Plan as you might, whether between cities, countries, or continents, transit days are tiring and stressful. Some trips are harder than others of course, but in foreign countries almost all trips are demanding.
The old adage “The world’s getting smaller every day,” has been true for decades and will be for the foreseeable future. Why? Look no further than the explosive growth of the airline industry. Face it, on a planet that’s 70% water there’s no avoiding planes. And don’t get me wrong, the lion’s share of my travel has been on planes, and I wouldn’t have missed any of it. But honestly, plane travel has gotten to be a real pain in the butt – literally.
With added security and varying degrees of inspection diligence, it’s impossible to know what to expect going through an airport. Do you need shoes and belt on or off, computer gear in or out of the bag, travel docs accessible or not? Does a beeping metal detector mean the full-body scan, pat-down, or both? And you do NOT want “The Shakedown.” If you’ve had the misfortune, you know what a nuisance it is. It’s happened to both of us many times, but Terri was the most recent recipient. On our trip to Amman, Jordan she had a major dump-the-entire-bag search. By the end of the thorough inspection the surly and scrupulous guards had found and confiscated that old terrorist standby, her mini-umbrella.
My other plane-travel bugaboo is cramped seats. I’m over 6 feet tall and you don’t want to get me started on this. Everyone among us, except the Munchkins, complains about it, so I don’t need to belabor the point. Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, the airlines come up with another knee-crunching, sardine-seat idea.
This drawing was attached to an Airbus patent application, and I’m not making this up. It’s called “parallelepipedal seating” which in English translates into “more bodies on board no matter how squeezed and uncomfortable they are.” Puh-leze! The sadistic designer probably got a bonus for this ingenious torture device, and be afraid, be very afraid. It may be coming to a plane near you.
Point A to point B bus trips aren’t so bad, except for the smoking/non-smoking deal, hard seats that only recline or don’t recline at all, and the important question of WC breaks. Just in case our bladder capacity doesn’t coincide with that of the driver, before most bus trips Terri and I put in place our LMP: a strict liquids management protocol.
If the bus has multiple destinations, then the dynamic changes. Having missed a few stops in the past, I can say that given unknown roads, language difficulties, and indifferent drivers, it isn’t always obvious when you reach your destination. If the window placard says this, Нови Сад, instead of this, Novi Sad, you could be in trouble.
Of the three methods, trains are usually the least hassle, and the most comfortable. We’ve written about our love of train travel in the past. There are no security checks (Yippee!), you can get drinks and snacks in the station to enjoy on the train, and there are toilets onboard. Locate the right platform, train, and carriage; grab a seat; and just kick back and relax.
Also, one universal truth we’ve found about rail systems worldwide is that stations are clearly marked. So assuming you’re awake, there’s a much higher likelihood of actually reaching your destination. But don’t dilly-dally getting off because normally, the train rolls out quickly. On our last trip we saw a couple juggling too much luggage, miss their stop. Ouch!
Sri Lanka added an entirely new category to our transit file – Tuk-Tuks (pronounced “took-tooks”). Transport doesn’t get more practical and fun than this, and we loved it. But like everywhere else in the world, the drivers see tourists as marks. We were in search of a Buddhist Temple that just wasn’t where it was supposed to be, or more precisely, we weren’t where we were supposed to be. Finally giving up, we hailed one of Colombo’s smokey, noisy and colorful tuk-tuks. We agreed what I thought was a budget-friendly price of 50 rupees, about 50 cents. We hopped aboard, the driver gunned it and off we went. About 100 yards later, we pulled up in front of the temple!
The bottom line is that you can’t travel without … well traveling. It’s an inextricable part of the package. Over the years we’ve learned what makes us nuts, and tried to change our approaches or develop coping strategies. A post on the rigors of travel might have you wondering why we travel so much. Believe me, there have been some trips where we wonder ourselves. But after a good night’s rest we wake up in a new and exciting place, and we’re pumped to explore. The wonders we discover, and the priceless experiences recharge our batteries, so on the next leg we can grin and bear it.
1. Antonio Zugaldia Wikimedia Commons
2. RIA Novosti via Wikimedia Commons
6. Kabelleger / David Gubler via Wikimedia Commons
10. Geoff Gallice via Wikimedia Commons