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Sunday, 12 September 2010

5 Travel Surprises (That Shouldn't Have Surprised Me)



You all know I'm addicted to travel, and of course every trip brings its own array of little surprises - but a few times I've been sideswiped by things that have later seemed all too obvious. Here are some of the surprises that, with hindsight, should not have surprised me:

1. Camping above the Arctic circle sounds like a cold experience, even in summer - but we camped far enough north that the sun never came close to touching the horizon in June. As a result we had more trouble with the tent being too hot, melting our emergency chocolate rations and making it hard to sleep without the door open.




2. Landing in Denver was a surprisingly comfortable experience... because with its mile-high runway, there's hardly any difference in pressure between cabin pressure and the ground outside. My ears didn't pop until the return flight!

3. Eating out in Cuba was harder than you might imagine: outside of Havana, you often needed to book meals in the morning so the restaurant could buy enough food to feed you in the evening. Looking for an authentic experience, we asked a local couple where they would go to eat - only to be told that they didn't eat out.

4. Public transport in Rome lacks the complex metro system you'd find in most European capitals. Why? The density of archaeological remains in the city makes it complicated and expensive to dig underground tunnels.

5. As a westerner in Mongolia, my carefully-developed habit of keeping my map and guidebook in my handbag out of sight was simply a waste of time: it was my first experience travelling to a country where I was marked out as a tourist on purely ethnic grounds.

Have you ever been surprised by something that should have been obvious?

20 comments:

Kate Coveny Hood said...

So funny - I could easily see us assuming wrong about all the same things (except for the camping one since we don't camp).

My mistakes are almost always related to packing. Too much - not enough - all the wrong stuff. When I went to San Francisco to visit a friend (back in my 20s) I came with all summer clothes. They were great for mid-day in the sun, but the minute clouds rolled in (several times a day) or the sun went down, I was very, very cold.

amy said...

What was the food like in Havana?! I want to visit there so badly...

BECKY said...

Rachel, you are so fortunate to be able to travel so much and do such fabulous things! Having an adventurous heart is the first step, but obviously you also need time and (some!) money. I'm truly happy for you!

Emma said...

I think that the Arctic Circle one would have caught me out too!

lakeviewer said...

Oh, yes! You do know that we love hearing about your travels, living through your adventures. And these tidbits, all add to our experience. Thank YOu!

Alice Braga a.k.a. Alice Marie said...

What an awesome post, Rachel. You packed -- pun intended -- so much into such a compact space. LOL on the melting chocolate. I love learning from you and traveling vicariously through you!

Domestic Executive said...

I have a litany of surprises from travel - that's the beauty, fear and frustration of travel I love!

I'd have never thought about the camping heat as my experience of camping has never been warm.

Chad Zahara said...

Great entry! I would not have thought of some of those either. =P

Tractor Mom said...

Let me tell you, that your accent would put pick you out fast in a small Southern town like the one I live in! But we would still love to have you!!

Come by when you can stop a while...

Expats Again said...

I would not have guessed the tent to be hot in the Arctic circle. Thanks for the heads up.

A few of mine:
1. Never use your left hand in the Middle East or show the bottom of your shoes when crossing your legs.
2. Tipping the lid of a teapot in China will only result in an endless pot of tea.
3. The skin under a fish's eye is reserved for the honored guest at the table in China,
4. Along the Silk Road (and many other parts of the world) carry your own toilet paper.
5. In many Asian country's (Indonesia for example), women far outnumber men in bars and like to knock on hotel room doors at night looking for business--Just beware!

Tabor said...

I have traveled quite a bit and never had any expectations...so I think, other than the hole in the ceramic floor for a toilet in Indonesia, I have had very few things happen that were different from what I expected. I expected a surprise after all...that was why I was traveling.

ScoMan said...

Melting chocolate? NNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

The horror... the horror...

I was surprised only on the weekend when I found a hubcap missing from my car. Then I realised strong rains = big potholes, big potholes = big vibrations in the car, big vibrations = bye bye hubcap.

Okay, it wasn't as awesome or interesting as your surprises, but that's all I can think of right now.

liliannattel said...

I love your 5 surprises. My surprise was that you had been to Mongolia! I've never known anyone personally who's been. It's one of those places I hankered to visit when I was younger and had those hankerings. I think my biggest surprise when I first travelled as a teenager were all the different mechanisms for flushing toilets.

Hannah said...

I am always surprised by silly things. I wish I was able to travel more. I really love to travel, right now we aren't doing any international travel. The picture of your camp site is beautiful!

Kel said...

#1 and 3 surprise me too. I wouldn't have even packed any light clothes when traveling to the Arctic Circle.

LambAround said...

The Denver thing is so true. Sadly, that's the only place on your list I've visited!

ladyfi said...

Lovely lovely shot of your tent in beautiful surroundings. I think as soon as you leave your own country, you will be in for surprises! And often these surprises revolve around eating and going to the loo...

Holly said...

I love your observations. I am the worst traveler in my mind I am an explorer in real life, think National Lampoon's European Vacation. When we were in Rome, we just laid in bed listening to crashes and ambulance sirens - we walked everywhere.

I love being able to live vicariously through you on your travels.

Slamdunk said...

Fun post idea.

I love the thought of camping in the Artic Circle--nice.

From a previous hiking trip many years ago, when going to the Smoky Mountains, it is good to have a backup plan if one gets turned around. Why did I think the trails would not get a little confusing at times?

LindyLouMac said...

Public transport in Roma still works well though doesn't it :)

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