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Lessons I Learned While Traveling, by Kaaryn
Lesson Learned: Hold onto your camera.
About two weeks after my arrival in Europe disaster struck. While hiking
in Scotland (part of a MacBackpackers tour) I put my camera in the pocket of my
trousers. About 10 minutes later I reached for my camera and it was gone. I
thought back and I vaguely remembered hearing a sound that could have been my
camera dropping. I retraced my steps but no sign of my camera was in evidence.
Finding a small gray camera on a mountain/hill full of small gray rocks is
impossible. The whole tour group helped me look, but no trace of it was found.
May a nice sheep eventually found it. MacBackpackers kindly bought me a
disposable camera to use until we got back to Edinburgh. Once back in
Edinburgh I purchased a pretty good camera for £99. My new camera had a wrist
Lesson Learned: Never arrive in a big city on a
weekend without a reservation!
Several weeks into my trip, I took a ferry to Dublin. I arrived on a
Friday without reservations. Up to this point, not having a reservation was not
really an issue since I was traveling in the off season. I walked from the bus
station to the hostel I thought sounded like like a good choice. It was quite a
distance from the station and when I arrived they told me no rooms were
available. Picture turning up in a city that big just to find out the
hostels/hotels were all full as you arrived in the area.
I was very frustrated, as you can imagine. I had been up all night on a ferry and had
just walked nearly a mile only to find "no room at the inn" --literally!
I consulted my Lonely Planet map of Dublin and headed toward the Tourist
Information Center. Luckily, it wasn't too far away. After standing in line for
about 15 minutes, a nice lady called up a reasonably priced hostel for me and
booked my bed. She gave me a map and directions on how to get to the hostel.
Here is the ironic part. Jacob's Inn, the hostel where she booked my bed, was
mere feet away from the bus station where I had originally arrived in Dublin.
Arrgh! All that walking for nothing--well, maybe not all was in vain, I had
learned my lesson.
Tourist Information Offices can save your butt when you are unprepared.
Later on in my trip I decided to go to Lyme Regis, England (site of
novel The French Lieutenant's Woman). My guide book mentioned no hostels,
so I went to the Tourist Information Center and asked them to find me the
cheapest accommodation available. For a mere 15 pounds, I stayed in a quaint bed
and breakfast fun by an Australian couple. I got a full breakfast and a private
room (even had tv with remote and more importantly no bunk beds) for only a
couple more pounds than my typical night at a hostel in other cities in England!
Sure I didn't meet any other young people while here, but it sure was a nice
change of pace.
Lesson Learned: It's a
small world, you never know who you'll bump into.
After Lyme Regis, I decided to altar my itinerary and head further south
to Cornwall--Penzance to be exact. During my journey by train, I met an older
English lady and had a nice conversation with her. She asked where in America I
was from and I told her I was from Texas. To my surprise she told me she was
originally from Texas too! Wow. I sure couldn't tell by her accent, which
sounded completely British to my ears. She told me when she was 18 she came to
visit relatives in England for the summer. She met her future husband during her
visit and made England her home. Turned out she was going to Penzance too and
said her son would have her son give me a ride to my hostel. Now maybe it wasn't
the wisest course of action on my part, but I accepted her offer. My instincts
said she was safe, but instincts can be wrong sometimes--luckily I was right
about her. When she told her son he was going to give me ride, he looked a bit
skeptical but took me to my hostel. I arrived safe and sound.
Learned: The kindness of strangers in a big city can come unexpectedly, but
beware of the price you might have to pay.
Seven weeks into my trip, I arrived in Paris. I had been on a night bus
from London for many hours (there had been an accident and the traffic delayed
our arrival time). Unfortunately for me, I cannot sleep sitting up, so I was
exhausted. My frustration increased when we arrived at the bus station and the
bathrooms required French Francs. Obviously I didn't have any and ATMs don't
spit out coins, so I was screwed.
to quickly find a hostel, I set out. No hostels near the bus station this time.
I made my way to the Metro (subway system in Paris). I was completely brain dead
at this point and my years of high school and college French classes had
deserted me. I stood staring at the board showing the Metro routes. I had no
idea how to get to my hostel.
I must have
looked very pathetic and sad standing there with my heavy backpack on staring
blankly at the Metro board without comprehension, because a kind French business
man came up to me and asked in English if he could help me. Obviously, I was not
blending in with the locals at this point (the backpack marks you as a
tourist). He not only called my hostel for me to make sure there was space
for me but he also helped me buy some metro tickets and wrote out in English the
route I should take on the Metro to get to the hostel. My savior!
course nothing in life is free. He wanted to meet me at my hostel later that
evening. I agreed, knowing there was no way I would go anywhere with a man I
didn't know. I accepted his help, thanked him--but a thank you was all he was
going to receive for his efforts. I'm not completely crazy (only a little bit).
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