On being jealous of my younger self

wedding guest.jpgI was just chugging away, deep in my work the other morning, feeling happy and fulfilled, when I was tagged in an old photo on Facebook.

There I was, in a slightly blurry wedding group shot, not quite looking directly into the camera. Great hair (I’d had an elegant updo done at the salon), porcelain skin, thin arms, one chin. A brownish pink lipstick. Bright eyes. I am wearing an extremely pretty sleeveless dress in a wonderful pale yellow with blue flowers. I’m not quite smiling, and I’m looking elsewhere. I admit I’m curious as to what I might have been thinking – that half smile definitely looks a bit pasted on. It could be that this was the end of a long wedding photo session. I remember I had flown in early that morning. I know I was happy to be at the marriage of two amazing friends. I was happy to see Jeff, who I hadn’t seen for over a week.

The surge of jealousy that ran through me the other day was alarming. I wanted to look like that again. I pictured the lean, clean diet of salad, poached chicken and water I would have to live on.

But then I remembered who she was, what she was going through, what she hadn’t even been through yet.

She was extremely unhappy. The adjustment to working full time after university was rough. That was the second August that she wouldn’t be returning to school in September and she longed to be back in academia. Maybe not for the studies, but definitely for the lifestyle, flexible schedule and intelligent late-night conversations. Trying to find work without office experience in a new city that favoured Francophones had been difficult, so she ended up relying on her retail background to get a full-time job in a shoe store. A job she hated so much that she cried the whole way back to Ottawa the day after that wedding. It would be another year before she would be able to quit. She was embarrassed to work there, but it paid the bills. She was glad that she was nowhere near her hometown and Toronto, thankful that she wouldn’t have to run into more successful former classmates, or – horrors – have to sell them shoes.

She had already started to have anxiety issues, attacks that seized her throat in a vice-like grip, especially when she thought about money.

She ate like shit – fast food, candy, popcorn for dinner, and was deeply ashamed but couldn’t stop. Her high metabolism made it feel like a victimless crime, but she knew she should eat better anyway. Thankfully, she wasn’t much of a drinker – she didn’t like the way it made her feel.

She didn’t know how to cook. Or, at very least, not very well. And Jeff, studying for his degree in music, wasn’t home for dinner most nights anyway.

She dreamed of writing, but didn’t write. There is no written record of those years.

The only thing (she thought) she had going for her was what the mirror showed her. And let it be said, she did revel in it, just a little, in private. But she was also afraid to shine too brightly, for fear of being the centre of attention, for fear that other women wouldn’t like her, for fear of the unwanted male gaze. She wanted to be taken seriously and rarely was. Bold glasses helped a little. She even dyed her hair brown once, and thrilled in the temporary chestnut tones.

She started to shop a lot. Working next to a mall where she whiled away each lunch hour meant she knew all the clothes in her favourite stores, and could capitalize on sales. Still, she slipped into buying more than she could afford, rationalizing that she needed to dress properly for her job. Buying something would lift her spirits briefly. It became a spiral.

Her doctor’s diagnosis of depression was still months and months in the future. She thought it was just that she hated Ottawa, her job and lack of good friends. She was tired all the time. Moving closer to home in Toronto ended up being the watershed moment – she should be happy now, right? Why wasn’t she?

Cut to the present.

I wish so badly that I could go back in time and hug her. Tell her it’s all going to be ok. It’s going to take a while (maybe I won’t tell her how long, or that it’s going to get worse before it gets better) but things are going to get awesome, and be even more awesome because of hard work, patience and learning how to believe in myself. That while I do make an effort to look nice and take care of myself, my body is ultimately what carries my brain around, to paraphrase the late, great Carrie Fisher. I’m revelling in the creeping invisibility with an edgier look.

But god she was so pretty that day.

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My guide to boss travel: Step 6 – Your trip, your way

Edi Portobello Beach

Portobello Beach, Edinburgh. Yes, Edinburgh.

Relax.

Are you relaxed?

Good.

 

First, I’m going to lay down some truth. You’re not going to have fun 100% of the time.

Sometimes you’re going to be bored. Sometimes you’re going to be tired. Sometimes you’re going to have a headache. Sometimes you’re going to have a hangover. Sometimes things will go wrong. Sometimes you might disagree or argue with your travel mates. Sometimes, no matter how carefully you’ve picked good restaurants and cafes, you’re going to end up ‘hangry’ and eating at a fast food chain.

You might even have a bit of a meltdown. Mine were related to my anxiety issues and tended to be closely tied to the magnitude of what we were doing: how long I was planning the trip, how much it cost, how much I’d been looking forward to it, and whether I thought I’d ever make it back to that place again.

I don’t have them anymore since we’ve shifted our lives to England, and one reason was to make short, breezy trips much easier to take. But you’d better believe I had the mother of all meltdowns about 10 days after we moved here from Canada. ‘What did we just do?!?’

If you struggle to relax while travelling, I’ve got a few tips for that too.

