The Art Of Traveling Alone

Charlene Duncan has been to Georgia, California and anywhere she can run. “I’ve been to Paradise,” she whispers. Travel broadens the mind. Even a purpose-driven life needs to unwind every now and then. A change of atmosphere is like chicken sandwich for the soul. But before making lamyerda, remember: Rule No. 1: Be organized. Rule No. 2: Follow Rule No.1. Ask the most basic question: “What kind of vacation is best suited for me?” The mountains or the beach? Some people prefer being alone. Others want to stay with strangers and pretend they’re part of the family. Do your homework. Research. Use the Internet to learn about local laws and customs. Examples: In Brunei, it’s not polite to point with your index finger. In Singapore, it’s illegal to chew gum. In India, it’s forbidden to kiss a woman in public – ask Richard Gere. Plan for your trip. Make all arrangements well in advance. If traveling abroad, prepare your documents. Here’s a checklist: passport; visa; round-trip tickets; hotel accommodations; travelers’ cheques; credit cards; itinerary; maps and money. If traveling to an ASEAN country, you won’t need a visa. If traveling within the Philippines, you won’t need a passport but you’d still need money. Plan for your return. Tie up all loose ends regarding work before you leave. Come home with enough time to unpack and unwind from the journey. You should already know what you’ll have for dinner when you get back. The point of all these is to re-integrate yourself to the workaday world seamlessly. Plan for emergencies. Adopt the Boy Scout motto “Always Be Prepared.” Make a list of emergency phone numbers and contact persons in the area. If staying in a hotel, know the locations of fire exits. Always bring IDs. If you have asthma, allergies, diabetes, arthritis, COPD or other chronic ailments, consult your doctor before your trip – and always bring whatever he prescribes. Plan for thieves. Stay alert. Hide your money. Hide an emergency ID and phonecard. Visit your bank’s website to know their ATM locations. Dress simply. Avoid ostentatious jewelry. Stop acting like a tourist. Wrap a rubber band around your wallet to deter pickpockets. Don’t be deceived by appearances. Don’t display your gadgets like a jologs. Never leave home without common sense. Plan against inconvenience. In airports, do not bring the following: disposable cigarette lighters; sharp metallic objects; perishable items; liquids; pirated CDs; exotic animals; guns and illegal drugs. Prepare money for airport tax, taxis and tips. Whatever happens, do not – whether you’re a congressman or an actor – make jokes about grenades or bombs. Plan your own schedule. In The United States, February (after winter vacations) and October (after summer vacations) are peak seasons for psychiatrists. “Holidays,” says Dr. George Bach, director of the Institute of Group Psychotherapy in Beverly Hills, Calif., “are traumatic experiences.” Double- check if your house will be burglar-proof during your absence. Just imagine: “If I were an akyat-bahay robber, how would I get in?” Once you have identified all weak points, you can now reinforce your home security. Pack light. Take the minimum. Edit your belongings – then revise again. “Before you leave,” advises Dr. Eric L. Weiss, director of a travel medicine service, “carry all your luggage for a few minutes and see how it feels.” Pack smart. Bring a flashlight with extra batteries. If hiking, bring chocolate bars for energy. Prepare a first aid kit. Here’s a checklist: alcohol; Betadine topical solution (for open wounds, burns and skin rashes); gauze pads, sterile bandages; absorbent cottons; paper tape; ice bag (for swellings); activated-charcoal (for swallowed poisons); and protection against fever, flu, headache, toothache diarrhea, vertigo, hangover and STDs. For hypochondria, bring the entire Mercury Drugstore. If driving, check the B.L.O.W.B.A.G.S. – Battery; Lights; Oil; Water; Brakes; Air; Gas; Spare tire. Don’t forget the jack and the wheel wrench. Bring food and drinks. Bring vomit bags. Don’t put valuables on the seat or on the dashboard. Prepare money for toll fees, parking fees and tips for parking attendants. Always bring your driver’s license and car registration. Bring paper bags for your trash. Wherever your are, whether in an El Shaddai prayer rally or in a Bayan Muna protest rally, adopt the mountaineer’s creed: “I will leave nothing but footprints.” Appreciate the mere fact that you are going on a trip. Absolute freedom is a way of life but it’s not for everybody. “Travel gratefully,” wrote Wilferd A. Petersen in his essay The Art of Travel. “Show appreciation for the many things that are being done by others for your enjoyment and comfort.” Don’t be afraid to be alone. Even if Randi Crawford sings that “People alone may go very fast, but maybe not so far,” remember that the operative word is maybe. It really depends on you. Come to think of it, your entire destiny depends on you. Relax. Life is too short for aggravations. “Many vacations fail because people try too hard,” according to Dr. Clinton E. Philips, director of counseling at the American Institute of Family Relations in Los Angeles. Just enjoy your trip. In the end, we are all just pilgrims and only passing through. Live the moment. Fill up your senses. Develop a sense of history. Discover new things. Be curious. Be adventurous. Be glad you’re alive. Forget your 5-6 loan. Remember: You may never pass this way again. Expect the unexpected. Make it a habit of looking for blessings in disguise. If your bus leaves, take the next one. If it rains, let it rain. Be like a lotus: bringing serenity into the world while rising above frogs. Blaze your own trail. Follow your own road. In his poem The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost wrote: “I shall be telling this with a sigh/ Somewhere ages and ages hence;/ Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --/ I took the one less traveled by,/ And that has made all the difference.” A vacation is meant to clear the mind, renew the spirit, reinvigorate the body and find our bearings. But the greatest journey is within. The ultimate magical mystery tour is about finding yourself. It’s not how far you traveled on your way, but what you’ve found to say – and discover yourself to be. This is why even Superman built his Fortress of Solitude: because once in a while, even superheroes need to be alone. Photo courtesy of AyushVeda. This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama. Your comments and links are welcome


Owl Barn said…
Very entertaining!