Thursday, June 21, 2012

Travel Perceptions and Realities

Over the years perceptions and realities of travel change.  

 For example, once it was possible to go and wait at the gate for your arriving loved ones, now security has limited us to the building lobby. You used to get serious meals with real glasses, metal utensils, and real plates in all classes of travel, now on flights these are limited to the first class passengers. Everyone else needs to settle for plastic, if a meal is served at all. On recent trips through different US airports I was surprised to find that there were announcements letting passengers know that they could buy meals to carry on to their flights.

Most of the stories in this blog will be centered around air travel, but there are examples of several road trips and a few that involve ships. All forms of travel can be full of strange adventures. For example I will tell the tale of the road trip where we could not find our way our of New Jersey and another where I drove the Staten Island Ferry. Stories will include stays in hotels, with friends, and the occasional tent. Bonfires, dry ice, and assorted types of food and drink will appear - sometimes with recipes.

Just to show a little of glimpse of where I have traveled I have created this map with the help of TripAdvisor's Cities I've Visited Facebook App:

Thus my stories will take you though 22 Counties, 20 US States, and 3 Australian States.

But first some general advice:

In general I try to learn several key expressions before traveling in order to help me communicate with the locals. These expressions are:
·        Do you speak English?
·        Where is the bathroom?
·        How much does it cost?
·        What time/how long?

To facilitate communications I resort to using a pen and pad (for writing down numbers (cost, time, etc.), guide books (Frommers,  Lonely Planet, and Rough Guide to name a few) and printouts of maps (people can frequently help if you can show them what you want), and when all else fails pantomime. I find that a friendly attitude and one or more of these techniques will usually result in people trying to help.

Unfortunately I have also seen people being stereo typical. Native English speakers (from several countries) who speak to the local in increasing volume as it becomes increasingly obvious that they did not understand.  It is almost as if these people believe that either the person did not hear them so they need to repeat it with more volume or that repetition with more volume will increase their understanding. Usually this only results in a person who was willing to help becoming more frustrated and sorry that they tried to help at all.

I suggest that you always try to have some tourist information with you when you are out on the street in case it can be used to help communication. Even if you can not bring a guide book on the trip you can bring printouts from the internet, general information from the airport (usually found in or just after the baggage claims/customs areas), or a map from your hotel’s front desk. In fact I strongly suggest that you ask for such a map when you check-in, and ask them to mark the hotel on it as it will help you get back from your meetings or days travels (taxi drivers who do not speak English can all read a local map).


  1. Marking the hotel on a map is great advice! I never thought to do that. Thanks!!

  2. Glad to help. Hope future suggestions will also be useful.