The No Repeat Rule

I have a very strict “no repeat” rule when it comes to travel. My travel to-do list is ridiculously long and even with my generous (by American standards) vacation time, it’s just not enough. Also, traveling is expensive. I like a mid-range budget holiday, not $50/day and not $500/day. But having the flexibility of splurging on that one “thing” i want to do or experience (hello, dog sledding!?!) is important to me. To be blunt, I have a hard time spending cash to go someplace that i’ve already been.

Recently, in the throw’s of planning a big trip, it’s been suggested that i need to “go back” to certain vacation destinations for a redux. Specifically South Africa so i could pursue my new found desire to cage dive with sharks. I wish i had thought of this 8 years ago when i was there. But i didn’t.

After i argued my case, i shut up long enough to hear my friend out. His point was, having been somewhere once you know what to expect and it becomes more fun. I see where he’s going but i don’t buy it. Once you’ve been somewhere, you are trying to “re-live” the first experiences. To make them as unique and novel as the first time. Or you are retracing your steps, not going to new places but instead spending your day trying to find that one coffee shop in Paris. Sorry, not for me. Why? See my first paragraph.

Yes, when i go somewhere it’s pretty much “all in.” I’m constantly on the go and it’s not necessarily a vacation where i sleep all day. I’ll sleep when i’m dead. But that’s what i love and that’s what refreshes me personally. I find it exhilarating to explore new cultures, places. That’s the adventure in travel.

I will say i have one exception to this rule: India. India was my first experience in Asia. Boy was i not ready. We hit a bit of turbulence (aka, major riots between tribes in Northern India) and as a result spent a week in Rajasthan. It’s an interesting city but the shops and sites were all closed while we were there. Everyone had to protest and fight. Limited site seeing options and entertainment can put a sour note on your trip. Another unexpected drawback of the insurgence: the highway that gets you to Agra was shut down. So, i flew all the way to India and didn’t get remotely close to the Taj Mahal. My biggest travel disappointment and regret in one vacation. So there you have it. The one clause to my no repeat rule.

As i mentioned, the conversation came up because i’ve been trying to plan a big trip for 2013. Just agreeing on the destination has been a major, major headache. It’s even more frustrating when people try to help by suggesting we go back to certain plans like Italy (2008), South Africa (2004), Iceland, (2010). The planning has, as a result, been slow and arduous. More on that in an upcoming post. Rest assured, it will be a no repeat vacation.

Preventing Jet Lag

Preventing Jet Lag

Scientific American, a magazine i admittedly do not read religiously, published an article about avoiding jet lag. The piece tells you to seek and avoid light during certain times of the day to essentially reset your bodies circadian rhythm. If you are pressed for time (aren’t we all), this sounds like a lot of extra work.

My jet lag solution? Plan smart. Your first day “in country” should be low key. Take in a few select sights and don’t plan strenuous activities. Drinking lots of water helps, too. By day two, you should feel ready for some adventures.

What’s your solution to tackling jet lag?

Roadtripping.

The distance between Washington DC and Southern Maine can be anywhere from eight hours to 12 hours in a car. After seven years of driving from point a to b, i can say there is no way to predict how long the drive will take you. The variables are too great. Whatever the house deals, you take.

These are my canine companions. Yes, they are Mutt and Jeff, big and small. Even friendly and vicious. Luckily, they are pretty good travelers and are not prone to car sickness.

With this motley crew, how do we manage the trek or any road trips? I have picked up a few driving survival techniques that are critical. Especially when you travel with four-legged friends.

Keep in mind, my techniques may or may not be applied to traveling with children. They also assume you’ve had your car tuned up (aka checked the tire pressure, fluids, etc.) recently.

