Pack light: less is best!
Really, for most trips, all you need is what you’re wearing, a set of clothing in the wash (or waiting to be washed) and a clean set ready to go.
You can buy extras such as local T-shirts. Traveling light means freedom to move around quickly, makes it easier to board flights, taxis or buses, and allows room in your bag to buy some cool souvenirs you find in those distant lands.
Stay hydrated: “Clear & Copious”
That’s what our climbing guide drilled into our heads on Mt. Kilimanjaro: “Clear and copious”. He was referring to the importance of keeping hydrated, with the obvious resulting bodily function! He was right, but you don’t have to be climbing a big mountain to follow this incredibly important rule. Dehydration results in ‘flu-like’ symptoms, and that is something you don’t want to experience. So, whether you are in Quito, London, Morocco, or on safari, keep drinking water: it’s your best friend in keeping you healthy.
Trust everyone: but keep a back door open
Long ago I realized that the world is a very friendly place, despite what the media has led us to believe. I can tell you from the experience of having traveled in some 50 countries, most of the world is full of people just like the farmers I have met around Manyberries, Alberta: they enjoy a cold (or warm) beer, a good laugh, and sincere and friendly interactions with visitors. Obviously, one must have some street smarts and maintain a sense of awareness, but in all the travel I have done, I have seldom run into any kind of grief.
Copy your passport & ditch your wallet
Sounds logical, but I could tell you a few horror stories. First, leave your wallet at home. These silly devices are the perfect ‘packages’ for a thief to snag. Before you ditch it, go through your wallet and pull out just what you need.
Will you be renting a car on your trip? No? Then don’t bring your driver’s license. Own several credit cards? Just bring the most useful one, and leave the rest. All you need is your passport. Make several copies of that important item, and place those in your carry-on and your checked bags. And always carry your passport against your skin, in a money belt pouch.
Stash your cash
Here’s what I do: I have a leather money belt I had made for me. I fold my big bills into a third their width, about 7 or 8 bills thick, and crease them cleanly by running a pen down their folded length. I then carefully wrap my folded bills in waxed paper, and insert them into my belt. I have one for my wife too. We also use the same pouch we carry our passports in for our unfolded, usually smaller bills, and wear that around our waist against our skin. The pouch is made of thin, breathable material. Finally, in secure pockets with zippers or Velcro in our vest or pants, we place other folded bills, knowing which pocket our larger or smaller bills are in for easy use when needed. We want to avoid fumbling for bills when we need to make a payment or pass a tip.
“Getting up with sparrows”
This is a saying from Zimbabwe, referring to rising early when the birds are calling. When I’m traveling, I find early morning is the best, in both urban and rural areas, and a crack of dawn walk sets the tone for the rest of the day. In Iceland recently, we soon realized that the entire country sleeps in (they are a late night crowd). Our early rising allowed us to experience some natural geysers without the crowds. And in wild areas, that first hour of the day after sunrise is not to be missed.
When dealing with your guide, a taxi driver, or a person trying to sell you a souvenir, smile. It’s incredible how the world opens up to nice people with a good attitude. Life is often very hard for people, and in many countries, daily survival can be a real challenge for them. They will often see you as a financial opportunity, but as soon as they realize you are as human as they are, most will respond in delightful ways, and suddenly the sun will be shining. Try it, and chances are you’ll like the results.
Local Knowledge: The locals know stuff.
That’s the simple fact. They know where to go to hike, to explore, to camp, to find that perfect memorable location. Talk with the locals, but spend the time to make it meaningful for them. I remember sitting with a fellow on the doorstep of his home in Africa for some time. We couldn’t speak each other’s language, but we laughed together as I paged through my bird book showing him various birds, trying to mimic the calls of the birds that I knew. Soon, we were walking in the woods near his home together, and he was pointing out birds that we had seen in the book.