Know-Whats of Traveling

Blackdove says it’s a long shot of me winning the Toastmaster contest tonight, but heck, I’m still going to give it a try. Whether I win or not isn’t my goal. My goal’s just to give a decent speech and have it credited.

Is that bad for me to waste the contest masters’ time because I haven’t prepared as well, or as long as I should?


But at least, I have the decency to go up that stage and make that speech.

I don’t need applause. I sure don’t think I deserve it. But I’ll give that speech because I’ve already promised my friend that I’ll do it. And here’s a draft of my speech tonight for you to enjoy (or cringe while reading it).

C’est La Vie!


Know-Whats When Traveling

Knowledge is power. As a celebrated 4th century military wrote, “Let him who desires peace prepare for war.” Likewise, when traveling, it’s important that you sufficiently prepare and bring the right things to maximize your traveling pleasure. These are: 1) bring the right traveling documents and belongings, 2) bring the right knowledge and 3) bring the right traveling companions with you.

Bring the right traveling documents and belongings

I know it’s elementary but I can’t help but stress just how important it is to bring the right traveling documents. Here’s an example on what not to do:

Last year on my way back home to the Philippines for Chinese New Year, I rushed to the CKS Airport for my early morning flight. Imagine my surprise when the girl on the counter told me that I couldn’t go on the plane and had to book a later flight.

“Why can’t I get on that plane?” I asked.

“Ma’am, your passport has expired.”

Damn! I brought my old passport instead of my new one!

My blood ran cold. But what can I do? I had no choice but to book the next-day flight and have the welcome dinner my parents prepared for me rescheduled.

Lesson learned: Before you leave the house, check and re-check that you brought the right traveling documents.

It’s also important not to bring too much, unless necessary. As St. Exupery had said, “He who would travel happily must travel light” because “on a long journey, even straw weighs heavy.”

For example, during our 5-day trip to Phuket last month, my friends and I each brought a small duffel bag carrying the basic necessities (e.g., swimwear, pajamas, t-shirts and shorts). My other guy friend thought we were going on a clubbing spree so he brought this big-ass bag that’s THIS BIG, carrying with him 3 to 5 sets of clubbing clothes among many others.

“Dan, we’re not going clubbing,” I said with exasperation. “We’re going to the beach!”

“Yes, but I thought we’d go clubbing,” he said as he proceeded to carry his HUGE backpack around as we transferred from one island to the other.

Lesson: When traveling, know your destination and only bring the appropriate clothing. If you don’t know, ask.

Bring the right knowledge

When traveling, you have to know your purpose. For example, some people are content when just tanning themselves on the beach but if your purpose is to maximize your vacation, it’s important to at least have a good idea on what you want to do within those 3, 5 or one week vacation of yours.

For example, during Phuket, nobody did their homework prior to the trip. Hence, when I asked my friends what they wanted to do, they had no idea what. “I don’t know,” they’ll say, or “It’s up to you…”

I felt like a general telling them what to do and where to go because no one had any idea what they wanted to accomplish during the trip. It’s kinda funny seeing the others following my lead as we went sea canoeing in Phang Nga bay and rock climbing at Phi Phi Island.

It’s different when I went to Cambodia with my boss last year. Prior to the trip, she took the liberty of checking out websites and photocopying the Lonely Planet so when we got there, we already had a good idea where to go and what we wanted to see. She did her research. For example, we definitely wouldn’t want to miss Angkor Wat and we wanted to eat authentic Cambodian food.

It was a very smooth trip, and though we deviated from our original plan like taking an expensive 15-minute hot air balloon trip or taking a boat trip at Tonle Sap lake, we still managed to accomplish everything we wanted and enjoyed ourselves fully.

You also have to have an estimate on the amount of money you need, because some third world areas do not offer credit card services.

This was my dilemma when I visited Angkor Wat and discovered that I have merely US$4.50 left and I still have a day and a half to go! I unknowingly spent too much money in the first few days, and it’s good that my boss still had some NT$ dollars with her which we exchanged, otherwise, we’d be out of money in a foreign country!

I learned my lesson. The last time I went to Thailand, I brought 50% more than my estimated expense and comfortably always had cash on hand. Unfortunately, my other friends didn’t do the same thing and borrowed money from me, which I didn’t really mind. Regardless, worrying about cash spoils a vacation, and it’s always better to have more than less.

Lastly, bring the right traveling companions

Mark Twain was right when he said, “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” Which brings me to my third point — bring the right traveling companions.

Case in point, on my Phuket trip, I traveled with two friends, both on whom were polar opposites. One of whom believed that that traveling with a strict budget is supreme while the other believed that it’s okay to splurge when traveling so long as one enjoys oneself. As you’d imagine, there were tons of bickering that happened when money was involved.

For example, when we were given a crappy room, the spendthrift didn’t want to spend 1,000 baht more for an upgrade. Food was also an issue, as he had qualms in eating at nicer restaurants and wanted to split the bill down to the last cent.

“I’m not complaining,”
he said. “But I didn’t order iced tea, so I don’t think the bill is fair.” We also had to order separately a couple of times because he wanted cheaper foods, and balked at ordering lobster, which would cost so much more.

So, before you travel, ensure that you choose your travel companions well. At the very least, don’t just do what I did by getting just a bunch of people together without taking into account their different needs and personalities. Traveling companions can make or break a trip.

It’s vital that you chose travel companions who share the same type of vacation as you do and has similar budget estimates. For example, conflict may erupt if you want to go do various activities such as windsurfing and sea canoeing while he/she just wants to veg out on the beach. As much as possible, make sure you share the same expectations from the trip. Otherwise, as the Dhammapada had said, “Travel only with thy equals or thy betters. If none, travel alone.”

Someone said, “failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” I find this especially true. I’ve realized with experience that if you prepare the right things to bring, more or less, you can expect a smoother trip. And this, you get via experience.

As Rita Mae Brown had said, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” I had to experience a trip that was less-than-perfect to learn that proper planning and preparation do really make a difference.

So next time you plan, remember… bring 1) the right traveling documents and belongings, 2) bring the right knowledge and 3) bring the right traveling companions.

Contest Master.

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