Friday, April 20, 2012

Travel Rules - Does foreign etiquette apply to visitors?

Several years ago, Diesel and I spent two weeks in Rome.  Even though it was October, it was surprisingly sultry.  Anyone that knows Diesel knows that the man runs hot.  Not just that, but he literally radiates heat when he gets too toasty.  As a result, he rarely wears more than a t-shirt and shorts unless he has to.  And for our visit to Vatican City and St. Pauls Basilica, I insisted that he wear pants. 

After all, the Vatican has a strict dress code that specifies no skirts above the knee, no bare shoulders, no shorts and no bare feet.  The last thing I wanted to do after waiting in the massively long line was to return to our rented apartment for him to change.  Grudgingly, and with no small amount of grumbling, he acquiesced and we headed off to Vatican City.

And that was where I got into trouble.

A Swiss Guard in Vatican City.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

7½ Things that have surprised me about living in London

Moving from California to London was a major life change in many ways, but I have realled enjoyed it.  And the time has flown.  Last week marked four months since I moved to London.  In honor of the occasion, I thought I would share a list of the things that have been the biggest surprises about living in the UK.

1. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
As an American, I know very little about the British royal family.  However, one of the first things that I noticed about them was that Queen Elizabeth was married to Prince Philip.  Not King Philip, but Prince.  I was perplexed.  Shouldn’t Queens be married to Kings?  I always thought that was the way of royalty.

Well, it turns out I was wrong - or, at least partially wrong.  Since Queen Elizabeth is the sovereign (i.e. she inherited the crown), traditionally her consort remains a Prince so as to not outrank her. 

If the crown had come to Philip, and he was married to Elizabeth, he would have been king and she would become Queen.  But when the crown passes to a female, their spouse traditionally remains the Prince-Consort.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

4 Things The Hunger Games Taught Me About Traveling

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard of the The Hunger Games trilogy in both book and movie form.  While most of us will never have to fight to the death with 23 others, there are still several themes in The Hunger Games that are applicable to those of us that love to travel (and live).  Besides the scathing indictment of reality TV (which I wholeheartedly agree with), these are some of the lessons that directly apply to those of us with wanderlust in our hearts and perennially itchy feet.

If it feels wrong, run
Ok, running may not always be the answer, but you should definitely trust your gut.  If something feels off about a place or a person, it probably is.  Chances are that the feeling of unease is your survival instinct, and not your paranoia, that is telling you it’s time to be moving on. Unlike the actual Hunger Games, travellers don’t need to put themselves into dangerous situations to “win”.  A traveller wins by enjoying the experience, trying something new and making it home safe and sound.

Team up for survival
Being self-sufficient and traveling independently doesn’t mean that you can’t interact with others.  Whether they are locals or fellow travellers, we can all gain something through our interactions.  It can be something as simple as a recommendation for a great restaurant or site that is off the beaten track or something deeper like a shared meal or experience.  These kinds of interactions serve to enhance the travel experience and (hopefully) lead to more meaningful interactions with the destinations you visit.

Expect the unexpected
In traveling, as in life, things never go exactly according to plan.  I think of it like planning a wedding – no matter how hard you try, something is destined to go wrong. 

If you prepare yourself for things to go wrong beforehand, it will be much easier to take issues in stride when they pop up.  And remember, if everything went perfectly it probably wouldn’t be much fun anyways.

When all else fails, adapt
When your allies are killed off, your flights are cancelled and things generally go to hell, it is easy to throw up your hands and give in to self-pity or anger.  Instead, try to concentrate on the unique opportunity you are presented with. 

Just like a knife only becomes sharp when it is rubbed against the side of a stone, we only grow as people and adventurers when we are challenged.

Lost in a city?  Enjoy seeing a side of the town that most travellers don’t have a chance to see. 

Encountering delays or difficulties?  Roll with the punches and enjoy the extra time you have in a location.  A lot of people will never have the opportunity to be where you are.

And besides, things are good because no one is trying to kill you (hopefully).

So next time you are travelling, remember The Hunger Games.

And may the odds be ever in your favor.