While travel gives you the freedom to explore new horizons with gay abandon, adhering to a few simple rules along the way can help keep you safe and happy. Comedian Adam Rozenbachs has thought long and hard about his travel precepts and at this point we want to warn you that these ideas, no matter how clever, do not necessarily reflect Intrepid’s travel philosophies…
“Having travelled quite extensively [most recently with my father] I thought it time to release my Ten Commandments of Travel. The following are certainly not set in stone [as it'd cost a fortune in extra baggage fees to bring them back], but are guidelines to help make your next trip more comfortable and less stressful.
1. What To Do
I find it’s a good idea to educate yourself about the city you are in. Try to find out, however small or comprehensively, about the history of the sights you’re visiting. For example, if in Melbourne, find out exactly how long the Observation Wheel at Docklands actually worked for… was it five minutes or ten? Information like this will help you appreciate just how crap some things can be.
My first recommendation is try not to have ever seen a church/mosque/wat in your life, as you will more than make up for this in the opening three minutes of any trip. Having recently been to Europe, I saw enough to last six life times. My dad was impressed by one in particular, but unfortunately not how you’d think. We were in a 700 year old cathedral in Munich, one of a few that survived the bombings of WWII, and were looking around at the unbelievably ornate carvings adorning the walls and ceilings, when dad paused, then asked, “I wonder who cleans this?”
I also recommend stepping outside of your comfort zone. Now some might consider this watching all the cable channels in their hotel room, but if you look beyond a limited horizon, there is much on offer that can be easily overlooked. Things like caving in Laos, mountain biking in Peru, or putting your life in the hands of a taxi driver in Buenos Aires.
One of my most cherished travel memories is glacier walking in Chalten, Southern Argentina. As we walked across a frozen river deep in the Andes mountain range, the terrain was what I imagined a lunar landscape to be. I felt calm and at one with nature, the silence and peace only occasionally broken by rumblings that sounded like distant trains. I knew we were far from civilisation, so I thought them odd, but let it go. Until about the fifth time, when, unfortunately my inquisitiveness got the better of me and I asked what the noise was. To which my guide casually replied “they’re just avalanches.”
One of the greatest things about being overseas is the diverse range of food the world has to offer. From Thailand, to Kenya, to the southern tip of the Tierra Del Fuego in Argentina, you can always find a good McDonald’s. But I like to branch out, to see what all the fuss made by the locals is about. And I’m not afraid to try a delicacy many would consider well and truly off limits – buffalo intestine in Laos, guinea pig in Peru, food in America.
And there are cheap options for those travelling on a budget. If you’re backpacking, you can easily save money by enjoying a combination of bread and cheese, cheese and bread, or, to mix things up, bread and bread.
Of course, following on from food, the next step is the toilet. Hopefully, this will be just a routine stop as nature takes its course. Sometimes, however, your body will react horrifically to what you’ve just ingested, and the race is on. Because depending on where you are travelling, there is every chance you’ll get some sort of stomach bug.
In Cambodia, amazingly I was brought undone by pork on a stick, which left me immobilised for days [I'm guessing the stick was dirty]. Who would have thought that pork, sold in an open air market, on a 35 degree day, could be harmful? Sometimes I guess you can just be unlucky.
A handy hint is to learn the local phrase for “where is the toilet?”
Also, quite helpful is “Where is the toilet… NOW?”, “Dear god, I need a toilet!” and “Do you know where I can buy underpants?”
And if you are heading to South East Asia/India/Africa, or somewhere else with a warm climate, it’s also a good idea to practice sprinting in thongs, as a stomach upset gives about as much warning as a Charlie Sheen meltdown.
Of course, at some point, after all the walking and important imbibing of the local brews, you deserve a well earned rest. Those who can afford to are able to pay the price for a decent mattress. The rest of us, on a budget, have to go into the “Travelling Mattress And Pillow Lottery”, a fun game played by everyone who has ever left the comfort of their bedroom.
I suggest, to help acclimatise before your journey begins, you practice sleeping on anything but a solid, comfortable, posture-assisting bed. Use a combination of rocks, nails, dirt, hay, sand, tears, cactus, chalk, mysterious lumps, lice, water, lead, poison ivy, normal ivy, lava, fossils, leaves, grey matter, hail, asbestos, skin flakes, wasps, dry blood and short, dark, curly hair [not your own of course!] to get yourself acclimatised.
Also, if you can, avoid looking at the mattress or pillow. The less you know about those suspicious brown stains, the better.
Learning to sleep anywhere is also helpful; I never thought I could sleep in a chicken coop when it was snowing, but it turns out I can. Quite easily too.
