Monday, July 6, 2009

Learning and Exploring--Travel Tips, Part I & Croatia photos

Before I leave the topic of travel, here are a few travel tips from our experience. I hope something we have learned over the years about creative travel may enrich an upcoming journey for you. Also, I hope you will share some of your favorite tips for memorable travel. This is the first of several occasional "travel tips" posts.
1.  Be flexible. Nothing goes exactly according to plan, especially travel. So lighten up and go with the flow (and other relevant cliches you might add). 
In my previous post about Zagreb, Croatia, I described a delightful morning my husband and I spent in a city that was not on our itinerary. We simply made good use of a few hours between transportation connections. Many of our memorable travel moments have emerged from unplanned events--even upsetting ones, like missing a train or the breakdown of a rental car. If you find yourself with down time, or stranded or lost somewhere, look around you; ask what there is to see or do; get on a bus, subway, or into a taxi and enjoy the unplanned travel opportunity.
Note that this is easier to do if you travel light. I will post our packing tips and what we have learned from packing mistakes in the next travel tip post.
2.  Plan what you will do if you are lost. This flows from #1, but is not the same. I have been lost in many places and have made delightful discoveries every time. However, it is not fun to feel helpless in a strange place. So, assume you might get lost and be prepared. 
In 1984, I was privileged to travel with a people-to-people exchange group to the Soviet Union. Our hosts there gave us information cards for each hotel along our way, and they reminded us to carry the cards and adequate cab fare at all times. (Since the Soviet government rigidly regulated fares, this was a relatively modest and predictable amount--not true in every country--find out in advance how to avoid getting ripped off). This way, we had something to show a bus or cab driver, and the language barrier was less fearful. We could always get back where we belonged.
Even though we were with guides most of the time, people can get separated from a group. We also had some free time, providing humbling opportunities to be mystified by signs in a language, even an alphabet, that was unfamiliar to most of us. The hotel card with address and phone number provided peace of mind for me as I happily rode Moscow's excellent subway system, strolled in lovely St. Petersburg (called Leningrad then) and other cities, and cheerfully risked getting lost in search of interesting experiences.
This sensible and thoughtful gift from our Soviet hosts taught me to carry along a card or note with the location of our lodgings, written by a local if possible, whenever I travel. Of course, we also carry a guidebook and map (well, at least most of the time), but having a "please return me to my temporary home" card is priceless for peace of mind and freedom to wander.
In a few weeks and every now and then after that, I will post more travel tips. Please let me know whether or not they are useful. 
The photos above show the beautiful city of Dubrovnik, Croatia, a popular travel destination on the Adriatic Coast--as seen from the top of the wall around the old city. After several posts about less-travelled Croatian destinations, I thought that you might like a glimpse of this lovely coast, which I keep mentioning but not showing you. If you are interested in catching up on previous posts about travel, just enter "travel" or "Eastern Europe" in the search box above.
Question of the day: What is your advice for taking advantage of unplanned or unfortunate travel events?

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