posted by Guest blogger - Dave Allan-Petale | 2 Comments
Our latest guest blogger is Dave Allan-Petale of up and coming travel blog Double-Barrelledtravel.com. When Dave isn't working as a TV producer for the BBC, he spends his time travelling the world with his wife Carmen and blogging on Double-Barrelledtravel.com. You can keep up with the travelling couple on Dave can be found on Twitter and Facebook.
There’s nothing worse than a bad travelling experience. A few wrong notes can sour even the sweetest getaway. But so much depends on your reaction to the difficult times. It is not set in stone that your fate has to be decided by a problem, manners or even the rules. Here are a few stories from the road showing the methods my wife Carmen and I have picked over the years.
1. Don’t like it? Leave!
Carmen and I were in Lisbon for the first time and had fallen deeply in love with the old quarter of the city. On our last day there we found a restaurant packed to the rafters with locals eating amazing Portuguese food – perfect. We resolved to come back that night, but on arrival there was only one table left which was next to a drunk man and with a view of the toilets. We were given menus in English listing a few variations on steak and chips and our unwanted companion began slobbering red wine all over our table. We could have stayed, hoping it would get better, but stuff that. We said our apologies and bolted for the door. Ten minutes later, we found an even better restaurant and were laughing like hyenas! Fortune favours the bold.
2. Trust the locals – they know
I went to the ‘Demilitarized Zone’ in Vietnam and booked a tour of the old battlefields. I was keen to see the famous firebase at Khe Sahn, but the guide said it was just a bare field. Instead he suggested we go to Con Thien, which I had never heard of. I wanted to argue the point, but then thought why? He took me through the jungle to a hill where all the fortifications were, along with piles of rusting mines, mortars and grenades! Hardly a tourist in sight. I met up with a friend sometime later who’d been to Khe Sahn instead, and sure enough, his photos showed a bare field.
3. Refuse the audio guide
I’m a firm believer that audio guides in museums and the like are crowd control in disguise. Go to A, then B, then C, before exiting through the gift shop. Listening to an audio guide, you will be herded and distracted (and you’ll get a sore elbow!) and often miss out on the essence of the attraction you queued up to see. I went to Stonehenge recently and am so glad I refused to take one. Sure, I may have missed some facts about the history, but I wanted to feel the mystery of the place and absorb it without a posh voice explaining how historians think the stones were transported there. You can always read the guide book later but you may never return to the site again! My advice is, go your own way.
4. If you don’t ask, you don’t get
Ah yes, the old classic. We were in Oxford and wanted very badly to see the ancient Bodlien Library. We dutifully lined up but when our turn came to purchase our entrance from the cashier we were told all the tickets had sold out. Never one to take that sort of thing lying down, Carmen asked if an exception could be made seeing as we had queued for so long. The cashier refused, to which Carmen replied there were only two of us and would it make much of a difference to the tour group? Lo and behold, the cashier miraculously found two more tickets. The people behind us simply nodded sadly when told there were no more. Ask! What have you got to lose?
5. Do nothing
There is so much pressure to pack days away with a massive to do list. That can be very overwhelming, particularly if you don't have much time to see a place. But busy does not mean best. Some of the best times I’ve had away are when I've done nothing for a while; just sat and watched the world go by. After all, isn’t that what travel is about? To see a place for what it is. So go to the pub, or watch the sun set, or sit at a cafe with a view. With a relaxed body and mind, you can tackle the tours and the queues with ease and enjoy them a lot more than if it’s just part of a big box ticking expedition. Plus you get to relax, which is often overlooked on holiday.
Travel is a precious thing and it must be protected at all costs. But despite your best efforts, there will be bad times. In those cases, all I can say is put on a happy face. A bus I was travelling on from Thailand to Siem Reap in Cambodia became hopelessly bogged on a muddy road. The driver said ‘if you want to get there all the men must get out and push’. Reluctantly, we all piled off and put our backs into it, getting as sodden and filthy as soldiers in the trenches. But my god it turned out to be fun, and when we arrived in Siem Reap we all went out for a beer... after a shower of course.
What are your tips for making the best of a bad situation? Let us know in the comments...