A brand new series of practical tips for the incompetent traveller, starting with the USA.
1. Do your research. Make sure you thoroughly read about where you are going and choose the hotel accordingly. Be aware that names like ‘Denver Tech-Center’ may not refer to the building in which your conference is being held, but an area of about 5km square. Remember that careless preparation can leave you staying in a hotel 15 km from the town centre with no means of transport and a lot of dual carriageways to negotiate.
2. Check everything at least ten times; date and time of flight, airport of departure and valid passport.
3. Apply for your ESTA visa waiver as soon as you can. Failure to do this may result in some very hairy, horror filled moments, especially if you are somewhere like a retreat the day before you fly with very patchy internet access.
Note: If the above scenario does happen to you, make sure you have a cool and calm mate handy, with internet access and savvy searching skills, to iron out all those creases, provide the relevant information and get you back on your way to the States.*
4.Still at home, make sure you empty your hand luggage bag/rucksack fully before packing it with the stuff you are taking on board.
Note: If you fail to do the above and realise, once you are through to the departure lounge, you have something like, for example, a big bottle of shampoo in your bag from your last weekend away, don’t panic as you could have bought it in Boots in the terminal.
5. If you have a connecting flight once in the USA, you will need to pack any bottles (from your hand luggage or bought in duty free) in your luggage for the hold. You will collect this luggage on the way through security.
Note: If you’ve forgotten about that (for example) silly shampoo bottle in your hand luggage, and have already handed your hold luggage back to some guy, you will need to dump the bottle in the nearest bin at this point.
6. At this point, recheck your hand luggage to make sure no other nasties got through accidently before you reach the US security check. For example, the matching conditioner to the shampoo in a different pocket of your rucksack. If you don’t, security will.
That’s it for Travel Tips 1. Just remember, a good traveller is a prepared traveller.
* Indebted to Ulla for this one.
This is a warm tale of some kind women I met in Leamington Spa. First day as a postgraduate student. I had two full days of meetings so I booked into a hotel in Leamington for a treat. Got to the station first thing, to find trains all cancelled. Typical crap rail travel. Luckily ‘Richy to the rescue’ was working at home. He picked me up, drove me to Leamington, dropped my bag at the hotel, then dropped me at the university just in time. Several hours later, I was back in Leamington Spa, looking for the hotel.
Last Monday a few of us set off for a workshop on emotions in Prato, Italy. I was viewed with suspicion by a colleague, aware of past exploits (for a taster, click here), as she had her hand luggage thoroughly searched at Gatwick. This look intensified after she rinsed the gold ring, that she had worn for over 30 years, down the sink in the toilets near the boarding gate.
Once in West Africa, there was a comforting shift to green lushness, the odd elephant and unlimited advocados. It was invigorating and the sleeping bags in the back of the truck disappeared as we sat up, enjoying the journey again. We stopped at Lome, the capital of Togo with the largest fetish/voodoo market in the world and spent an afternoon, browsing bones and skulls – many still decomposing – blood, wood, carvings, figurines, ringing bells, smells and strangeness. Continue reading
Good Debbie and I met up in London today. For the first time in about five years, 23 years after the overland trip. It took a while to actually meet, as she waited outside the English National Opera while I was outside the National Opera House, but eventually we met up.
It was a lovely, lovely early Autumn day. Covent Garden was bustling with people making the most of a sneaky bit of sunshine. We wandered about, chatted, noshed on Mexican food in Wahaca, chatted and laughed. Laughed and laughed and laughed. A lot of chat was remembering the truck adventures.
I didn’t know anything about ethnography when I signed up for this overland trippet all those years ago (for the previous episode click here), but it was a missed opportunity to explore how a group of strangers live together in a mobile unit, in/across unfamiliar spaces with a changing cast of additional characters. Some of whom were quite short-lived.
Fieldwork. Life on the road. Possibly romantic in, for example, the wide open spaces of the States. Bumbling around the UK on trains and buses, staying in typical British budget hotels, is not quite so enjoyable. Here’s a taste of one journey, a couple of years ago, and the spaces I passed through on that journey. Some a helluva lot quicker than others.
So, first the cross country sleeper, London to Aberdeen. Fun, though odd, waking at midnight and opening the blind to find we were at Crewe station. Bit of a surreal bed/private/platform/public situ. Plus there are no cabin keys; you’re supposed to call the steward to re-open your door. I didn’t want to bother Stew so did a quick loo dash leaving my door wedged open, hoping some thieving bastard didn’t filch my stuff.