Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Travel: Things I Wish I'd Brought When I Got There

Sapa Rooms early in the Morning
Sapa Rooms early in the Morning (Photo credit: Always at Home)

It is just the small stuff I wish I had...not the camera or even a dress for evening wear. When I travel I always wish I had some small item I left at home on purpose or didn't even know I needed. For example,
When we were in Vietnam last winter I saw beautiful sleeping bag liners in shop after shop.  Honestly, I haven't camped for years and did not even know such a thing existed!  But there they were in Hanoi...stacks and stacks of them. What do you use them for I asked my daughter-in-law and she shrugged her shoulders. Did I need one of those?  Well, it turns out, yes I did. 
When we boarded the night train in Hanoi for the long trip in a sleeping car, I took one look at the bed and shuddered. I get it now...that is why I need a silk sleeping bag liner! 
An article on the Lonely Planet website reminded me that beds even in up scale hotels can be full of bed bugs and other critters/crud. A pretty little silk sleep bag liner would be so nice. Now I see that we can buy this item on Amazon and they are called Sleeping Bag Liners. Who knew!
Electronics are another thing...
I went off to stay on an island south of Cambodia. The island resort was a jewel set in a small village. I did not see why I should take my ipad or my iphone along...after all we had our computer and the resort said there was a hook up for computers. It did not occur to me that "wireless" means I can use my iphone AND my ipad. What was I thinking? It turns out that remote does not mean disconnected in any way.
Wash clothes...
The lack of a good cloth to wash my face and body will drive me crazy but it turns out the rest of the world just does without such a thing. In order to get one of those precious pieces of material I have paid extra in resorts and even bought small towels.  It is such a simple thing yet in my world a necessary item.
When do those people eat and sleep? Bring information with you...
As I look back on all of the places we have been I can see that the single most important piece of information we needed was the sleeping and eating habits of the country we were visiting. 
When we were in Spain I never did figure out when the people worked or what their breakfast time was. We ate Tortilla Espana every morning but we never were out when the Spaniards were.
Get that information before you leave home...the museums will be on the postcards in your hotel and someone will send you on your way. But if you want to truly enjoy a country, you need to sit down and eat with the people. Find out when they eat breakfast and evening meals.
Paper vs online...
The last time we traveled I bemoaned the fact that we didn't have a good paper map in English...I know you can go online and get directions but still I like the idea of seeing the big picture and being able to lay the map out in front of me makes such a difference. Whether you are in Saigon, Vietnam or Granada, Spain, the shape of the city and location of the rivers is important. How can you picture the history or commerce of a location without one? I am going to take one with me no matter whether I am on US Interstate 80 or driving between Malaga and Seville Spain.
Every travel website can give you a list of the latest and coolest travel gadgets. In fact here is a list I wrote. But has anyone ever told you to pack a wash cloth...I didn't think so.

I'm just saying!!!


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