Ten Lessons Esmeralda Learned From Her Gypsy Travels

Travels make one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. – Gustave Flaubert

I think every person I have met has expressed the desire to travel, be it within the country or to the other countries. And I believed that there is an innate gypsy in all of us, the irresistible itch to wander, the need to be somewhere new. Travel, to me is both a learning medium and an escape from whatever stresses me out.

I am grateful to be given the chance to travel around the world as a part of my job. I might not be able to see the entire countries in all continents, but I was blessed with an opportunity to see fragments of the beautiful and enthralling bits of history and culture.

Flying was never in my five year career plan after college. I was more on the intellectual side, wanting to pursue other academic degree further. But due to a beautiful twist of fate, I found myself in the capsule 35 thousand feet after my three and a half stint as a Nurse Educator.

It has been quite a while now that I have been in series of take offs and landings, meal services on air and living in a suitcase. And I have learned bits and pieces of things about travelling, flying and dealing with people. Here are the top ten things lessons I have observed and accumulated over time with regards to travelling.

  1. If you want to see the world, you must have enough cash with you. While I admire people who sell their property and embark on a backpack and traverse to another continent and start a new life there for good, you, as a social traveler, you must have enough money for whatever emergency purposes you will encounter during your travel. As I pertain to the young, Filipino millennial, we prefer to travel on budget airline tickets, promo airfares, and we save for up about 6 months before we embark on that journey. I recently was on a trip to Malaysia when I decided to stay beyond my scheduled return trip and I paid from my own pockets. It might be out of whim but certainly, you can do a lot when you are not tight on a budget.
  2. You must learn how to pack lightly, even if you paid for an extra baggage allowance. Airlines here in the Philippines are capitalizing on baggage fees and seating assignments. While some airlines allow a free seven kilogram baggage allowance, the rest if pure BS. To travel comfortably and being able to bring all your necessities, learn to pack only what is essential. That extra baggage allowance that you paid for shall be reserved for shopping finds and souvenir items for your loved ones when you return home.
  3. Know your essentials. Learn to categorize what you need to bring. Toiletries shall include sachets of shampoos and conditioners. The Philippines is a good place for retail packs of almost everything – from milk, to detergent soap to shampoos. There are also small packets of soap of your choice that you can bring. Deodorants face creams and everything else that you deem necessary are sold in mini packs that it is so easy to stash in a mini bag. They are spill –free and carry less weight. While we are aware that hotels, even the budget ones provide toilet supplies, they are usually not the ones we prefer to use. I was in a budget hotel once that lets the guest use the old soap bar from the previous user. While it was only hand soap, I still feel that hygiene issues shall never be taken for granted.
  4. Know your destination comprehensively. While I for one prefer spontaneous travelling, I do search in as much as I can. What is important is for you to know the country’s culture and social norms. While I was in Abu Dhabi, I thought it was just like Dubai that I can flaunt my skin in short dresses and bare shoulders. Little did I know that conservative dressing was greatly encouraged in that country. True, we might be foreigners but ignorance of that country’s law excuses no one.
  5. Know your hotel, your mode of transport and currencies. It is vital to know whether your choice of place to stay is close to the city center, hospitals or establishments. I think it is quiet imperative as well to know how to get to and fro the airport, and the type of transport you will take per destination or tourist spot. When I first land in a specific country, I always check the regular name or brand of a taxi cab that passes by. And I always write down the name and plate number of that taxi cab and if I have a working sim card, I send those details to a family member. Always take note that exchanging your currency to local money is changed cheap in hotels and airports. While it is a common sense to have the intended currency before you leave your country, it is advisable to exchange in airports in minimal amount – only for taxi fares and tips in case you need a porter. It is also essential that you are familiar with exchange rates for shopping and tipping purposes. There are countless of applications in our mobile phones that can actually facilitate our conversion rates even without the need for internet.
  6. Know your country’s weather to assist your packing. There are some countries that may be in rainy season but is very hot and humid like Malaysia and Jakarta. Be very familiar with temperatures to help you with your clothes, specially winter seasons. There are some countries that may not have snow but is tremendously cold. I was once in province on Turkey where it did not snow, yet temperatures drop below one or two degrees and was extremely cold. My jersey jacket rendered me useless. The cold was able to penetrate through my denim jeans. Again, there are apps that can aid you with weather and temperature.
  7. Pack your necessary medicines and multivitamins. If you are a nurse like me, you will also be carrying a mini first aid kit with you. I always see to it that I have something for fever, pain, headache, and gastric troubles. Of course, those medicines are over the counter drugs and within reasonable amount intended for personal use only. I also try to make sure that the medicines I am carrying with me will not and does not violate my host country’s rule on prescribed or prohibited drugs. While in some countries, including the Philippines, Tramadol, of its lesser dosage is available over the counter, it is strictly considered a prohibited drug in Saudi Arabia. I have known of crew who brought the same kind with Tramadol and were terminated from their job.
  8. Familiarize yourself with basic and common words to help you easily. Words such as I need help, food, I am sick, where is (place, location), what is (thing, food). You do not need to know a great deal of the language, if you can communicate more, then much better. But as I said, a few words can go a long way. While I shopped in one of the cheap store in Bangladesh, I was given more discounts on clothing every time I haggle and say “Donobat” or thank you.
  9. Never, ever accept friendly rides from strangers. Or even drinks. Not even bottled water. We know what happened on Taken (the movie). Be street smart. If your gut feel gives you a bad vibration, then remove yourself from the situation.
  10. Ask questions. Never hesitate to ask. There will always be people who will answer your questions and ever willing to help you with your concerns. But, be wise with whom you ask your questions. Your safest bets are the security guards, or anyone in help desk counters in the mall or any establishments. Again, it’s a matter of using your common sense. You have to remember that you are a tourist.

Travel safe, my loves. You maybe a seasoned traveler or a first time, but it is always good to pay attention to every tiny details of travelling. May your restless gypsy soul find solace in your travels. ❤

The world is a book. And those who do not travel read only one page. – St. Augustine of Hippo

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