Author Archives: evolkmann2

About evolkmann2

Recently graduated from college/about to begin graduate school.

For the Stranded Traveler

While traveling home for the holidays, I experienced some unexpected delays and wound up being at airports or on airplanes for a total of 24 hours. While delays can (and usually are) frustrating, there are several ways to make the best of the situation.

Two people hugging

1. Be nice. This is important, as it can help you get to your destination more quickly. After my first delay, some of the people on my canceled flight began throwing fits. Literal fits. With stomping and screaming. Yes, it’s annoying, yes, you have places to be, but there is nothing you can do about the canceled flight. When rebooking with a ticketing agent, know that they’re trying to help you, and that screaming in their faces will probably not persuade them to get you the best deal possible.

Emily and Josh with umbrellas

2. Be prepared. It can be difficult to know what exactly to put in your small carry-on item, but maybe a snack or two wouldn’t hurt. Also a change of clothes. And all of your chargers. You can buy things in the airport to help you get through your newly extended layover, but everything is way overpriced. Fact: I spent $9 on a small bag of almonds.

Hands on a wall

3. Make friends. I’m an introvert, so this step was challenging. But, when you and everyone on your flight missed their connections and have to spend the night in the Subway restaurant in the San Francisco Airport, you bond with each other. And that’s a good thing, because you meet interesting people and the time goes by more quickly. Bonus: sometimes they buy you pastries.

Hong Kong Airport

4. If you’re lucky enough to be in a cool airport, walk around. Mainly, it helps to pass the time, but some airports make an effort to provide interesting spaces for travelers. For example, the San Francisco airport has a sort of sports hall of fame throughout the gates that people can check out.

Josh and Emily sleeping

5. Try to sleep. Unfortunately, sleep was not in the cards for me, but I know that I would have been much happier by the time I reached my final destination had I been able to get some shut eye. Luckily, I was arriving at home, but if you’re going to a new place, a lack of sleep will only add to your disorientation.

FTH wishes you safe travels during this holiday season!

-ERV

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So You’re Going on a Road Trip

That will be fun! But there are a few things you should keep in mind before hopping in the car and setting off on your adventure.

Like Adam and Josh, I also took a trip out West and learned some pretty valuable lessons. First, know your company. If you’re not traveling alone, know your limits with whomever you’re traveling with. It could get pretty awkward if someone loses their temper, as you’re stuck in a tight space together. You don’t have to talk the whole time; in fact, you’ll probably be sleeping a lot if you’re not driving, so bring some music or a book on tape to pass the time when you’re behind the wheel.

And speaking of sleep, if you’re like me, cars make you drowsy. It’s important to know when to pull over and take a break. Sometimes it’ll be easy to find a rest stop, but if you’re in the middle of nowhere (which frequently happens on road trips), pay attention to those signs on the road that tell you how many miles are left until the next opportunity to stop and evaluate just how alert you are.

Middle-of-Nowhere, Idaho

Middle-of-Nowhere, Idaho

Guess what? Road trips are expensive. Gas is pricey and the cost food, even fast food, accumulates rapidly. Bring snacks like almonds and fruit, and supplies for sandwiches so that you can make your own lunch at rest stops. Some are pretty nice and have scenic views.

Most importantly, remember to have a good time. If you notice something interesting, stop and check it out; you never know when you’re going to be back.

We stumbled onto a lava field in the middle of Oregon and decided to take a look.

We stumbled onto a lava field in the middle of Oregon and decided to take a look.

-ERV

Plans

I’m not a huge fan of surprises, good or bad. For this reason, I like to plan out my every move and try to have my ducks in a row before doing everything. But I’ve learned that trying to religiously stick to my plans is a mistake. One problem is that it is literally impossible to plan out ever scenario when traveling. Sure, you can bring an umbrella, extra money, and print out a detailed itinerary, but the chances of you encountering a snag in your plan are pretty good.

