8 Travel Tips for Homebodies

It’s that frozen time of year again, the time when I start to look at all-inclusive vacation deals in tropical climates. Alas! This year, we’re being responsible and saving our pennies for house repairs rather than spending them on mojitos and sun block.

I really can’t complain though because I got back not so long ago from a lovely Turkish vacation with my mother. This was the kind of trip I rarely go on, one where nothing was pre-packaged and I organized all of the travel with lots of potential for things going wrong. I’m happy to report that it went splendidly and I was reminded of how much value there is in new experiences. In fact, research shows that money spent on stuff is worth less than that used to buy experiences because we adapt to objects very quickly, while our appreciation for experiences actually grows as time goes on.

Version 2

Me as nutty tourist in Kaş, Turkey

I have complicated feelings about travel. While I enjoy discovering new places tremendously and I’m always dreaming of what my next adventure will be, my homebody tendencies are way too strong for me to be a hard-core traveller. The urge to fly away is continuously at odds with how firmly my butt is glued to the nest. Without fail, I get excited planning my next trip only to feel the onset of panic as the date draws near. It’s partly just my usual anxiety, but another big piece is that I love the calm and order of my home and I fear potential disasters. While I admire those who bravely dive into the unknown without reservations or nausea medication, that really isn’t my style. Thankfully, I know what I need to feel secure while on the road.

So here are Brenda’s Travel Tips for Homebodies:

  1. Research: Ok, I’m a librarian, this comes naturally to me. I always borrow Lonely Planet and Rough Guide books from the library and copy relevant sections. Of course, if there is a great guide to New Orleans and you’re going to New Orleans, then just buy it! But there’s no need to lug around a book about all of France if you’re only going to Lyon. Also, look at accommodations online and read reviews. I need quiet for sleeping so I actively look for comments on noise or lack thereof.
  2. Plan plan plan: I don’t mean to say that you should be one of those anal retentives who plans each day down to the minute! What I mean is – know where you are sleeping for the entirety of your trip and book all of your major transits before leaving. Planes, trains, car transfers and, sometimes even bus trips, can be booked ahead of time. And obviously hotels, motels, and B&Bs should be reserved prior to leaving. You don’t want to be the person overpaying for a hotel because you didn’t plan ahead, or worse, staying somewhere sketchy. And trying to figure out foreign train schedules on the fly is no fun. Also, be sure to have reservation numbers with you and the contact info for all your accommodations and transport in case something goes wrong. For me, the security of knowing where I will lay my head at night gives me the freedom to improvise a bit during the day according to my mood (also, look at opening hours for your destinations – things can be closed on weird days).

    You never know where the journey will take you (but this path led to the Mediterranean)

    You never know where the journey will take you (but this path led to the Mediterranean)

  3. Maps! You’ve researched, you’ve planned, now copy those maps. Use Google Maps to plan routes between your lodging and major attractions and print those. This helps organize your visits logically by neighbourhood. You will get lost, and that’s ok, but a map will help you determine exactly how lost you are and that is super helpful.
  4. Less is more: Don’t do 10 cities in 2 weeks. Pick a couple of locales that seem interesting and explore those. Unless you have rented a car and are driving in a country where you speak the language and know the rules of the road, you’ll be moving around by bus, train, or plane, and that is more exhausting than you think. Stay in each spot for a least 3 days and I recommend chilling out in one place for 6 or 7 days during your trip. One reason I like doing this is that it forces me to shift from tourist mode (gotta do this, gotta see that) into living mode (let’s go to the market then have lunch on our patio overlooking the Mediterranean). At some point, seeing all the landmarks becomes tedious, while soaking in the culture, people, and pace of a place feels really nice.
  5. Don’t skimp: I learned this the hard way. Yes, it is tempting to always look for the best deal; however, at some point, stop and think about comfort. Let’s face it, if you’re spending hundreds of dollars to cross an ocean and see something new, then you can afford the bit more that will save you major hassle once you get there. Take cabs or car transfers instead of public transit when tired after a long flight. Book domestic flights with reliable airlines instead of the dirt cheap ones that will result in chaos (and often unplanned expense!). Book hotels or apartments that are well situated and that include a safety deposit box/breakfast/bottled water. All these perks are worth it. In Istanbul, we booked a food tour of Kadiköy that was $1oo USD, much more than the cost of the food, which is very cheap (and delicious) in Turkey. But we learned a ton from our guide and we explored an area that would have been confusing to us had we gone by ourselves. It was a highlight of our trip, a big pleasure for what, in the end, was a small price.
  6. Carry on luggage only: This may not be possible if you’re going to cold or unpredictable climates, but having no checked baggage removes a huge stress from travel for me. Connecting flights can be a nightmare and having only carry ons allowed my mum and I to make flights and have all our sh*t with us at our destination. Sure, we didn’t bring back everything we wanted, but I still came home with 4 Turkish towels, a bathrobe, beautiful tiny coffee cups, bookmarks, Turkish delight, a new dress, a glass turtle, backgammon boards, spices, and an evil eye.
  7. Meds: Sleeping pills, nausea medication, Tylenol, anti-diarrhea medication. Yes, you could buy these things as needed at your destination, but really you want them in your handbag precisely when you need them and not one second later. I often feel vomity so Gravol is my best friend, and oregano oil is a lifesaver when you’re prone to sore throats.
  8. Books and podcasts: Hey, if you’re stuck in an airport for hours on end, that book will not seem like dead weight (I like to brings paperbacks and leave them behind when I’m done making more room in my suitcase for souvenirs). Also, download a bunch of podcasts, especially some with soothing voices, that will keep your brain engaged when waiting endlessly… and don’t forget chargers and adapters!

 

Just chilling in the harem (Topkapi Palace)

Just chilling in the harem (Topkapi Palace)

Travelling is stressful because it forces us out of our comfort zone, but that is also what makes it so enriching. For me, the key is self-knowledge. I will not go hitchhiking is South America or camping in the Czech Republic, and I won’t leave my cozy home for more than a couple of weeks at a time. I also don’t seek “authentic” experiences; I accept my tourist status and am happy to observe what I can not fully know as an outsider.

In travel, as in life, you can’t predict what will go wrong… or unexpectedly right. By the time we got to the Hagia Sophia (after getting lost and visiting other things instead) there was a big line-up. But while standing there waiting, the call to prayer started. We found ourselves right in the middle of alternating muezzins, back and forth between the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia – the most brilliant cacophony! Amazing.

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