5. Prepare To Be Scammed
Somewhere along the line, you will get scammed. It may not be big, like getting driven to a jewellery store as a part of a taxi journey; or it may be that you wake in a bath full of ice with one of your kidneys missing [seriously, this happened to a friend of mine, I swear].
Beware credit card scams too, because sometimes the cards you purchase aren’t actually fraudulent at all, meaning you’ve wasted your money and can’t buy anything.
I highly recommend travel insurance, especially if your camera is a bit old and you’d really like a new one. Plus, if you’re with travelling with a parent, they’ll make you get it anyway. “Because you can never be too sure.”
Finally, be alert, and careful as to whom you trust. After once incident in Germany, I was attended to by the Polizei. I was like, “Yeah right! As if I’m trusting you; you can’t even spell ‘police’ properly.” Check mate, Adam.
6. Obey Local Customs
Obviously you don’t want to break any laws, but there are also many local customs unique to each region you are travelling through. Whilst you can’t learn them all, it helps to at least discover a few, to ease transactions with the locals. For example, if you’re in South East Asia, remember to show respect by bowing and lowering your head before smuggling heroin over a border.
One tradition that caught me by surprise was the fact that men in Argentina kiss as a way of saying hello, not unlike a handshake greeting in Australia. Although I was not accustomed to this, I thought it a good idea to ingratiate myself with the local population by joining in. Apparently though, as I soon discovered, it’s not every man you meet. As the cab driver let me know, in no uncertain terms [though I'm fairly sure he gave me a discount for being gentle].
7. Keep In Contact
It’s always a good idea to let people know where you are, in case of any mishaps or natural disasters. Unless you’re on the run from the police, or are a sportsperson looking to avoid a drug test.
The internet has made the task of keeping in contact much easier, too. Ensure you email everyone you know every day, with intimate, minute details of your trip. They’ll love it; especially if you’ve been somewhere exotic, like London.
Also, now that Instagram is such a success, make sure you upload every single one of the thousands of photos you have taken, of sights people have seen before, but from vastly inferior vantage points. Who needs a slide night when you can bore them senseless whilst still travelling?
8. Safety Safety Safety
Safety should be of the utmost importance when travelling, both of yourself and your belongings. Firstly, try not to stand out like a tourist. Avoid cameras, flashy jewellery, or wearing socks with sandals.
Luggage and personal items are obvious targets for thieves. I recommend wrapping all your belongings in glad wrap, individually, and then dipping those in a fibreglass resin making them impossible for thieves [or yourself] to access. Then bury these in random places in the countries you visit. No one will steal them.
The most obvious target for thieves is money/credit cards/traveller’s cheques. I advise getting a money pouch, and then lifting up your top, making an incision in your stomach and placing the pouch in your body cavity. However, make sure you stitch it up securely, as pickpockets are opportunistic and will take your spleen if your wallet is out of reach.
Making copies of all your documents can help, so if you do lose your luggage/belongings the finders know exactly whose stuff it is they’re not handing back. It helps personalise it when they’re wearing your clothes.
Unless you’re travelling in your own country, seeing the world will most likely involve some form of air travel [unless you're on Clive Palmer's proposed Titanic II].
One of the keys to air travel is comfort, helping you to arrive refreshed and able to continue on with your journey at your destination without too much fuss. At the top of the list would be sleep, which is not always easy on long flights.
A neck pillow is can be very handy when it comes to sleeping on a plane, and to ensure you understand how they work, make sure you wear yours at least four hours before the flight, especially around the airport departure lounge. That way you’ll understand the complex ways of how it sits on your shoulders and allows you to rest your head on it. Nothing worse than getting on a flight and not knowing how to use your complicated, state-of-the-art neck pillow.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water, and lots of it, is essential to feeling good at the end of a long haul flight. Unless you’re in business class, in which case order a glass of the finest whiskey the moment you hand over your
drink card boarding pass.
And don’t forget to keep moving, allowing your circulation to stay active, helping you avoid deep vein thrombosis [as far as I've heard shallow vein thrombosis is fine]. Getting out of your seat and stretching every hour or so is recommended; sprinting up and down the aisles doing push-ups is not. Because once they cable tie your hands and strap you in the seat you’re back to being a candidate for DVT.
So there you have them; my commandments for travel. And I know I said there were Ten Commandments, but I’m still waiting for one of them to come out on the baggage carousel.
Adam Rozenbachs is an Australian-based comedian and writer. He is performing his brand-new stand up show, Eurodad (about taking his Dad to Europe) at the Melbourne Town Hall until 21 April as part of the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Further details at comedyfestival.com.au or call Ticketmaster on 1300 660 013.
News flash: Adam’s sell-out show has been so popular that he’s added two more performances on Sunday 14 April at 5pm and Sunday 21 April at 5pm!
You can also follow Adam on Twitter @arozenbachs.