Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Recollections of My Travel (Mis)Adventures

I received a group email a few weeks ago from a friend who is going on a U.S. vacation with her hubby and three kids. The topic was how many luggage to bring for a three week trip. "One big and one small?" she asked one friend who has taken the trip last year. I couldn't help but join in the email discussion thread because, really, one big and one small luggage for the entire family of five?!? That's what my family bring to the beach!

Although I have almost mastered the art of packing for my family of five, the science of traveling light doesn't really make sense to me. When I was much younger (and foolishly vain!), I needed to bring along two suitcases to cover the different pairs of shoes and bags and accessories...

Now that I am a mom, packing (almost) everything means that I feel comfortable and relaxed throughout the course of the vacation, knowing that I have everything my kids need. More so now that I have someone to carry all those heavy suitcases for me. :)

My predilection for carrying everything in my luggage aside, I have fond memories of my travels...
I was fourteen when I went on my first solo trip overseas, to Japan for a 2-week stay with a Japanese family. I recall packing my suitcase by myself, and being young (and foolish, may I rightfully add), the only fundamental packing rule for me was to plan my outfits thoroughly, making sure they were coordinated day by day, leaving the other more important essentials forgotten. It was in the tail end of winter, the weather in Japan when I landed hovered from a high of 8 degrees Celsius to a low of 4 degrees. Not used to that kind of chilly weather, my dry skin, which unfortunately, has not felt the benefit of a moisturizer in years, dried out and erupted in scaly patches that were so itchy and lasted for days. The sensation was a discomfort such as it is and the experience a very miserable one, that on every subsequent trip after that I never fail to include a bottle of lotion in my suitcase.

After a year or two, I went on my first transpacific trip mainland US with a youth tour group. I cannot remember anything from this trip that stood out in my memory so it would be safe to assume everything turned out right.

A few trips within Asia added some more traveling experience that by the time I was in my late teens, my parents deemed me experienced enough to let me travel to the United States on my own, with only my sister, who was a year younger, for company. Never changing, my foremost consideration when packing was to look fashionable. No Pain For The Vain. And so into the suitcase went my ankle boots with heels this high, and as an alternate, I brought a strappy heeled sandal, just in case the boots would give me a problem (I recklessly thought to myself). I walked up and down the streets of New Orleans, and explored the vibrant night life of the French Quarters. There were a few remnants of festivities as the merriment of Mardi Gras has just wrapped up only a few days before. By the time I reached our next stop, New York, my poor blistered feet were so abused they couldn’t afford one more stride. Petrified that I lost all sensation in my toes, I finally had to accept defeat and face humiliation as I went in the nearest Nike store and bought for myself a pair of sports sandals. It took a few days before the numbness in my toes went away. I wore these sandals everyday upto the last day of the trip. After that, I swore off heels when traveling.

Right after graduating from university and left with nothing better to do, my parents sent me off to Australia for a couple of weeks. I stayed in this wonderful serviced apartment that was walking distance from Bondi Beach. As a girl from the tropics, when I hear the word "beach" it is almost synonymous with scorching sun and very warm weather. There's only one way I know to dress for that: long sleeved shirt, shorts, and sandals. If you must know, it was in between seasons when I was there. It was not really winter but not quite spring yet. This was not a problem during the day for even as it is too chilly for a dip in the ocean, it is warm enough to stroll along the beach. Come dinner time, I was freezing to death as the open water brought some chilly winds to the seaside Italian restaurant located near the shore where my friends and I were having dinner. It wasn't long till I literally heard my teeth chattering and knees nobbling from the cold. True Story.

Fashion mishaps aside, I have quite a few travel peculiarities. For instance, the first thing I do when I get to my hotel room is to clean the toilet. I am very detailed and thorough with this. First I spray it with alcohol, and then wipe it down with soap using a towel and rinse it off with very hot water. Only then will I be comfortable enough to seat on it. I always bring my own slippers to use inside the hotel room, even if some hotels provide disposable ones. I always bring my own bath towels, too.

Travel peculiarities are no stranger in my family as I have one sister who wouldn’t lie down on a bed with her feet facing a mirror. A silly superstition she believes in which I never knew the origin of. She would always change beds with one of us whenever the bed assigned to her was facing one. I remember we all had a good and long laugh when our hotel in Vegas had one side all covered with mirrors. She found a way out of that one by sleeping with her feet facing the headboard. :)

Image credits:   simple tess and eliselovesprada