Things I’ve learned from seven weeks on the road

It’s day 45 of a 61-day work adventure and I have learned almost nothing useful about how to travel better besides always knowing where your lip balm, passport, and clean knickers are. The rest is just survival. Here’s my Top Ten Travel Tips anyway.

  1. Never get the 6am flight. You will not ‘make use of the day’ by getting the early bird flight. It means you need to get up at 3am, which means you need to go to bed around 9pm, which means you kind of ruin two days. Also, you get to your new location too early to check into your hotel, which means you have to drop off your luggage and kill a lot of hours before you can lie down again, which is basically all I want to do when I haven’t slept well the night before. Book the noon flight, wake up in time for some breakfast and then enjoy a more leisurely trip to the airport. Your body will thank you. (Caveat: if the noon flight is ludicrously expensive then get up at the break of dawn, you lazy sod. Are you made of money?)
  2. Ideally don’t travel with only black or grey possession. When your toiletries bag is the same colour as your knickers, which are the same colour as most of your tops and jumpers and jeans and tank tops, you will spend your whole trip performing the Sysiphean task of unpacking and repacking because everything looks the bloody same.
  3. Snacks. You will totally eat too much while you’re traveling (my jeans are the feeling a bit snug right now) but food will appear in your life in concentrated fits and spurts. There will be periods of time when some combination of available currency, opening hours, or opportunity means you just can’t secure anything to eat. A few Rx or Kind bars in your luggage will go a long way.
  4. You really don’t need to bring that fourth pair of shoes. Regardless of how much you love them, you will swear at them each time you force their awkward shape back into your suitcase, questioning why you thought four-inch strappy wedges would ever be appropriate or safe on the cobbled streets of Europe.
  5. Always have a fully charged back-up charger. Turns out your hotel in Rome will have no electricity when you return at 11pm with 12% battery and an early morning flight the next day. You will scrounge the remaining 27% battery from your laptop and sleep with one eye open, terrified more than usual that you won’t wake up, while also not wanting to check the time too often because this will drain whatever remaining battery you have. Which, by the way, you also need to order an Uber to make your stupidly early flight (see point #1 above) because you received a text at 11:30pm letting you know the taxi you had organized ahead of time had cancelled on you. Also, packing will be a nightmare because have you tried to pack in the dark? That flashlight on your phone would have come in real handy right now. All of this could have been avoided if you had bothered to charge the absolute unit of a charger you have been lugging around Europe – yet recklessly failing to plug in so it would actually be useful in this exact situation, you genius.
  6. Actually, charge everything when you have the chance. Like using the bathroom because you’re unsure when you’ll be around one next, just plug in when you can.
  7. Accept that you’re going to feel only half put together at any point in time, and that’s OK. Washing and drying your hair in a hotel bathroom with questionable water-pressure and decades old, fire-hazard hair dryers just won’t be the same as at home. Ditto for doing your make-up in terrible hotel bathroom lighting, and the generally crumpled state of your clothing from being repeatedly forced into and retrieved from your bag because of point #2. It’s OK. No one cares. You’re also going to look tired, because you are.
  8. Also accept that you will never be fully hydrated the entire time you’re away. Sleeping in air conditioning, plane travel, late nights and early mornings, the general lack of public bathrooms in Europe – you just can’t drink the 3+ liters a day you do when you’re at home. This will wreak havoc with your skin, make you look much more tired than you already are, and cause your pee to be the violent shade of yellow you’re only used to seeing after a particularly big night out. Do your best when you can, but don’t stress about it too much. You can always hydrate later.
  9. Throw your fitness out the window. Sure, you have grandiose ideas of running five times a week, but when you’re working both EU and west coast hours, moving hotels or countries every few days, and occasionally waking up at 4:45am to get to work by 6am, you’re just not going to do it. You’re not lazy, you’re not poorly disciplined, you’re fucking tired. It’s fine.
  10. Coffee is your friend. When the only option is to just keep going, caffeine will get you through. One word of warning: If you have five espressos before 9:30am you will start to think you can see through space and time, and may be alarmed to find yourself locked in the bathroom, only to realise that you momentarily forgot how doors work.

Bonus tip: Accept that you’re going to miss vegetables. Rather than focusing on their absence, look forward to the glorious moment you’re reunited when you get home.

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