Pre-road trip, a big success factor is a log walk. It does mean getting up super early, or getting right with it and leaving later than you want. But, it’s good for the dogs, especially older ones like mine. It’s also good for the humans. You get some light exercise and fresh air. Psychologically this could be the difference between keeping or loosing your sanity on the Mass Pike six hours later. My other road tripping success factors include:

1. Stay off I-95. It’s always a cluster. My preferred route: 50-295-895-95-NJ Turnpike-Lincoln Tunnel-West Side Highway-Henry Hudson-Merritt Parkway-91-84-Mass Pike-290-495-95 and to your destination. You can debate the logic of traveling through NYC all you want. If you have never driven from the District to New England, you don’t get it. Anyone who has, knows this route is golden. There are (relatively) fewer cars, better rest stops for dogs (and humans), nice scenery and fewer cars.

2. Pack a bag. Of snacks, of course! Inevitably, you won’t be hungry when you are at an actual “rest stop.” If you are hungry, the other inevitable is that you won’t want the fast food du jour. A snack bag is important if you have a special diet (dairy free, gluten-free) or if you are calorie conscious. My snack bag always includes a few treats -in moderation- so i have something to look forward too. My favorites include:

  • A pre-made sandwich
  • Green apples
  • Combos (my guilty pleasure) or a vegan cookie
  • Turkey slices or chunks for the little ones

3. Water bottles. One for the humans and one for the dogs. Sometimes, they just want a drink. A strategically placed water bottle can help address this so you don’t have to pull over. Instead, have your passenger pour a little into a tiny water bowl. If your dogs can and will drink out of the bottle, let them. It may sound gross but it’s their water bottle. And it’s less messy.

4. EZPass. Who wants to be scrapping around for quarters and dollar bills while in those ridiculously long lines? Even your pets want to zip through the toll lines. Stopping and starting disrupts their sleep and gets them fired up. Mine have even been known to bark at toll collectors. Enough said.

5. Music, books. Sometimes (i’m talking about you, Northern Connecticut), the radio stations are few and far between. It helps to have some good music or an audio book loaded up and ready to go. My current favorite is the podcast the Bugle. It’s very entertaining.

I’m also a firm believer in a quick stop at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store. When you are almost at your destination, it’s motivating to know a bottle of wine is waiting to help you celebrate your arrival.

Cheers to your next road trip!

Travel Contests. Or, when your worlds collide.

Travel Contests. Or, When Your Worlds Collide.

 

At work earlier this week, i was catching up on reading when i stumbled across an article about Travelocity’s $65,000 Round-the-World contest. 

At first blush, this sounds amazing. There are, of course, some caveats. For example, you have to be adventurous. You also have to have a companion who is equally adventurous. Right away, i am out. I have no friends who would willingly go away with me without having a clue what the travel itinerary is. But, i still think the concept behind the contest is a good one.

Until i got to this part: “to enter you need to create a video, no more than 60 seconds in length, basically describing why you deserve to be nabbed and whisked away on this $65K trip.”

And, just like that –BOOM– my day job and my passion have collided. Allow me to explain. 

I work in marketing and communications. Over the years, many clients have done consumer contests. Contests are expensive, people. It’s not just the prize. You have to draft rules, you have to promote the contest, you to review the entries, you almost always have to justify the winning entry… the of what goes into a contest is pretty long.

When you work in this industry, contests end up being frustrating for two reasons. Clients pay a TON of money to put a contest together, Inevitably, they are almost always disappointed with either the low participation rate or low media coverage promoting the contest. 

Recently, i have seen a more than one really good travel contest. And i’m stunned that bloggers are surprised by the low participation but they still make the bar pretty high for entry. 

Even if you can get a lot of media attention, it is still incredibly difficult to get people to enter. 

At work earlier this week, i was catching up on reading when i stumbled across an article about Travelocity’s $65,000 Round-the-World contest.

At first blush, this sounds amazing. There are, of course, some caveats. For example, you have to be adventurous. You also have to have a companion who is equally adventurous. Right away, i am out. I have no friends who would willingly go away with me without having a clue what the travel itinerary is. But, i still think the concept behind the contest is a good one.

Until i got to this part: “to enter you need to create a video, no more than 60 seconds in length, basically describing why you deserve to be nabbed and whisked away on this $65K trip.”

And, just like that –BOOM– my day job and my passion have collided. Allow me to explain.