We walked for 2 hours to visit this place and then it was closed! - Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia in Manaus, Manaus

We walked for 2 hours to visit this place and then it was closed! – Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia in Manaus, Manaus

And when your plans become muddled, it’s good to realize that wandering around aimlessly in a foreign city can actually be a lot of fun. Keep in mind things that most cities have: markets, parks, museums, religious centers, government buildings. If you wander around long enough, you’ll find something fun and interesting to do, something that you had no idea existed.

Long exposure of a party

While in Japan we randomly came across this cherry blossom party of university students on a small island in the middle of a river – Kyoto, Japan

So when you’re traveling abroad, try to live in the moment and don’t try to plan every little detail of your trip.

-ERV

On Transportation

When traveling within a country, it’s important to remember that there are almost always a few different ways to get to where you’re going. If you’re in a city, there are probably cabs, trains, and maybe busses. In a more rural area, you might have to be a little creative–sometimes you can rent bikes or travel via van. Just getting from place to place gets expensive quickly, so it’s important to plan your budget accordingly.

Bike riders crossing bridge

Bike riders – Mekong Delta, Vietnam

There’s nothing wrong with exclusively taking cabs, but it can be costly. In some places, cabs aren’t metered; rather, you and the driver are supposed to arrange a price (through haggling) before the trip. Make sure you know the customs before you arrive.

Numerous taxis driving

Taxis – Hong Kong

I’m a strong advocate of public transport because of the low cost. It can be a little bit daunting to walk into a crowded train station and get a ticket when there’s no signage in English, but chances are, you’ll figure it out. You’re resourceful, after all. Another bonus of traveling this way is that you get more than a tourist’s perspective of wherever you are.

Josh and Emily looking at a map

Josh and me figuring out a subway map – Kyoto, Japan

But remember, the most important thing is often your comfort level. If you sense that you may be in a shady part of town, or it’s late at night, and you just need to get somewhere without hassle, a cab may be best for you.

-ERV

Travel Essentials, Part II: Emily

There are a few things I don’t leave the country without, but apart from my passport and some money, I can’t travel without my headlamp.

Headlamp

Although I wouldn’t classify myself as an “adventurer”, I’ve found quite a lot of uses for this nifty device. Whether you’re trying to find something you’ve dropped in a dark space, or you’re experiencing a power-outage, a hands-free light is always useful.

-ERV

The Art of Bargaining

Bargaining1

One of the first things you learn when traveling outside of the U.S. is that many places expect bargaining for goods and services. The first time I encountered this system was in Ghana, and even though I had been warned not to take anything for the asking price, I found it awkward and uncomfortable to offer a price of my own. Even so, I had to remember that bargaining is just a part of the sell, so I tried it out. It didn’t go very well the first few times because I was not very confident. But as I became used to offering a lower price throughout my travels, I began to feel more comfortable and I had some fun with it.

Here are some tips:

  • Offer a price way lower than what you want for the item. That seems obvious, but you could find yourself paying way too much for something because you like it so much.
  • Try offering a half, or even a third, of the price the vendor tells you.
  • Be confident; it’s expected that you bargain, so don’t feel bad.
  • Make sure you know the countries standard practices. In Ghana, for example, you should bargain down to below half the asking price, but in Vietnam 20% off is a good deal.
  • Even if you are happy paying full price you should bargain down a little. If you don’t, the vendor will expect other travelers to pay full price as well and you hurt future travelers.
  • If none of the above get you the price you want, walk away. One of two things will happen: you’ll find the same item from another vendor who will give it to you for a lower price, or the vendor will follow you and make the sale.
  • You almost never bargain on the cost of food, and usually reserve bargaining to street vendors and not large established stores.

In the end the price of a souvenir is up to you, if you are comfortable with the price you paid then it doesn’t matter if you were over charged because you are happy with the purchase.  So go out there and bargain.

-ERV