|Photo Credit: Patrick Wirth|
Welcome back to A - Z 2021. Yesterday we were swimming with sharks.
T is for
Travel broadens your Mind
At first I was gonna do "Time is Money" but I realized I've already talked about time in Cross that Bridge when you come to it.
Plus, I'll be honest, I always enjoy an opportunity to talk about traveling. Especially since the past 15 months and counting we were not able to leave our country - not that we didn't have gorgeous destinations here!
The kind of travel that really challenges you, lies beyond the borders of your comfort zone. In a quadriligual country like my own, it can be enough to cross the Röstigraben.
What is the Röstigraben? It literally translates to hash brown rift, and it stands for the cultural and linguistical differences between the German and French speaking part in Switzerland. I blogged about it here.
What are reasons for traveling? And is going on vacation the same as traveling? Do business trips qualify as travel?
Looking at passengers at the airport - a favorite activity of mine - a first triage already happens, and admit, I'm generalizing here:
The tourists who want to leave their everyday life for a week of fun at the sun are easily recognizable because they arrive dressed for the occasion. As a person whose feet are always cold, I can not understand how these people board a plane wearing shorts and flip-flops.
Usually the package holiday makers are looking for a good time at the beach and the bars. Many of them don't speak the language of their destination and expect to find every amenity according to their Western European standards. So much so that restaurant owners on Mallorca, the Balearic Island, will stock up on German and British beer brands to accommodate their Ballermann visitors. Menus will be in German and English as well.
Which is a shame because Mallorca is a wonderful destination belonging to Spain, where one may experience local food and customs and learn a thing or two.
Back to the airport. You will also see experienced business travellers. They come prepared in their own way. Their cabin trolley has the exact measurements to pass as carry-on, and their liquids come in tiny bottles. They collect and redeem frequent flyer miles, use their companies' accommodation partners, and may even be on a first-name basis with the concierge. Since they know that time is money, and they don't want any trouble, they will follow the rules and not start a pissing contest with security officers.
While your typical business trip does not include sightseeing, you may still pick up on the cultural uniqueness and enjoy local food. Bonus points if a local business contact invites you to their home!
At a Swiss airport you will always see expats who are ready to visit their family back home. Depending on the economical situation in their country of origin, these passengers will meet or exceed the maximum weight capacity because they try to bring as much stuff as they can, and I often wonder if the brown bags and cardboards boxes they check in arrive undamaged.
That is if they even bother to check in these items. If everybody limited their carry-on so that other passengers get to store their bag as well, that'd be nice.
Fortunately there are also the minimalist travellers. They only seem to need a change of clothes, a toothbrush and a charger for their mobile phone. I admire them. Packing for a trip is always a challenge for me.
Perfect planners will have it all figured out: from Airbnb accommodation, strategically located close to a public transportation hub, to which they already got their five-day-pass that includes free entrance to their activities of choice, to the restaurants where they read the reviews and googled the menu.
You'll see adventurous backpackers who, in addition to their gigantic backpacks, may bring a surf board or a mountain bike. If they're not setting up camp under the stars, the may sleep at youth hostels or couch surf at private residences.
Which of the categories I described will broaden their minds the most? I tend to say the ones who avoid the mainstream things to do and see and instead mingle with locals.
However, I like to think that even if you send all of these individuals to, let's say, Paris, they will all have a unique experience and tell you a very different story. Some will be outraged about rude waiters, others will have a delightful encounter with a charming street artist. Some will perceive the Métro as filthy and smelly, while others are amazed by the efficient transportation.
What probably broadens a traveler's mind the most, is the unexpected. You may know where you're going and what your'e doing, you may bring maps and foreign currencies and clothes for any weather, but there's always, always something that goes wrong.
Missed flights, lost bags, expired passports, fully booked hotels, stolen or rejected credit cards, no cash, running out of gas, damaged rental cars - just to name a few. They all happened to us. And I don't even consider myself or hubby to be careless or chaotic people.
How you react (and who helps you) in these situations is what really broadens your mind, and, ultimately, makes you more tolerant, confident and smart!
My Mom was born and raised in Israel, so I should know a thing or two. Still we ran into some surprises. Like being forced to gluten-free during Passover. Not catching a bus on Friday afternoon. Having armed soldiers in many places.
There was also a pleasant surprise though:
Jerusalem on Good Friday for the Christians, Jumu'ah for the Muslim and Passover for the Jews. I am pretty sure the Russian Orthodix had something going on as well. Anyway, what I am saying is, that afternoon and early evening felt so peaceful! Everybody was going to their church, mosque, synagogue, you name it, and everybody was leaving the others alone.
One of my most eye-opening travel experiences took place in Costa-Rica. It's considered one of the safest and best developed countries in Central America, and still, I kept learning that nothing I thought was "normal" was in fact normal.
It started with the road trip from San José, the capital, to the Sugar Beach. I have to add that my memories go back to the turn of the year 2000 to 2001, so things may have changed in the meantime. Anyway. The road trip. In my books you'll rent a compact car, throw in your bags, get snacks at the gas station, and off you go.
Not this time.
It was strongly recommended that you hired a ride. I don't remember how long we had been waiting until a chunky 4WD truck drove up, but of course we had heard about the mañana mentality and didn't mind. The first few miles were smooth sailing. Paved freeway, not too much traffic, not too muck honking.
As soon as we got outside the city limits, the road, which must have been one of the primary traffic arteries through the Northwest, became an ordinary country road. Still paved though. The reason I mention it, is of course at some point, paved turned into gravel, and gravel turned into dirt roads, and pot holes-ridden ones at that. Occasionally a mudslide would take out a road altogether, or our driver had to slowly drive over a fallen trunk of a tree.
And to think we could have done this with a simple rental car!
The stay at the Sugar Beach was very nice, and after a couple of days we moved on to another part of the country.
I don't remember what the remote resort was called. When we booked it I remember I was delighted about pictures of straw hut bungalows. They looked so exotic. Well, when we arrived, a strong cold wind kept blowing, and it was very unpleasant. Frankly, after a two or three days of taking the same old walk at the beach freezing your butt off, I had enough and became whiny.
My ex took pity in me and suggested we called it quits and moved on to Manuel Antonio where he had been before. How to get there though? The manager of the resort said he needed to drive in the general direction, he'd give us a lift. He needed, however, to let his staff members know first.
No problem. We'll wait while he makes his phone calls.
Nope. He asked us to hop on, and he drove to a couple of sheds where animals and children were running around, then he'd get out of the car and yell "Hola, Señora!"
He'd also explain to us that most of his employees couldn't read properly, so there was no management by memo, he needed to show them exactly what and how they needed to get their jobs done.
I could go on and on... You can read more about my Costa Rica adventures here. Better yet, add the country to your travel bucket list!
Here's one last tip: before leaving Costa Rica, you need to pay your departure tax before checking in for your flight back. It's the equivalent of USD 29 in Costa Rican Colones, you you need to make sure to have enough cash left, otherwise you're in trouble. At least that was the case back then, and fortunately I was warned.
In what ways has travel broadened your mind?
Let me know below and don't forget to include the link to your post in the comment.
Tomorrow we'll talk about the Universe and human Stupidity - if you had to guess, what would you say, which one is greater?