and headed on our way.
Unfortunately, because of that hiccup – or at least we assume because of that flight mishap – when we landed in Dublin to catch the bus to Galway, our luggage wasn’t there to greet us.
Again came the panic.
I had planned 4 days – one of our longest stays in any city – in Galway to get used to the time zone and settle in but the woman working at the lost luggage center couldn’t guarantee that the bags would get to us in time for our next stop. She was very nice and gave us – two very panicked, very tired, and very young travelers – all the information we would need to check in with the airline to see where our bags might be and where we could change our locations if they hadn’t managed to get to us in those four days.
Still on the brink of tears and mildly panicked but ready to start an adventure we set out, once again without a rude word or tone, which also meant we got a free meal voucher that my shoe string budget truly appreciated. And, maybe with karma on our side, with a bit of high-jinks along the way, the bags reached us the afternoon before we were set to leave Galway.
Now, in no way am I trying to say our panic was on the same level as the two girls in story one, nor am I trying to call them out as nasty, rude people (I make no judgment about them personally, just their actions and words) – what I am trying to do is show that things go wrong when you travel both by your own choices and just dumb luck, but that doesn’t give you any kind of right to take it out on anyone else.
So please, travel well, make good choices, and always, always, always, try to be kind out there.
House guest etiquette for broke post-grads staying with other post-grads.
I’m back! As a few hours ago, I wrapped up the end of my road-trip/visit back to my college three and a half years later (strangely enough, the same amount of time I lived there!). The trip was incredible and in the weeks that follow I will definitely be filling you all in on the fabulous places we went and everything we saw, but I’m starting out with a huge thank you post to one of my college flatmates and our host for the weekend.
So part one in my good guest guide is thoughtful gift giving. For our host, this was a Dodger Dog – a stuffed dog which stretches out into a pillow perfectly sized for an airplane ride which she takes often for US marathons. As a SoCal native, she is a die-hard Dodger fan living in Giants’ territory so a gift that cost us $10 was thoughtful, personal, but didn’t break the bank. The key to this is knowing your host and doing something that brightens their day.
Another money step is paying in your share. Yes, we’re broke and we paid for gas to get to their home, but then we stayed for free – any of us that can afford to do a road trip can afford to buy our respective hosts a few meals and/or drinks. Remember, they are saving you more by letting you stay over than you will spend on food so you are still saving. Again this comes down to knowing your host – ours is quick handed and gives to others as much as she can so it was always a fight over the bill. If you have this kind of host, be quick but also gracious when/if you don’t win or, better yet, try heading off the waiter when you go to use the bathroom so they’ll hand the bill directly to you.
Now moving away from money – again we are talking as poor post-grads here – always be a gracious guest.
This means cleaning up after yourself. This can be cleaning up towels and any makeup/toiletries from the bathroom so you aren’t taking over, or keeping all of your clothes and unmentionables out of sight and out of the way.
This also means knowing what will work in your space and what won’t – and not by your want or opinion but your hosts! We were very lucky that our host was out with us for a large amount of time and, therefore, we never had to remake the couch bed every morning and night, but this isn’t always the case. For many households our age, roommates can be a issue, especially in terms of them needing your borrowed space during your stay, so be courteous and clean up the areas you are borrowing without moaning about it.
Lastly: time management. Invite your host to anything that you can invite them to but don’t feel like you need to stick with them at all times. Just be upfront with them from the get-go. There may be plans that they can’t go with you for – we had a film preview and book signing that only two of us could attend through work connections but timing meant that our host had work of her own – but other outings, they may have no interest in. If you talk out your plans, all should be well!
But that’s all for me tonight, but with much, much more travel and posts to come!