How To Have A (Nearly) Stress-free Trip

tips for stress-free travel

 

Something that a lot of people don’t talk about is the fact that travel can be stressful.
Wicked stressful. Navigating an unknown city, often in a different language and culture, while carrying a 25 pound bag on your back? And all while trying to have The Best Time Possible? Because this is what you’ve been planning and saving for over the past six months and you are going to have a great time if it kills you.
Annnnd cue the meltdown in line to the Louvre.
Because most of us have a very limited number of vacation days, we put pressure on ourselves to squeeze joy out of every minute that we’re in another country. When I did my round the world ticket, I remember being haunted by the feeling that I ‘wasn’t doing it right’ because I was having an awesome time, yes, but I also got lost a lot, got hit by a scooter, overslept on the train and missed my stop, had a former mental patient for a roommate and got a rash from the overnight bus in Vietnam. Seriously.

How to Make Travel Stress-Free

So please allow me to share some of the tricks I’ve learned to help one chill the eff out and enjoy the ride. Reducing travel stress is an art more of a science and takes changing your perspective while you’re traveling! Yes, you can travel with less stress!

Realize that everything is going to take longer and cost more than you thought

One of the biggest stresses when traveling is money. When reading about the prices of food and lodging in a country, it’s easy to add those two numbers together and assume that’s how much money you’ll spend in a given day. But then you get lost have to take a taxi back to your friend’s house. And you lose your return bus ticket. And the only restaurant that’s open has $17 entrees. It’s also possible (especially if you’re traveling outside of the western world) that your bus will break down, your captain will run on island time, or the roads have washed out now that it’s rainy season.
Of course these things are all hugely frustrating, but often unavoidable. You’ll be a lot happier and more relaxed during your travels if you leave some wiggle room in your schedule and budget.

Everything is just a matter of time and money

Oooh, that sounds rather ominous doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t everything in life just a matter of time and money? But especially when traveling, I think it’s worth remembering this. Putting your travel stress into perspective helps a whole lot. Snags in your plan are not a matter of life and death, nor do they have to ruin your trip. Your flight is delayed and you’re going to get in to Edinburgh two hours late? Just buy the phone card, call your friend and tell her you’ll get in at 11 pm, and take a taxi to her house. Whenever I encountered these problems I would repeat this mantra in my head “Everything is just a matter or time and money. I have all the time in the world and a credit card with a high limit.”

That $3 means a lot more to them than it does to you

You don’t need to create stress by bartering to get the absolute best deal when you don’t need it. Bartering is par for the course in many cultures and it’s something that turns many of us westerners inside out with embarrassment. Negotiation + confrontation = nightmare scenario for most women I know, myself included. I have two settings: “Please, overcharge me! I implore you!” or “You want $99? How about $3? No? You are dead to me.”
Of course, as foreigners we are surely being offered extremely inflated prices and shouldn’t accept the first number offered. However, I have seen westerners joyfully embrace the bartering system and spend 20 minutes haggling over a difference of 20 American cents. It’s worth remembering that the four dollars that you’re saving means a lot more to these vendors than it does to you.
The average yearly income in Bolivia is nine hundred American dollars. Just sayin.

Those beggars might actually need your money

One of the most unnerving and often frustrating things about traveling through developing countries is all of the poverty you will see. Being constantly hounded for money can really stress you out when traveling when you know you can’t fix everything. You will inevitably be asked for money several times a day – by women with crying babies, blind men, people handicapped by landmines. It’s really, really sad and really overwhelming. It’s also really easy to become immune to. Many developing countries have little in the way of social welfare programs so these people may have no other way of getting money.
A friend developed a method for dealing with this while traveling through Cambodia. Every day he would carry around the equivalent to 10 American dollars in really small bills. He would give out one bill to every beggar he saw until they were all gone.
Note: you have to be a little careful in an area with lots of beggars in one place. If they see you giving out money to one person, they will swarm you.

