5 things you should never travel without – and they don’t cost a penny

Have you got a favourite carry-on bag or trusted piece of travel kit? Do you always take a mains adapter or a corkscrew?

That’s great – these things are important and reassuring to have on your travels.

But here’s my alternative list of things you should never travel without. Best of all  – they don’t cost a penny.

At some point, your train will be late. Or your flight will be delayed. Or the museum will be closed. Or the line to get into the gallery will be enormous. Take a deep breath. This is part of what you came for – a chance to experience regular, day-to-day life in a different country.

Some of my most memorable experiences have been ‘mañana moments’ – hanging around, waiting for something to happen or somewhere to open.

A roadside fireplace meal in rural China, while waiting for the bus mechanic; an unplanned night in Bahrain because the flight was late; four days on a Sicilian island while storms grounded the ferry fleet. All of them could have been tiresome and annoying – each was filled with chance encounters and fascination.

An open mind
An open mind will get you further in your travels than an open wallet.

I just made that up (and feel free to quote it!), but I think it’s valid.

Be alert to every possibility. Say ‘yes’ and ‘why not’, not ‘no’ and ‘you must be kidding’. Try new things (OK, maybe not shark embryo). Do different stuff.

A few words in the local language
It’s true – a few words go a long way to opening doors, smoothing paths and finding your way. ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ in any language shouldn’t be beyond anyone – really, if you’re not prepared to learn ‘Thank you’, stay at home. And if you can manage ‘Can you pass me the soap dish’ and ‘Where is the bus shelter?’ (as I can, inexplicably, in Dutch and German respectively) then people smile and you’ll go far.

A sense of curiosity
What’s down that street? What can I see from the hill? Let’s see if that church is open. Is the North Sea really that cold…(apparently so).

The best finds are the unexpected ones, or those you have to work for. Serendipity, that’s what it’s all about.

Good manners
They do things differently in foreign countries. They just do. And while not all of those things might seem sensible or reasonable to you, that’s just how they do them, so you should follow suit. You’re a guest and a visitor, and while you’ll usually be given plenty of leeway if you genuinely didn’t know you were supposed to bow, or eat with a particular hand, or take your shoes off, there’s no call to ignore customs and upset people, just because it doesn’t seem right to you.

So –  how do you travel? What principles guide your wanderings? And what would you never leave home without?

Looking for more great Jules Told Me travel tips?
Doing your laundry on the road – I show you how to keep it clean
Finding a great local restaurant – not always easy, here’s how
Here’s how to read your guidebook – who knew you needed tips for that?


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