GROWING OLD UNGRACEFULLY: Traveler’s Tips | Lost Coast Outpost

My goal in life is to
have visited more countries than my age (currently batting 80 for 79
— I can die happy), so I’ve traveled a lot. Maybe you know all of
what follows, but in case, here are a few hard-earned, sometimes
painfully, tips that don’t come under the usual “How Not to Get
Robbed” type of travel advisories.

If you’re traveling
with someone, know you’re vulnerable to petty irritations. For
Louisa and me, it’s at transition points that we tend to get tetchy
with each other — checking in at the airport, deciding which
restaurant to go to, shall we/shan’t we go on a boat trip that’s
about to leave. Knowing in advance our vulnerabilities, it’s easier
to stop in mid-stride and say, “Hey, we’re just doing our
Transition Dance.”

Be gentle on yourself! Chances are,
every time you arrive at a new destination, you’ll screw up somehow
— get ripped off by a cab driver, get lost trying to get back to
your hotel, tell the waiter in your best French that you love them
when you mean to say you loved the meal…it’s happened to all of
us when we’re away from home. I have a rule: the first couple of
days in a strange place, I’m bound to overpay for something or
other, so I make it OK to “donate” $50 or so to the local
economy. And those two days figuring things out? It’s not lost
time, it’s learning time.

Don’t rush! Soaking in the
atmosphere is more important than checking off those “don’t miss”
places in your guidebook. For instance, we gravitate to old churches
and cathedrals in Europe, not so much for the history, their
stained-glass windows and ornate tombs. It’s more about the smell,
the atmosphere, letting in the ghosts of hundreds-of-years-worth of
visitors, not to mention the hardy, often daring, artisans who built
those stone edifices. So we just sit quietly, allowing the sense of
the place to come to us, rather than looking for it.

Pride lives! Thanks to a stained glass window between the sun and these azulejo tiles in a 600-year-old church in Portugal. (Barry Evans)

Don’t skimp! You’ve spent a ton of money just
to get wherever. If it costs five or ten Euros to visit a monument,
so be it. Ditto that bacalhau
com natas
(salt cod in cream) Portuguese dish that
looks so inviting on the menu — it’s spendy, but compared with
what you paid to actually get there, maybe it’s not so expensive.

Don’t overplan.
Days when you wake up not knowing what you’re doing that day are
the best of all.

Taxi drivers, Uber drivers, tourist
office helpers, front-desk staff — are your friends. Make the most
of your time with them. We’ve learned more about a country in 30
minutes in the back seat of an Uber than days wandering around seeing
the sights.

Learn the
frequent-flyer points game to get free flights all over. Here’s a
to start. And, since you’ll probably be flying
out of (deep breath) the California Redwood Coast – Humboldt
County Airport
, aka ACV, you should head over to the United
Airlines Visa card site, here.

We flew free to Cambodia on frequent flyer miles a few years ago. This temple is near Ankor Wat. Photo: Barry Evans.

Finally, know that
trains are how God meant for us to travel. Take them any chance you

Heading up the Copper Canyon, Mexico. Photo: Barry Evans.