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The Rules of Travel

People always express so much surprise at my rather tame travel pursuits. As I was making my way along a particularly gorgeous section of the South West Coast Path today, I thought, the rules really aren’t so hard or so many but they are absolutely inviolate.

A. Do your research: I can’t believe the trouble people get themselves into because they don’t read enough and don’t bother asking the right questions. Ask the right people, read all your travel books and travel sites and blog posts. Google is your friend… And so is Lonely Planet. Gather the materials you need to make it happen. This includes learning as much of the language you can fit into your head and the bits of local culture to ease you into the fray. Not doing your research is the number one mistake and the most avoidable.

B. Always have a Plan B: Things happen. Places shut down, rules get reworked, new timetables are coming out all the time. Weather happens. Always have something else to do in case Plan A doesn’t work out. Don’t stress out about it, just do it. Always have something else to slide into place in case you weren’t able to do what you wanted. Don’t live with regrets, life is too short.

C. Always have cab fare: To anyone living in a big city, this one should be obvious. Yokels, learn from your city brethren. This could go under having a Plan B, but it needs its own note, I think.

D. Don’t overpack: Repeat after me “All problems can be solved with money.” Have several credit cards and be prepared to use them in case it’s colder than the usual or whatever. Don’t pack every goddamn thing in case of every conceivable problem. You will end up hoofing it all over airports, bus terminals, and rail stations. It sucks. Leave the crap home. That being said, do take the essentials of what your research has shown will be foreseeable ie. Rain coat in Britain. And here’s news, they have launderettes in other countries, too. You don’t just wear clothes once at home and then throw them away, right? The washing thing can be done on the road or you pay to have someone do it for you.

E. Do what makes you happy: This is why we leave home, to see what you want to see and pursue the sites that are important for you. To me, it’s history, preferably ancient and neolithic. Others like golf or good views or great food. Just do it. The only thing we can be sure of is that you’ll get old one day. Do you really want to regret what you could have done?

And a bonus… Fear nothing.

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