July 30, 2013
Travel Journal (Day 13)
Hints for Good Travels
Today was a pretty low-key day of last minute shopping and travel to Vienna, so as part of my series on my travels in Central Europe, I thought I would include some hints for Americans traveling in this region. For those of us who have not traveled much outside of the states (or perhaps not even our own home state), knowing some of this will help to make the trip prep easier and lead to a better trip en masse.
1. Be a Good Ambassador
This is mainly for my fellow Americans, but perhaps it pertains to other nationalities, as well. In the five countries I have experienced (Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria), they receive many visiting tourists, and several are American. On the whole, Americans are good, kind people, but they can also be insensitive jerks. When you are traveling abroad, you represent all Americans. Be a good steward to the place you are visiting and leave the people with the memories of those good, kind Americans, which we all are, right? This means being courteous and learning the customs of the place you visit. This also means at least attempting to learn bits of the native language of the countries and understanding the differences in culture. We should not judge others because their culture is different. Again, I say, be a good American ambassador.
2. Be Punctual
When you travel with a group, your time is also everyone else’s time. Thus, if you are late, even by a few minutes, everyone else is late as well. This means that the potential plans of others in your group could be unfairly altered. Be aware of that because it is their holiday and experience, too. To some extent, this is true if you travel alone, as well, only a bit different. It is not everyone else’s time you monopolize, but your own. When we travel, we only have so much time to experience the places we visit, so it is important to really consider how we are going to use that time. It is not a problem to just relax and enjoy, but we should also get out and about.
3. Public Bathroom Info
At least in Central Europe, where I have been traveling, the public restrooms (aka WC, washrooms, or toilets) cost to use. Now, it is only cents, no more than 50 cents usually, but you cannot use them if you do not have the money, so make sure you carry coinage in your pockets if you plan to use the public restrooms. This fee goes to the upkeep of these places especially in high tourist areas. Now, if you go into a restaurant, pub, coffee house, or store otherwise and make a purchase, then you can typically use their washrooms. But if you are out and about exploring the city and just need to pop into a toilet, then know that you will likely have to pay.
4. Be a Little Early to Travel
If you are taking a bus or a train, it is important to get to the station a tad bit earlier. Sometimes the train has been moved to a different track or a bus moved to a different stall. Other times, the train or bus could be late. Still, some other times you may have to make changes in your travel plans altogether. Be sure that you get there just a bit early in order to make your plans.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Most of the time, the locals are more than willing to help if you are willing to ask for it. Be patient so that they can extend the same patience to you. Again, I say, even when asking for help, be a good American ambassador. A kind word and gentle smile go a long way.
6. Be Ready for Experiences
Usually the most important moments when I travel happen impromptu. Sometimes we just have to chuck the plan to the side and just go for it. Sure, having an itinerary with a general idea of what to do and where to go is good and helps to organize, but part of the fun in travel is just living in the moment. Like one of my students said, how often will you really be in Budapest (or wherever)? Don’t let the little moments slip by in favor of sticking to the plan.
7. Turn Off Your Cell Phones
I know. I know. That is hard for many of us, but if we can be in the moment in a foreign country and not texting those who are back home, we are less likely to feel homesick and more likely to really engage in the cultures we visit. Plus, international calls, texting, and data are really expensive, so save your money.
For any traveler (myself included), it is good to remember these little tips. They will make the experience more fruitful and make us all better visitors.
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