Travel is supposed to be enlightening and enriching. Some of the lessons of our recent Spain trip are not so much about what we saw but the way we travel now.
When we travelled in our 20’s, any old dump would do for the night. Our sandalled feet could walk miles without complaint and good food meant wine, bread and cheese eaten along a river bank and there was always one more sight we needed to see.
On this last trip, we learned a few things that we’ll try to remember before our next travels and they may help you out, too.
1. End your trip someplace restful. After running around for two weeks seeing all the sights of northern and southern spain, we were thrilled to land in San Sebastian where a gorgeous beach, great pinxtos and other food and a mellow vibe gave us a chance to relax and let all our experiences “set” before reality intrudes.
2. Drink water all day long if you are going to hot climates. Coffee, alcohol and coke are not alternatives. We both had UT issues during our trip due to dehydration (if you don’t know what that is, don’t ask) from too much heat and too little water.
3. We didn’t stay in any 4 star hotels but we did choose comfortable three star hotels or B&B’s . Tripadvisor was a great resource for finding rooms. Priceline was a good resource for larger cities…but you always risk getting a room too far from your destination. That happened to us in Seville this year and Venice two years ago but we also totally scored on a fancy hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome. If you really want to be downtown or specific neighborhood, Trip Advisor or another travel resource site is your best bet. If the locals take a siesta, make like a local. How is it possible that Europeans eat dinner at 11 p.m. and party all night? It’s because they take a nap in the afternoon or early evening. Don’t burn out and you’ll be ready to party all night like a local, too.
4. Don’t spend all your time shopping. You can do that online! Our friends and family are used to us bringing home loads of pix and little else. We travel with one carry on and one backpack apiece. There’s no room for gifts, there’s barely room for a few days of clothes. And when we run out? We do laundry. Doing laundry– or even finding a laundromat– is part of our experience of living like a local. Some of my best souvenirs are the little bottles of toiletries at hotels or unusual pebbles on a beach. They remind me of where I’ve been.
5. Eating standing up is one of the best ways to meet locals. I’ve raved in other posts about our tapas and pinxtos crawls through Seville and San Sebastian. But another benefit of this cuisine is that you mainly eat standing up! People thrown together at bar counters and tables start talking and before you know it, you’ve got the inside track on other local landmarks and insider favorites. And despite our abysmal Spanish, we are able to communicate across international borders to find our common humanity. We all gotta eat, right?
Where in the world are we going next? I’m pushing for Argentina and welcome ideas from my readers on where to go and what not to miss.
Finally, a shout out to the Gypsynesters. These nobluehairs are travelling non-stop now that their kids have flown the coop. They packed up their stuff, whittled down their needs and are blogging their way around the world. Their writings and merch sales are subsidizing their trip. Now, that’s brilliant.