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Translation: “I believe I am in hell, therefore I am” – Arthur Rimbaud, Une Saison en enfer, Nuit de l’enjer

It’s so below Superiorists to complain about how rough their life is (unless this is an after-work Friday night thing, because that my friend is a horse of a different color). One huge pet peeve of mine is listening to people mouth on and on about how they have 3 weeks of paid vacation and they never get to use it because they are SoOoOoO busy. Oh yes, your life is so rough. (Vomit.) People who do not take full advantage of their vacation time are so full of themselves. They should be forced to give it to me, because, trust in this, I know how to vacation.

Vacationing is an art form. I will concede that it takes a while to perfect this art; everyone must suffer through the terrible family vacations/house shares with now former friends/bed wetting friends who’ve had too much too drink. Yeah, okay we’ve all been there. But hopefully you have learned a few things now.

My parents are hard workers – and they know how to vacation. Easter was spent not en famille, but in Fort Lauderdale on the beach and that Easter bunny, bless his soul, brought sand pails, shovels, and tons of candy come Easter morn. Two weeks in the summer on Cape Cod, right on the beach, and an indoor/outdoor pool. During these magical two weeks, my parents took us out to dinner so much that we begged not to go out to eat anymore (no, seriously), because we wanted to stay and play in the pool. My parents budgeted for these trips, they knew what they wanted out of their vacation, and we all had a stress-free good time. Once I started high school my parents started taking us abroad to further our travel experiences – a trip every fall. London, Rome, Galway, Paris. We’ve been around. My parents spent time, budgeted money, researched, read about locations and where to stay, and made huge difference in the lives of their children, who I like to think have a greater appreciation for travel and life in different cultures.

None of these trips were flawless. Legally, I am unable talk about the driving incident in Ireland. But it is difficult to drive on the other side of the road, in a standard. My mom tried her best. And the horse riding incident in Hyde Park involving my dad and a skittish (putting it mildly) horse, while hysterical to all of us, seriously aged him at least 10 years no doubt. Bad horsey (but why was dad busting out the cigarette pack on top of Bad Horsey?).

My point? Doing a little legwork makes a huge difference in determining how great your vacation time is. Best way to do this today is the internet (Ms. Superiority’s Superior Sites). Find out the hotels people stay at. Check out some restaurant reviews. You will never have to worry about not using your vacation time – you will be begging to earn some more.

My favorite way to psyche myself up for vacationing ABROAD is the DK Eyewitness Travel Series. There are pictures of the important stuff to see, maps of museums, churches, easy references to important features in said museums and churches, food guides, neighborhood guides, suggested walks, top 10 lists of things to see. I find them the easiest series to use. And they are in color – hello to the world of travel guides – why on earth are these travel books the only ones in color? With pictures?! These books are a great investment – they are worth their price, for sure (and on par with other travel books too). But they are free at the library – and that’s a good thing to help you see if this is the type of book that’s right for you.

Vacations should be relaxing and comfortable. Not always easy if you are traveling abroad (and always a challenge if English is not the official language spoken). A few superior suggestions:

1.       Always try to learn at least a few key phrases (French, Spanish, Italian, German)in the national language of the country you are visiting. This includes: Yes. No. Please. Thank you. Excuse me. I’m sorry. Where is (the bathroom)? How much? I like. I don’t like. May I have? I do not speak _____. You will start to feel better when you visibly see natives appreciate the effort and try to help you.

2.       Use the bathrooms in any clean restaurant, church, tourist spot you visit. Just do it. You don’t want to be stuck on some Roman ruin crossing your legs.

3.       If it is in your wallet, there better be a copy (of each side) of it at home, somewhere safe and secure in case you lose your wallet. This goes double for passport. And I keep a passport copy well hidden back at the hotel or wherever I am staying.

4.       Use a map and carry it with you. Ask your hotel for help finding your hotel on this map, and mark it in red.

5.       When in doubt, trust your instinct. If you think you are being ripped off, you totally are. Don’t talk to weirdo’s. If you can’t tell whether or not he or she is a weirdo – they are. Walk away.

6.       Buy yourself a souvenir – and sometimes cheap stuff is a lot of fun. Send postcards to friends – so easy, so cheap, so superior of you to think of others on your vacation!

7.       Eat local food. Do. Not. Eat. At. McDonald’s. Try restaurants that look busy – but not tourist traps. Superior people always have restaurant recommendations for friends traveling. Do a little grocery shopping on your own for lunch (une baguette si vous plait) – save money, expand your horizons, and test your language skills. PS: There is no ice in Europe. Get. Over. It.

8.       Save business cards from restaurants you adored for friends. Take home wine corks as a remembrance (I display my corks in vases on the table. Yup. That many.). Peel off the label of wine you want to try to find back home (or at the local store down the block from your hotel) – in nicer restaurants a sommelier will do this for you if you ask. Pack a corkscrew in your suitcase and you will be toasting my name all over town.

9.       Travel with a black faux pashmina (or by all means, Superiorists, bring the real thing!). I travel with assorted colors. Dresses up an outfit, keeps your warm, covers your head or shoulders (or both) if there are guidelines for special churches. You can even use a pashmina as a purse to carry your picnic, or as a beach blanket. Pashmina’s or scarves of any kind (minus Christmas scarves) are far superior to sweatshirts from your alma mater.

There are lots of great travel tips out there, and these are just a small sampling – I would love to hear more of your ideas!

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