About the Author

This section has been “under preparation” for so long it risks not even being ready for use as an obituary. I can’t believe how difficult it is to string a few words together to summarise my reasons for writing this blog and, as for introducing myself in a hundred words or less? Forget it. Let’s just sum me up with two words:

GLOBETROTTING GRANDMOTHER

and then get onto something more interesting:

WELL MEANT TRAVEL ADVICE

(from someone who has been to a lot of places and seen a lot of stuff)

1

Get the best that you can out of every travel opportunity that comes along. It may not be your ideal way of visiting a destination to be travelling with young children or an elderly relative, making a business or academic trip, attending a wedding or a funeral but you are actually going to be there and we never know – there may not be another chance.

2

Try to take up every genuine invitation that is extended to you to visit people in another country, particularly one that you have never been to before. Staying with the locals will give you a completely different insight and personal recommendations for local sightseeing destinations are often the best. I try to have a back-up plan if I’m visiting someone I don’t know very well, make sure I don’t outstay my welcome and remember that even if I can’t offer hospitality in return I can always try to be a considerate guest.

3

Read up as much as you can before you set off. We’ve probably all been so hard pressed with other obligations that we haven’t even bought a guide book until we get to the airport lounge but there’s no excuse for going straight for the restaurant section and leaving the history and culture chapters unopened. Also, a few post-it notes stuck in at strategic places can look really cool.

4

Read even more about the country after you come back, even if it is only looking things up while you are trying to get the photos sorted out into some semblance of order. I find that this helps to prevent “destination fatigue” where all the sights and experiences start melting into one another. It may also give you the opportunity to challenge someone who expresses a prejudiced opinion about a place that they have never visited. And we’ve all met plenty of them.

5

And on the subject of photos: you went to a lot of trouble to get them so do label them, back them up and look at them from time to time. Those precious few friends who ask to see your pictures and actually mean it should be cherished like gold dust. They deserve to have the subject matter correctly identified and the blurred pictures edited out.

6

Don’t make the mistake of equating the amount of money spent with the quality of experience generated. The glossier the brochure and the whiter the tour guide’s smile, the more you are paying them to minimise the time spent at the historical sites and maximise the time spent souvenir shopping. That said, sometimes even the most frugal traveller has to say “What the hell! I’m here now, I’m not going to miss this.” It helps that my souvenir shelves were all filled up long ago.

7

Please don’t think that you have ever “done” a foreign country. You haven’t. I worked in Central London for thirty years but know that there is always more to learn about it so I’m not best pleased when someone tells me how they “did” my city on a five day visit some ten years back. Hinduism is five thousand years old and, while some people find that their digestion doesn’t take to India and decide never to return, others find more opportunities for new experience than they can fit into a lifetime.

8

Please don’t think that you can leave “easy” Europe for when you are older (you’d be surprised how often I’ve heard that one). (a) You won’t be able to afford it. (b) Your hips and knees won’t get you around all those cobbled streets and cathedral piazzas. And (c) your brain won’t be able to cope with all that information and cultural overload.

9

Make sure you don’t overlook the sightseeing opportunities nearer to home. If nothing else, it stops you from feeling really silly when a stranger from the other side of the world points out something important you didn’t know about your own country. I’ve found plenty of opportunities to see British destinations out of season (when they are often at their best) and have had more time to talk to local people involved in conservation and research.

10

It’s OK to play the “I’ve been there too” game with other inveterate travellers that you meet in exotic parts of the world but do try to listen as much as you boast. There are some real nuggets of good information in all that blather, even if it is only to help you decide which places to avoid in future.

11

However tempting it is to give voice to your frustrations and dislike of some of the local customs please remember that other people live there. I blush to think of the number of times that I have expressed an opinion too loudly and, although it’s yet to have actually got me arrested, it has quite likely on occasion given offence. This is someone else’s home, after all.

12

Travelling does not necessarily equate with taking a holiday. I no longer berate myself for coming back from an extended trip feeling exhausted or looking forward to a period without any commitments. I have even found myself standing half way up a mountain on the other side of the world wishing I was walking my dog around the local park. But then, when I’m walking the dog at home I may just as easily be planning the next trip.

13

Don’t be surprised if, as you see more of the world for yourself, you find you enjoy reading travel writers less and less. Some of them are pompous asses.

14

There are unlikely to be any astonishing revelations along the way, after all you are taking yourself along as a travel companion and that means a lot of baggage. Travel hasn’t changed me or made me a more profound person, it just makes the space that I occupy within my own head marginally more interesting.

15

Whatever problems you are leaving at home, they will still be there when you get back

7 Comments

  • Chris says:

    So you still steadfastly deny having a “list” do you?

  • Nicola says:

    If I do then it’s adaptable.

    When I first retired there were certainly places such as the Grand Canyon and the Great Wall that I positively ached to visit but over the last few years I’ve learned how much more fulfilling a quiet and unexpected destination can be.

    I’ve discovered for myself just how irksome it can be to negotiate the hoards of souvenir vendors and rub shoulders with half a million other bucket listers, to say nothing of the rip off potential – I was asked for $50 for a fridge magnet at Abu Simbel, I won’t forget that in a hurry.

    At the rate the visitors are flocking in, will we EVER be able to enjoy Barcelona’s Sagreda Familia in the respectful atmosphere that it deserves? No, of course not, but fortunately there are tens of thousands of other cathedrals in Europe, some exquisitely beautiful and many of them featuring in no-one’s special list at all. .

  • ET says:

    Well put, Nicola and right on the mark! Except, perhaps leaving Europe for later. I am one of those… ;-) ET

  • nicolaainsworth says:

    Yes, but you ARE European and you travelled around your home continent a lot when you were younger so you have a frame of reference. The comment about COST still applies though, even your brief stop overs of recent years will have warned you of that.

  • Jane says:

    Hi, there!

    I’m Jane and am an avid reader and blogger, a passion which I think we share. I’ve been writing contents on the web professionally since 2010. I share my experience through articles on Travel, Culture, History, Lifestyle and many more.

    Your blog “nicolaainsworth.com” is probably one of the most interesting ones I’ve seen recently and with due reason. I was wondering if I could do a guest post for your blog.

    I would like to write on “Must Explore Natural wonders in Australia” or any other suggested topic for your blog.

    It would be an honor to see my article published on your site.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Regards,
    Jane Roberts.

  • nicola says:

    Thank you Jane, I’m sure that yours is a genuine request. I will only accept guest posts from family and close friends and then only rarely so my site would not be a suitable platform for you. Good luck with your writing and I hope to be able to read all about the Aussie Outback when you find the right website – or better still – create your own. best, Nicola

  • Anne says:

    I have really enjoyed reading your articles especially about the recent trip in Africa. I will read others to give us inspiration for our future venues. The item about Johannesburg was particularly interesting as Michael has a cousin living there.

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