One of the ironies of our mission experience is travel. Back home Craig was heard to tell whoever would listen to him that one of the things he was looking forward to during the two years serving a mission in Perú was that he wouldn’t have to travel as much as he was at home. He was travelling to Darwin and Alice Springs each every six weeks on church assignments, as well as travel for work, and to visit family. So, as any avid reader of our blog will tell you we quickly found out that this assignment occasionally, and sometimes much more occasionally, requires travel both near and far. And Lesley has had to go at times as well.
So we thought we would share our top travel tips for any of you who have not yet learned from your own sad experiences. Bear in mind that these are our travel tips. If you enjoy the travel part of getting places then you are just weird and can disregard the following points.
If you do not have to travel then just don’t. Think again, do you really need to go? Sure there are many wonderful places to visit and explore in the world, but they have to be pretty exciting to make it worth your while travelling there to see them.
2. An Ounce of Preparation is Worth More than a Whole Lot of Pain
Plan ahead if you can. In particular, if you have to go through a travel agent to book flights do your homework first. Look at airline websites or www.expedia.com and work out what are the best flights (and layover times) for you and have a couple of fall back options. Then tell the agent what you want and need. Better yet, hand them or email them a printed sheet of first and second choices. There is nothing so useless and time consuming as simply asking “what flights are there from Adelaide to Jackson Hole, Wyoming sometime next month?”
3. Never Believe What People Tell You
“Oh, 90 minutes should be enough time in Los Angeles to get from your inbound international Qantas flight, get off the plane, go through immigration (think current U.S politics), pick up your luggage, go through Customs, put your luggage back through, then go to the relevant other domestic terminal, and board your next flight….”. It is always best to book the next flight afterwards if possible, if for no other reason than you don’t spend hours on the first flight worrying if you will make it. Travel agents read things on computers that say what is theoretically possible - if everything goes perfectly! Don’t risk it. Use your own common sense.
4. Travel Light
If at all possible don’t check in luggage. That will save time at the airport at both ends (assuming your luggage arrives at the other end). Take as little as possible with you. It doesn’t matter if you wear the same thing more than once, or have to wash out some clothes to dry overnight, or maybe even wear something for two days in a row. The less clothes you take the more chocolate you can fit in. And, if worse comes to worse, you can always buy what you need where you are going. We really do live in a globalized world. Mind you, if you have medication needs take enough to last until you get back if possible. And, if you don’t check in luggage don’t be one of those annoying people who takes more than your fair share onboard the plane. One normal sized bag above and one under the seat in front of you is the decent thing to do. It is just plain rude to take other people’s space - they won’t like you very much. Try to board early if you only have carry on luggage to make sure you can put your stuff above where you are sitting, so you don’t have to wait until everyone gets off so you can retrieve your bag from the back of the plane where the flight attendant put it.
That reminds us of the story about two ageing vultures who decide to fly south for the winter - actually fly by commercial airliner, rather than using their own aching and ageing wings. As they go through security the attendant asks what they have in their bag and asks them to open it. There are two dead racoons. “You can’t bring them on board sir” the bemused security officer says. “Why not?” asks the vulture, “they are carrion”.
5. Be Patient. Expect to have to Wait. Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself.
Travel in the space age implies lots of standing or sitting around waiting, at airport check-in, security screening, boarding gates, on the plane itself, waiting to get off the plane, immigration lines, waiting for luggage, waiting to be picked up by the people who are never on time, etc. Don’t get angry at people who are just doing their job. They can make it an even slower experience for you if you want! Try waiting with a pleasant smile on your face, others will wonder what you know that they don’t.
Further to the previous point there is a lot of sitting and inactivity. So when you have the chance walk. Whilst waiting for planes walk up and down the halls of each of the terminals. Check out the stores. Keep moving. Then have a rest on the plane. It is always funny to see people rush off a plane so they can rush into the VIP lounge to sit down.
7. Be Well Connected.
Apart from having electronic devices to read, watch, or listen to interesting and entertaining things during your travel, make sure you have electronic and hard copies of all your necessary travel documents (tickets, itineraries, contact numbers, passports and visas, etc). Oh, and it might even be a good idea to get out what you need before you get to the counter rather than after you exchange a friendly greeting with the attendant who then asks to see your passport. (Think supermarket checkouts).
Speaking of being inconsiderate there are few more heinous sins on a plane than immediately pushing your seat into full recline the moment the seatbelt sign goes off and leaving it like that the whole flight, making it hard for people to get down their meal trays, or to get out to go to the bathroom. You will find people will take great pleasure using the back of your seat to exercise their knees, or to grab hold of the top every-time they need to shift position in the seat, or to help get themselves out of their seat.
Try to get a room away from the elevator (which will ding all night) and the ice machine (don’t ask me what it is with American’s love affair with having to have ice in everything they drink). As for the room itself try not to think about all the other people that used it before you. An interesting side line….apparently the dirtiest/germiest thing in the hotel room is the TV remote. And on an airplane it is the tray table. That’s food for thought.
9. Don’t Think About the Money
If you are travelling for holiday/vacation then you are not doing it to make or save money. If you keep thinking how much this is costing you then you are going to be very miserable. Yes, a packet of M&M’s in the airport costs a term’s school fees for one of your kids, but that is what it costs. If money is an issue then plan carefully beforehand to minimise unnecessary expenses whilst travelling.
10. Keep Things in Perspective.
Having said all of this here are a few final thoughts. The world is full of interesting places to see and experience. But the people are more important than places. You can usually always get a better photo from the internet than from your camera. So take time to notice the locals not just the scenery. And enjoy yourself. You may not pass this way again (you might not want to), but enjoy it as an experience. It won’t be exactly like at home. If you want things exactly like at home then…stay home. A sense of humour at it all can help as well (as can just becoming numb to the effects of it all - which is where Craig is now, but Lesley is not - yet). One time an attendant asked Craig what he would like to eat. “What are my choices?”, “yes or no”. Fair enough.
Boyd K Packer, one of our Church’s former leaders, spent over 50 years constantly travelling to every part of the world as part of his assignment. One time a reporter asked him “of all the places you have visited and been, if you had a choice where would you like go”? He simply replied “home”. We agree, the best of all travel is the return trip back home, back to family, friends, and your own bed. As many people have said Australia is a long way from….well just about everywhere. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that keeps it such as special place.