It’s easier to make money than it is to make memories

Money is a constant stressor while traveling for most people. But remember the reasons why you’re traveling in the first place! Now that you’re three weeks into your trip, maybe funds are getting a bit low. You find yourself eating a lot of bread and cheese and sleeping in the dorm room at the hostel instead of the double. When your friend suggests the $80 rappelling/black-water rafting/rock climbing trip you balk. That’s, like, four nights of hostel!
Dude, do it. Put that shit on your credit card. If you were at home, you would not think twice about buying a cute sweater from Target and then getting dinner with your BFF – and that would probably run you the same amount. If you’re getting too wound up about money while your traveling, just think about what this money would translate to in your life back at home. New pair of Frye boots or sky diving? Swim with dolphins or one new tire for your car? Not such a difficult choice.

When in doubt, cry

When travel stress and things just get to be too much, sometimes you just need to let your emotions speak for you. Just as a smile is universal, so is crying. There are few people in the world who can look into the crumpled, messy face of a overwhelmed lady and not feel inclined to help. Or to let you off with a warning.
I really believe that everyone, the world over, is good at heart. You will be amazed at the things that people will do to help you when they can see that you need it.

Are you dead? Are you hurt? No? Then it’s not the end of the world

Travel stress can mount if you let it. It totally sucks to lose your passport or have your wallet stolen or for your luggage to get lost in transit. No arguments there. But all these things are temporary and repairable. They will make for excellent stories later on in which you will be featured as The Intrepid Traveler Who Went Through So Much But Still Had a Good Time.
How do you stay zen when you’re traveling?

photo by Volker Stetter // cc

Web time wasters

You might not know this about me, but I am huge proponent for both manners and karma – thank you notes, holding doors, helping friends move, the whole nine. Which is why I love Operation Nice. The website chronicles helpful, lovely interactions that people have had, suggestions on how to make someone’s day, and things that are generally awesome. Nice indeed!

Did you hate dissecting stuff in eighth grade science? The inside of cats not really your thing? Eric Boker decided, instead, to dissect tubes of toothpaste – and the result is oddly artistic.

Mystery is sexy, right? If your not sure exactly how to be mysterious, this poster will point you in the right direction. I particularly like the tip about wearing a skeleton key on a necklace. “When you have an ornate, probably gold, probably vaguely skull shaped dangling around your neck, people will be going insane imagining what it opens!”

What would happen if Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords had a website where he pretended to be a Sci-Fi writer named Ronald Chevalier? Awesomeness would ensue. Obviously.

A lovely blog about random acts of kindness. (Thanks Annie!)

Lovely photos using the moon as a prop.

If you live in Minnesota (or are just passive aggressive) confrontation might be beyond your can. If so, you can use Hello! You there! to get your point across. You write up a letter, include a postal address and a written letter will be sent anonymously. I would say that I don’t condone such an epic level of weeniness, but come on! We can all admit it’s pretty genius.

Children’s sketches of monsters re-created by graphic designers. Slightly unnerving!

4 Theme Parties Ideas You’ve (Probably) Never Tried

theme-party-ideas
I am huge, huge fan of theme parties. Everything’s better when you’re wearing a costume and listening to costume-related music right? Here are a few of my favorites:

tartine-party

Toast party

What? Yes. If we want to be fancy, we’ll call these ‘tartines‘ but let’s be real – this is toast with fancy stuff on it. This is the perfect party if a) you’re feeling lazy b) it’s hot. You just buy up  a million baguettes or loaves of french bread and ask your guests to bring a topping of their choice!

Food: things that go on toast – Nutella, avocados, hummus, bleu cheese + peaches + honey, balsamic mushrooms + fontina
Music: Bread (GET IT!!!!???)

mustache-theme-party

Famous Mustaches Throughout History

Mustaches are to the 00s what goatees were to the 90s, and why not celebrate their popularity with party? Your guests can come clad as their favorite mustache owner and you can even served themed food! We threw a party like this for our housewarming in Wellington, New Zealand – I was a Frenchman and The Mister was Charlie from Lost. Which is to say he made his hair greasy, parted it unflatteringly and wrapped bits of paper towel around his fingers.

