travel lessons

When A Weekend Away Goes AWOL

weekend away + car troubles [trip style = any]

Last weekend I got stranded roadside with Mr. Trip Styler, Ms. Fashion Friday, and Mr. Nacho King {my pup}. In the process, we were picked up {and pulled} by a tractor, and rescued by way of an animal shelter and a do-gooder named Randy.

For the first time in nine years, our SUV shut itself down {while driving!} due to an electrical issue in the engine. To make matters worse, it was a Sunday so n-o-t-h-i-n-g was open, and we were in another country {the USA, aka, using our Canadian cell phones was uber-expensive}.

Sometimes weekends away {and all travel} go belly up. You come home stressed rather than relaxed. You're down and out due to something in your travel plans going awry---a feeling exaggerated by being away from home and out of your comfort zone. But here's the good part: it also forces you to reach deeper into your soul, use your intuition, trust strangers and rely on the help of good Samaritans. Strangely, the situation refreshed me.

While talking travel troubles isn't TS's normal flight path, our situation is a good reminder to keep cool, even in the face of travel challenges. In the moment it feels insurmountable; in retrospect there's always a silver lining, or some life lesson or truth we can glean!

What Happened {Coles Notes Version} Our car stopped in its tracks across the street---a busy street---from the Camano Animal Shelter. In order to get our vehicle to the other side of the highway, it was towed by a tractor that 'happened' to drive by just when we needed it. On the other side, we asked an electrician for a jump, and he said no. {Strange in that he had a Bible verse plastered over his work vehicle (FAIL).} The animal shelter, 100 meters away, empathized with our situation and allowed us to use their wifi and computers to research what to do. While searching for a solution, the lovely worker referred us to her next door neighbor who drove down to the shelter to assess our vehicle.

Long story short, this dynamic duo helped us troubleshoot, drove us back to our weekend abode for the night, gave us extra dog food {because OF COURSE we'd run out} and picked Mr. Trip Styler up the next morning to go and search for a car part. All this because they were nice people. When Mr. TS asked the good Samaritan for his rate, he said he it was nada---he tries to do one good thing a day. In that moment---exhausted from sitting roadside and hatching fix-it plans---I burst out crying. Somehow, we'd met the nicest person on the island!

The next day, the car part came in, worked like a charm and the good Samaritan gave us MORE of himself, aka, a piece of his handmade art. For the record, I will NEVER get rid of his orange-hued artifact, a metal crab made out of two horseshoes. This crab has quickly become one of my most prized travel possessions. In the end, we paid him anyway. He only accepted the money "for his art."

Travel always surprises. Sometimes in the form of delight, sometimes in the form of relaxation; this time in the form of grace.

Dear Randy: I'm not sure if you'll ever read this, but you saved us when we were down and out. It's people like you who make this world a better place. Thank you.

Travel Regrets & Lessons Learned

Lessons learned from TravelThey say you learn from mistakes. I tend to agree. With this in mind, here are some of my silly and semi-serious travel mistakes/regrets. On a more positive note, in each regret there's a take-away for the future! What are your travel mistakes and lessons learned?

1. I didn't take a better camera on Safari in Africa Lesson Learned: Take a good camera if going on a photo-fabulous trip like a Safari in Africa. I took a basic 8.1mp Sony Cyber-shot, but I should have purchased a new one, or borrowed from someone in my family. I think my rationale was I didn't want to be carrying around a lot of stuff and gear while there, but I could have found a way to travel inconspicuously with a camera slightly bigger than my hand, given most of the cameras other people brought were bigger than my blender! [Photo above: taken with mentioned camera; decent shot, but would have been neat to get some super close-ups of lions!]

2. I didn't figure out sooner how to travel for discounted rates Lesson Learned: Traveling smart = cheaper + farther trips. Here are my travel rules: a) become loyal to one (or two) airline and hotel groups to amass miles and points for free flights and stays b) when redeeming airline miles, go as far as you can & travel in the off-season to get the most out of your miles c) try to buy everything with your travel credit card to get points for future trips d) when possible, travel in low or shoulder season

3. I've never purchased anything from SkyMall Lesson Learned: Skymall has so many redonkulously awesome, amusing and sometimes useful items. I don't want to look back on my life and regret my lack of at least a one-time indulgence in the mall on high!  Why, because I could buy these lighted slippers!

4. I stayed at a hotel vs hostel when traveling solo in Paris Lesson Learned: When traveling solo---especially when you're young---stay in a hostel. The communal life is much more conducive to meeting people than a solitary hotel room. Why I didn't figure this out still baffles me. Being in Paris for 4 days and barely saying a word to anyone---even when knowing the language---was an unfortunate state of affairs!

5. I haven't yet purchased noise-canceling headphones Lesson Learned: Noise-canceling headphones are everything on a flight: they make make movies better, dampen noise and most importantly, allow you to listen to calming nature sounds during crazy turbulence.

6. I didn't bring a few basic meds to Africa (& had to buy some that didn't even work for $25) Lesson Learned: I've had to buy meds in Peru, Africa and Paris---all of which weren't that effective. Taking a few extra mins before your trip to bring a few key meds in a small kit, saves your health and money abroad!

7. I haven't been anywhere really, really exotic Lesson Learned: Mix up your travel and save your points for that remote or lux trip style ! (Yes, I'm overly grateful for the places I've visited, but I guess our human nature---or mine at least---is to push the envelope.) One day I'll visit these places on my travel bucket list: Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, etc...

8. I didn't travel more when I was first married Lesson Learned: There's so many excuses not to go, but I've never come home from a trip thinking "that trip was terrible, I got nothing out of the experience."

9. It's taken me so long to go to Australia Lesson Learned: Just go when you have the opportunity, or, do your darnedest to create the opportunity. I'm trying to create mine right now!  For some reason, I feel like visiting Australia is a right of passage for me, meaning I can grow up a little once I've gone...

10. I can't take my dog @NachoKing on every trip! Lesson Learned: For all trips that don't involve a flight, seek out dog-friendly destinations!