Written on day 43 – On the train from Berlin to Vienna, late October
1. Wear the right clothes and shoes. This bit of Norwegian wisdom is now proving true, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” I have been able to survive a cold and wet day in Oslo entirely outdoors due to my wool undies, wool sweater and double layer jacket. Try to get a waterproof and windproof jacket with a removable lining that you can add on as and when the weather gets colder. Get all-purpose Gore Tex, waterproof, lace free (convenient for airport security checks) and ortho certified shoes in a neutral colour. My black Salomon XA pro 3d ultras are so comfy and versatile. They pounded pavement in Istanbul, braved a wet and muddy hill in the Lake District, scaled a rocky volcano in Greece and even attended a concert at the Berlin Koncerthaus (with black slacks and a decent top, you can get away with anything)! Of course I had hiking shoes on but the concert was a spur of the moment decision when I saw how lovely the Koncerthaus was and decided that I would risk my embarrassing tourist garb for the chance to hear a world-class Berlin string quartet. Love of music trumps fashion faux pas! I cannot underscore how VITAL the perfect pair of shoes is. I love my shoes.
2. Look your best always. Wear make up and lipstick (and a smile). This just might get you upgraded to business class! Plus, you’ll always be camera-ready.
3. Be courteous. Kindness is universal across all cultures. You are a representative of your country. Your conduct reflects your upbringing. Try not to allow the rudeness of other people to get to you. They may just not be used to foreigners or they may not be comfortable speaking English. If sadly their rudeness stems from more deep-seated issues, remember that their prejudices are not your problem. They have to live with themselves and their warped world view forever. Your contact with them will hopefully be only fleeting. Embrace the fact that you are an open-minded child of globalization and not someone bound by limited thinking.
4. Be appreciative of good service. Tell people when you are happy about the food or the response time. I had created a wonderful email relationship with my airline help line. She was so helpful and so quick in responding to my request to change my return booking so I sent a warm email and took time to submit a feedback form. Remember, in this economy some people are having a tough time holding on to their jobs. Positive feedback may help someone hold on to theirs. People appreciate gratitude. After my airline contact person had processed and finalized my amended booking, I was surprised to receive an email from her a few days later telling me she managed to get hold of a better flight with a much shorter lay-over and giving me a chance to get this flight. She also now starts her emails with “Dear (My first name)” and not “Dear Ms (Surname).”
5. Complain politely. I was aghast to receive a glass of wine with lipstick marks on the rim. The manager was also aghast after I showed it to him with a smile. I got a bigger glass of wine free.
6. Talk to babies and dogs. This earns you points with parents and dog owners in any country. They will gladly help you with directions or make recommendations on places to visit in their city.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask. You are a tourist. And if you are Asian, with a bright red backpack, armed with a camera and travelling in a predominantly Caucasian country, believe me, everyone knows you are a tourist. So ask when in doubt. In fact, ask more than one person to double-check your info.
8. Harness technology and it does not have to be expensive. I needed a super mini laptop on the road and decided the iPod touch was my best option (Note: this was in 2009). It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I have access to email and Internet via wi-fi which is free in coffee shops, certain trains and buses and in most hotels. I have applications downloaded for free from the App store that plot my Eurail train routes. I have been plotting routes on the S-bahn and U-bahn and hopping around Berlin using my Metro application. I can check the weather forecast and convert all currencies on the fly. I am checking different time zones in an instant. I am blogging while offline and posting as soon as I get a wi-fi signal. Plus I have my entire music library and 2 seasons of “Friends” for entertainment.
9. If withdrawing money from an ATM (e., bancomat), try to use one attached to a bank which is open. This will save you from a heart attack if the machine eats your card as someone can retrieve it for you. Learned this on a snowy day in Salzburg. Thank God for bank people working late!
10. Open your heart. Love just might find you in the most unexpected places. Okay, this is not a pragmatic travel tip but since this holds true for me and since it did happen on this particular trip (Note: As at 2013, we just celebrated our first year wedding anniversary), it would be incomplete if I didn’t include this bit. But don’t be STUPID – be conscious of personal security, specially if traveling solo!
Happy travels and may your shoes take you to places where you find yourself!
This is my first Daily Prompt post.