Possible Costumes: Dali, Frida Kahlo, Magnum PI, Hulk Hogan
Food:mustache cupcakesgummy mustaches, milkshakes (increases likelihood of milk mustaches)
Music: Frank Zappa, Gogol Bordello, The Killers, Queen

theme-party-ideas

What I Wanted to Be When I Grew Up

Oh, we’ve come so far from our fantasies of old, haven’t we? I’m not tall enough to be a ballerina, or math-tastic enough to be an architect but we could surely overlook these realities for one night. Imagine a party stuffed with people dressed in their childhood dreams, noshing on the food of 1987. Awesome, yes? A friend of mine attended one of these parties dressed as a Star Wars Trooper!?

Possible Costumes: singer, veterinarian, pro basketball player, um, tiger?
Food: Cheesy Poofs, Big League Chew, Kool aid, popsicles
Music: New Kids on the Block, Bon Jovi, The Bangles, anything circa Elementary School

rubik's-cube-party

Rubik’s Cube Party

Warning: this party is best for those who are single/under 25. It might just be embarrassing for us old fogies. The theme here is pretty straight forward, everybody arrives at the party in ensembles made up of pieces of clothing in the different colors of the Rubik’s cube squares – you know, red hoodie, blue t-shirt, green skirt, yellow tights. During the course of the evening the goal is to switch clothes with your buddies to assemble an outfit that’s monochromatic. I imagine this switching of clothing might be accompanied by some making out and flashing of underwear. Maybe.

Possible Costumes: solid-colored clothing of your choice in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and white
Food: jello shots, nibs, cheddar cheese cubes, those square Japanese watermelons
Music: Ice Cube (HA!)

What’s the best theme party that you’ve been to? Tell us all about it in the comments!

photo credits: teapot queen // NASA // rolex blog // krista

Celebrities I’ve seen in real life

You guys. The first episode of The Flight of The Conchords, Season 2 is available online! For free! The whole thing!But only for Yanks. Sorry Kiwis and Aussies. Not that you guys are particularly fussed about Bret and Jemaine anyway.Did I ever tell you that I saw Jemaine in real life? Twice?!

Sighting One: My flatmate and I are in line at the insanely overpriced Reading Cinema in Wellington, New Zealand. I am very busy rummaging in my purse for enough change to buy some popcorn when Jess begins whisper at me without moving her lips, whilst making intense eye contact and occasionally winking.

I obviously interpret this a cue to slyly look over my shoulder. Where I see Jemaine and Loren Horsley. So we do the only natural thing: try very hard to ignore them and then run up the escalator in an attempt to get away from them.

Sighting Two: I am at Reading Cinema, again, walking through the food court. And there, wearing a purple velvet jacket and eating a corn dog, is Jemaine.

Seriously, dude. Stop following me. It’s getting awkward.

Have you ever seen anyone famous in real life?

Unique Like a Snowflake. Right? Right?!

Do you ever walk into a party and realize that the super unique, carefully crafted look that you spent hours putting together has been replicated by every other girl in the room? The skinny jeans/scarf/graphic tee/cardigan combo? The vintage dress/colorful shoes/red lipstick ensemble? The converse sneakers/concert tee/hoodie/jelly bracelets look?
Ari Verslius and Ellie Uyttenbroek were interested in the unspoken dress codes of different social groups and began systematically documenting these groups over the course of 14 years. Nobody escaped the camera – indie boys, dapper gentlemen, even shaved-headed track suit wearers.
I’m certainly there, circa 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2040. These days I think I look closest to these girls. What?!

Which one are you?

It was not without disappointment that I saw the various incarnations of myself tucked in with all those other women. I think it’s quite normal to want to believe we’re each a little bit special, and a little bit different than everybody else. The crux is not equating that individuality with the clothes we choose to wear. Of course – I’m all over fashion that expresses who I am and how I want to portray myself (I am, after all, the owner of an Eskimo coat) but, after seeing this exhibit, I think it’s worth remembering that it is the lovely, amazing, unique person beneath the clothes that makes the look work, not the other way around.