There’s no shortage of advice given every day on the Internet, from what foods to eat to how to raise your kids. Travel of course is not immune to these musings of so-called experts, but just because it’s on a web site doesn’t make the tip useful or even true. Here are a few that I particularly disagree with, and my reasons why. (Of course there is a certain amount of irony writing a post like this and believe me it’s not lost on me either.)
1. Bring some foreign currency with you and or/travelers checks – I thought this travel tip had died out a long time ago, but I was saddened to read it again just recently. In 2013 this is horrible, horrible advice. If you exchange money before leaving home the rates are awful, there’s no arguing with that and there’s no need for it. If you want money in your pockets when you arrive, just go to the ATM at the airport. I have never been to an international airport anywhere in the world where they didn’t have plenty of ATMs. An ATM should always be your first choice for local currency; they provide the best rates possible. The same advice goes for traveler’s checks. You have to pay to get them and to use them, a senseless waste of money. Once again, ATMs are your best friend.
2. Travel while you’re young – Lately there has been a preponderance of posts promoting the importance of traveling in your early 20s. That’s fine; it’s not wrong per se. But it’s the message between the lines that I find so offensive, that you can only get a remarkable, life changing, exciting and carefree travel experience if you’re a kid. That’s not true at all and 30 is not the death knell for independent travelers, in fact I think the experience is even better a few years older. You have more experience from which to draw upon and unlike so many of the younger travelers, you’re not wasting your time getting drunk in the capitals of the world. So yeah, sure, travel if you’re young but if you’re not below the 25-mark don’t think you can’t have a lot of fun on the road because you absolutely can.
3. Scared of flying? Have a drink! – Fear of flying is a very common phobia, so common that there is no shortage of advice on how to get through that fear inducing flight. I’ve never had this fear and while I can’t relate I can tell you what not to do in order to get over it. Self-medicating through alcohol is a horrible, terrible, awful idea. Why? Well, of course the alcohol doesn’t do anything to help you fight past your fear, it just medicates you against the anxiety. If that’s all you want, there are plenty of pills out there that can fill this need without the physical risks that drinking and flying pose. Being airborne is an intensely dehydrating experience, a fact you may have noticed before. Lips become chapped, hands are rough and most people have a healthy thirst throughout the flight. Alcohol dehydrates the body and that effect is greatly exacerbated up in the air. If you get drunk when you fly you are risking your own health during the flight certainly, but afterwards as well. Your hangover will be greatly intensified and if you are crossing multiple time zones, it will take you much longer to get over the jet lag. So if you’re scared of flying take a class, see a doctor or swallow a pill but whatever you do, please don’t drink to assuage those fears.
4. Do not go into a McDonald’s – I cringed when I recently read this ‘tip.’ I cringed not just because it’s wrong, but because it reeks of elitism, something I abhor in travel. I’ve written an entire post on why McDonald’s restaurants are important to visit overseas, but please allow me to offer the Cliffs Notes version. Menus at McDonald’s restaurants around the world feature many regional and local dishes that are an important and quick look into the foreign culture. You cannot argue the fact that it is a reflection on the local society that on the menu you can find: Corn pies in Bangkok, Fried Emmentaler in Vienna, Black sesame rolls in Taiwan and even McLobster in Maine. You don’t have to eat there, I’m not necessarily advocating that, but at least go and look at the menu for a quick lesson in local food customs. From a practical point of view, McDonald’s restaurants around the world usually feature free WiFi and clean bathrooms, both precious resources for active travelers.
5. THIS is the REAL way to travel – Everyone thinks that they have THE answer, THE way to travel and what is often describes as real and authentic. Some say it’s by staying in hostels, others by eating only street food and still others say that it is only by avoiding tourist hotspots that you get to see the ‘real’ destination. That’s all crap; elitist and pompous crap at that. We are all tourists, all of us whether you choose to admit it or not. We all like to do and see corny attractions, eat foods that are probably a little too expensive and take home souvenirs that will please Grandma and not your friends. That’s all fine, acceptable and encouraged. What IS important, what IS the real experience is taking that leap, which at first can be frightening, and travel. Just go, see as much as you can and never look back. If you can only afford a brief few days somewhere, do it. Do it now. Every trip, no matter the length or how far away it takes you is important. Even the most prosaic of experiences teaches us something and we always, always grow as individuals. So don’t hold back because you’re afraid you’re not traveling the right way. There’s no such thing, there’s just traveling or not traveling.
What are some tips you’ve read that you disagree with?