Surviving a Tough Travel Experience

July 15, 2016
I had a really hard time about a year and a half ago, when I was traveling to India for work. The whole trip was very badly planned and the accommodations booked last minute without any input from us, the travelers. We arrived there Sunday early afternoon to find there wasn't any internet or even blankets, towels, toilet paper or mosquito nets, and it was too late in the day to bring us any. We hadn't brought any with us because we'd been assured it would be taken care of, and things like mosquito nets aren't exactly common in North Germany, where I was living at the time. My luggage was lost and even after being there for two weeks I never adjusted to the time difference, so I was tired constantly as well (the heat and not being used to the call to prayer didn't help either).

We were able to borrow mosquito nets, but they weren't right for the room/bed, so I had to put my blanket fort skills to work.

The biggest thing that helped me was my kindle. When I was feeling down, I started rereading my favorite books (Terry Pratchett in this case). It was almost like reminiscing with an old friend, the books are funny, clever and I knew there'd be happy ending. It was also something I could do while sitting on a balcony, beach or cafe, so I didn't feel like I was hiding in my room either.

Some other things I've found that help:

+ Find an expat club or meet up. If you're from an English speaking country look for the "Irish Bar" in the city. Or anywhere showing a match where one team is from your country or a similar one.

+ Eat at McDonald's. Or Starbucks. Yes, this is probably the #1 thing you're not supposed to do when traveling, but greasy comfort food has it's place (especially if the local food doesn't agree with you in some way). So does AC, Wifi, and the chance to get in touch with friends and family back home.

+ Make sleep a priority. Even if you're staying in when your friends are going out, or it means getting up late, or taking a nap during the day, without rest everything seems worse.

+ Go to a grocery store and buy some food that'll keep in your room and you can eat on the go, and carry water. I get cranky and light headed if I get hungry, which means I'm not only feeling crappy but I'm potentially making bad decisions. Making your own food can also help save money, another source of stress and you'll have more control over what you're eat if you're having trouble with food.

+  Maybe it's the crowds, or the street venders aggressively hawking souvenirs, but some of the more popular attractions may be too stressful for you at peak times. Try going early in the morning when the rest of the tourists are still nursing hangovers.

+ Have a plan in case it rains, you get hungry, thirsty, need to rest or just get overwelmed. Something like knowing the location of a quiet cafe, a park with benches, a library or a free-entrance museum can give you a moment to catch your breath and gather your thoughts.

+ Have a maps app  like CityMaps2Go (iOS) or (iOS, android and others) that you can access offline in case you get lost. If I'm in a strange place, I feel much more discrete checking my phone than fumbling with a folding map, which screams "desperate tourist", and the gps can help you find where you are and even which direction you're facing.

+ Remember you're not required to see any of the sights. I know, I know, it's the trip of a lifetime, but if you're not feeling up for something, don't do it. Maybe it feels like a rip-off, or something you know you wouldn't enjoy, you're tired or sick, or some part of it makes you uncomfortable. I'm all for stepping out of your comfort zone, but you absolutely need to take care of yourself first.

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