Top Ten Travel Travails (say that three times fast)
“The Act of God designation on all insurance policies… means roughly that you cannot be insured for the accidents that are most likely to happen to you. If your ox kicks a hole in your neighbor’s Maserati, however, indemnity is instantaneous.” Alan Coren
I think the word travel comes from the word travail. Travail comes from the Latin word: trepalium, which is instrument of torture. The definition of travail is use of physical or mental energy; hard work. It means suffering and singing the blues while you work. It means an epic Greek Tragedy is happening. That is how travel used to be for the ancestors, pilgrims, pioneers and explorers. It was arduous and life-threatening. I think going away back then meant having travails or “travailing.”
I thought that I would write a blog about some of my modern-day travel travails.
1. You’ve spent months planning your trip. Life kicks in and things go wrong. For me it is illness related, I sprain my wrist the day before I fly. I get a weird fever, rash or asthma the week I am leaving. It is definitely anxiety. I always go away carrying some new medicine or arm brace that I didn’t need the last time. When I get there, it is fine.
2. Other than Japan and Switzerland, I always experience flight delays. There are no explanations and no one seems surprised or aggravated in third world countries. Planes leave when they leave. Hakuna Matata is a real thing. I hate when I have connecting flights in these countries. I am always running through airports only to find the next plane is late also. There was that one time that the connecting plane was on time and it was the last connecting flight of the day and no one spoke English.
3. Rain can ruin your holidays. If your hair frizzes in the rain, you are going to feel ugly. There is nothing more dreary than seeing the sights of London soaking wet because a car drives by and splashes water all over you. Running across a marble courtyard in high heels during a downpour in Ankara can be dangerous. How often do we hear “the first day was great and then it rained.” But rain is not exactly a reason to sit in your hotel room watching reruns of seventies sitcoms in Chinese. It is only water.
4. Malaria and Dengue Fever. Avoid being bitten by mosquitos. Mosquitos prefer fat, sweet-smelling, sweaty people who leave lights on, and who’s fashion choices are bright colors and sandals. Daytime mosquitos carry dengue. Nighttime mosquitos carry malaria. Dusk can be both. Take malaria pills if recommended, use netting, cover up and Spray, Spray, Spray.
5 Being robbed not at gunpoint. (hotel room, pickpockets, car break ins, etc) There is nothing like having to contact your credit card companies, insurance companies and banks while on vacation. If they get your passport, let me add in the US embassy.
6 Being robbed at gunpoint – ok that is really scary.
7. Food Poisoning. There is a specific misery that comes with being violently and uncontrollably sick in a place that is not your home and especially in a foreign country. I am normally germophobic so when I travel I become the food police. I don’t know when the last time the street vendors have washed their utensils or what kind of water they are cooking in. It is not enough for me to just not drink or brush your teeth with tap water in countries with poor sanitation. After seeing “Slumdog Millionaire” I now have to worry about fake sealed bottles of water and make sure to drink a reputable local brand.
8. No electricity. Many third world countries have power outages. It’s always a good idea to carry a flashlight or perhaps a generator if light is important to you. Find the stairs if you are staying in a hotel with an elevator. From experience, I try not to stay on a high floor if I see bad weather, lights flickering or dim street lights. It is pretty much of a given that it will happen somewhere when you are in India or Africa . You might be traveling to places with no or limited electricity. Be aware of that before your cell phone dies.
9. No hot water. Hot water is a luxury that we take for granted. There are moist towelettes and dry shampoo but you might at some point have to take that very cold shower.
10. Poverty and begging. In third world countries you are going to be approached by children, the elderly and people with physical and mental disabilities begging in the street. It’s hard to see and to know what to do. I’ve heard if you give kids money it keeps them on the street supporting their families and out of school. It is said that if you give things in packages, they can sell them for drugs or glue to sniff. People maim and blind kids on purpose to get more money. I don’t know what the truth is. It is something I don’t understand so it is best for me to give to charitable organizations in the country. I always bring pencils, stickers and small inflatable balls to give out. It is not an answer but it is something.
These are the challenges that I face on the road to adventure. They are the anythings that can and always do happen. The most interesting things happen when I am cold, hot, hungry, wet, tired and uncomfortable. The travails become the stories.