Sunday, September 7, 2014

Tips & Tricks

I've been traveling solo for about four and a half years now, and as a result I've picked up on a couple of things. Here are just some of my little tips and tricks!

1. Pack a snack: high cal, high protein granola bars, pop tarts, and trail mix have seen me through the first night in many new territories. I never expect to arrive exactly when the itinerary says we will, and often I'm too jet lagged and disoriented to buy food before lunch the following day. This is a tip I've learned through two starved days in Ireland and France.

2. If you find yourself in a pinch and need to purchase a one way ticket that seems incredibly expensive, purchase a round trip ticket for about a week's length. (Wednesday to the following Tuesday, or Saturday to Wednesday if it's international.) There's no penalty for not showing up for the return trip, and often the cost is lower. Once in a pickle in London I had to purchase a ticket for Seattle day-of and opted for the roundtrip fare because it wound up being 400$ less than if I had purchased the one way fare.

3. To avoid looking like a tourist, find detailed maps of the host city (before you leave or using the wifi at the airport). You want one with street names, landmarks, everything. Save them as photos (save image, screenshot, whatever you have to do.) When you're lost, pull up the picture. With high resolution images you can zoom incredibly close, and you don't need WIFI to access them once they're saved. This sounds a bit silly, but a tourist with a big map is a bigger target for theft than an Average Joe with their face in their phone.

4. Research before you go. I highly recommend checking your phone plan to make sure you won't be charged insane amounts of overages and, frankly, to make sure your network is operable in other countries. Currently, Japan and the US are the only countries NOT operating under CDMA. iPhones can work if you've got a SIM card, so it's important to get one before you go. On the same token, check for hotels and nearby cafes with WIFI before you leave. There's no point in paying for something you could get for free!

5. Learn basic phrases in the native language of the land you're traveling to. This might seem like a no brainer. It should be. Natives are much nicer if you at least attempt to absorb their culture. I found in France, as long as I started speaking in French, most people would cringe and tell me they would prefer speaking in English. But hey, they seemed to appreciate my efforts! 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My Favorite Things: Cote D'Azur

May 2012 I ventured to a land with a very, very foreign language. I know three phrases in French, but only how to read and write them. My pronunciation skills are absolutely morbid. This trip began for me in Nice, France - closely followed by Cannes, France. I will never forget the short time that I spent there - presumably due to the flash and pomp of the Cannes International Film Festival but thats another story. 
My hotel was across from Notre Dame de Nice & I sat out on that balcony late into the night listening to a lone guitarist, a group of club goers, and the sea. The locals were very kind and accommodating. It was one of the most picturesque areas I have yet ventured. I cannot recommend it enough.

(You can view more of My Favorite Things here & here.)

Monday, May 26, 2014

It has been six months since I was last on an airplane. It's taken me this long to recooperate from my trip to London in November. It was a nightmare from start to finish, but somewhere in there was a pretty magical day. One I continue to day dream about.

Westminster Abbey, March 2012

The Catching Fire premiere was in the middle of my trip, and as always it was a long, cold, rollercoaster of an event. I've learned no two premieres are exactly alike - at least from my experience - and this one might have been the most bizarre. I found myself at 4:30AM going beyond the boundary of the garden in which we were being kept. I took a stroll down to the National Portrait Gallery, where I could see that familiar blue rooster and the monument for Mandela. There was a small group of teenagers sitting on the steps and off in the distance, in all it's glory, was Big Ben. There were some voices in the distance behind me and due to the events that had transpired earlier in the week, I decided to head back to my sleeping friends by way of the lit streets, and not the dark alleys from which I had come.

I passed the museum and walked a deserted road that had seen millions of footsteps a mere twelve hours beforehand. Whenever I visit "sleepless cities", it always strikes me odd that indeed they do have their moments of solace. Eventually everyone retires to a club or an exclusive after party or a warm bed. That occassionally you can take one left turn and wind up in a dystopian wasteland.

I rounded the corner and found myself standing in the majesty of Picadilly Circus: the Times Square of London. In every direction as far as I could see I was alone. There were no speeding taxis, no gang of teenagers, not even obnoxious club music permeated my bubble. The only sound came from the billboards above me that hummed with the same elctricity that was coursing through my veins. I felt alive and in that moment those buildings and that street and the whole night belonged to me and there was no one I had to share the moment with and there was nothing I wanted to do but to bask in those shining lights safe in the knowledge that I was alive and I was in my favorite city and amazing things were about to happen.

(I wish I had taken a picture, but I didn't bring my camera and my phone had already been stolen at this point.)