I work in marketing and communications. Over the years, many clients have done consumer contests. Contests are expensive, people. It’s not just the prize. You have to draft rules, you have to promote the contest, you to review the entries, you almost always have to justify the winning entry… the list of what goes into a contest is pretty long.

When you work in this industry, contests end up being frustrating for two reasons. Clients pay a TON of money to put a contest together, Inevitably, they are disappointed with either the low participation rate or low media coverage promoting the contest. I know this frustration stems beyond clients at associations or organizations. A few of the bloggers i follow have recently commented on low participation rates for contests they’ve held.

Here’s the deal. Contests have to be constructed to be outrageously simple if you want people to participate. I understand why Travelocity wants videos. They are getting tons of free digital content. But the thing is, you are asking too much from me. I work 60+ hours. When i am not working, I take care of a household, try to exercise and try desperately to stay engaged with four nieces and nephew when i’m not working. (oh, yeah, and i TRY to sneak in some blogging about my love of traveling.) I’m sorry, as much as i am DYING to enter this contest, the bar is just too high. I’m not giving up more in life than i already have.

If you are ever in a position to create a contest, please take this advice seriously. It’s not meant to be mean-spirited. It comes from 15+ years of marketing experience. If you want participation, keep it simple!

I’m confident that some would argue, i’m just not interested enough. That’s a fair point of view, certainly. Maybe i am not. But i do know that i have mistakenly thought i could conquer the world. The result is a disaster and i wind up feeling like a failure. I just can’t do that to myself. over a contest.

So, if you are more creative, inspired and motivated than i am good luck! In fact, i would love to see your video submissions. Feel free to send them my way!

FYI: http://gnomenabbed.travelocity.com/ For more contest details. Good luck!

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with Travelocity or this contest. These thoughts are my own. (Since i mentioned a career in marketing, i figured i better through this in)

The problem with bucket lists.

Bucket lists. Life lists. Wish lists. To-do lists. No matter what you call it, we all have a list of things we want to accomplish in life. Some people are more direct and say “things i will do before i die” and others are more general, “things i aspire to do.”

I have a list. It doesn’t have a name. It’s just a running list of places i want to visit and things i want to do. Every year it changes based on finances and my threshold for adventure. What’s on my list right now?

  • Swim with sharks.
  • Climb Kilimanjaro.
  • Visit the lost city of Petra.
  • Go to Argentina. (there is a sub-list of 5-10 things here)

Last year’s list was hike the Inca Trial (mission=accomplished). Somewhere in the top 25 items on my list has always been to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I have no idea how this one popped up on my list. But, it’s there. And with it is also a romantic vision of my walk. It includes no other tourists or pedestrians, sunny, warm weather, beautiful views capped off with solitude and maybe even some time for personal reflection. Oh, and since i’ve done all this walking, it also includes pizza in Brooklyn. (Yum!!) I pictured something a bit like this (picture courtesy of Observer.com):

And this is where i have a problem with life lists. Because i have wanted to take this walk for such a long time, my mind has created this alternate reality of what it will be like. I am old enough to know this alternate reality can’t happen but i still cling to it.

So when a friend gamely agreed to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge on sunny day i was thrilled. Pizza, sunny, warm weather, photos. Not necessarily solitude but time with my best friend. All of this would be great! A dream realized! In case you hadn’t already guessed, it was NOTHING like this romanticized vision I created. It’s overly dramatic to call it a nightmare. The bridge was just completely packed. People were everyone. Cyclists were literally yelling at the walkers. They were also doing construction. Instead of seeing the views, we saw lots of aluminum scaffolding. Not even 1/4 of the way across, my friend was tired and cranky. We were so not getting any further.

In case you are curious, this was “my Brooklyn Bridge” experience:

Brooklyn Bridge. 2012.

Here’s to having an original idea in New York City. Snarky comments aside, my issue with lists is that we spend so much time hyping up a dream or wish list that we completely forget to stop and enjoy the moment. That’s the point of having an adventure. You have to stop worrying about what went wrong, what’s not exactly the way you planned so you can just relish the present.  This trip was a reminder of that. I was too busy being annoyed about all that went wrong to enjoy the time i had with my friend. Total bummer.