My list of absolutions

  • It’s ok if you don’t like or want to taste that country’s must-try food or drink.
  • It’s ok to go off the beaten track. That’s how we once ended up at a chill pub overlooking Portobello Beach on a sunny day in Edinburgh instead of joining the crowds walking up the Royal Mile.
  • It’s ok to sleep in if you want.
  • It’s ok if you don’t see everything. Our first time in Paris coincided with a city-wide museum and gallery workers’ strike. It was a blessing in disguise – the weather was great, we wandered the streets, explored the parks and cathedrals and felt way less pressure.
  • It’s ok to set foot in McDonald’s. They have toilets, wifi, coffee and bottled water. I won’t notice if you end up getting a Big Mac too.
  • It’s ok to ride a hop-on-hop-off bus. I can’t think of an easier way to cover a lot of territory in a short time, get tons of interesting facts and find out which neighborhoods seem the coolest. They are great in huge cities. Not really necessary in smaller, more compact ones, obviously.

So worth it

  • Hire a professional tour guide, especially if you have a special interest.
  • Take the tours on offer at museums, galleries and cathedrals.
  • Take taxis.
  • Take public transit.
  • Ask for a quiet room.
  • If you’re heading straight to your hotel to store your luggage ahead of check-in, ask nicely if you can check in early. Might be possible on a slower day.
  • Ask locals for restaurant recommendations.
  • Duck into stores for toiletries and groceries – make your errands fascinating.
  • See what’s around that corner and get a little lost.
  • Use your hotel’s concierge if it has one, or
  • Ask the front desk for help with general stuff or quick recommendations.

It’s all about the timing

  • Find out when restaurants are actually serving food. Many places close their kitchens, if not shut down and lock up, between lunch and dinner.
  • Relatedly, do some research on what time most people eat dinner in that part of the world. It might be later than you’re used to in North America.
  • In Spain and Italy, many businesses observe siesta or riposo. Not much, if anything, will be open during that time in smaller towns. Best to stay poolside or take a nap yourself. It’s hot out.
  • Find out when attractions aren’t as busy – usually first thing in the morning or right before they close.

And that’s it! Be safe and have a wonderful holiday.

Previous posts in this series
My guide to boss travel: Introduction
My guide to boss travel: Step 1 – Deciding where to go, and when
My guide to boss travel: Step 2 – Who’s joining you?
My guide to boss travel: Step 3 – Time to dream
My guide to boss travel: Step 4 – Sorting out the boring stuff
My guide to boss travel: Step 5 – In transit

#myguidetobosstravel

 

Happy Yorkshire Day!

Ilkley Moor

It’s been almost two years since we arrived and fell in love with Yorkshire. Here are a few of my favourite things.

The countryside

All I can say is that the Dales seized me like a helpless infatuation when I first saw them and will not let me go. Partly I suppose, it is the exhilarating contrast between the high fells, with their endless views, and the relative lushness of the valley floors, with their clustered villages and green farms. – Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island

Trips out of Leeds, especially in a car, are hilly adventures of sweeping vistas, grazing sheep, drystone walls, and green fields separated by hedgerows, even if it’s just a cab ride to the local airport. Every time I go on a walk, my throat seizes up with happiness at the beauty that surrounds me, stirring something deep within. We are still scratching the surface on this one, working on finding walks that are do-able from rail stations and begging people to take us with them whenever possible.

The weather

I still have the same small bottle of sun cream I bought in spring 2016. This is a feature, not a bug. We do get sunny days here, made all the more special by their rareness, but the sky in the above photo is pretty typical. Nothing a good raincoat with a hood, a pocket umbrella and water resistant shoes can’t handle. Winters are green and gentle, spring arrives fitfully around February, and the mood becomes downright festive when the days start stretching out in their approach to summer solstice. I’ll take the trade-off of shorter winter days for being able to walk home at 10:30 pm in the late June dusk.

The people

‘Where are you from?’ is the question I now anticipate after I’ve greeted a shopkeeper, ordered something in a restaurant, or asked someone if I’m waiting for the correct train. Leeds doesn’t get very many international visitors, and people who choose to move here fascinate locals in a charming way that just doesn’t happen in more touristy places like York. Whether I’ve been making new friends at temp jobs, going to Meetup.com events or hanging out with musicians, everyone here is friendly, happy to answer questions, make recommendations and always up for a good chat. I might get the occasional dour taxi driver with interesting views on Canada’s French population or why London sucks, but hey life is life.

The accent(s)

For the rest of my days, I will always have a swell of affection when I hear a Yorkshire accent.

Just don’t ask me to speak Yorkshire. I can’t. Stop asking.

The food

Sorry to anyone who is somehow holding on to 1980s stereotypes of British food…it’s 2017 here too. I’m working on a post all about Leeds’ amazing food scene, but in the meantime, let Amy convince you to eat here.

The music

Jeff really should guest post this section, but in his absence I will say that people of all ages are devoted fans of, and actually go see, live jazz all year round, not just during the 10 days of the Toronto Jazz Festival.

The shopping

Ah, back on my native heath. Leeds is the centre of shopping nirvana in The North, but I often dub York, ‘Sex and the City meets Harry Potter’, for its streets filled with luxury brands displayed in diminutive medieval shop windows and hen parties chatting excitedly while drinking cosmopolitans and prosecco in pub gardens. I may be biased but I think the shopping is better still in Leeds, with everything from the recently opened branch of the department store John Lewis, to high-end stores in a stunning glass-roofed set of Victorian arcades aptly called Victoria Leeds, to normal stuff I can actually afford at Trinity. If you can think of it, and it’s in Britain, it’s probably in Leeds. The only exceptions that I have been able to determine so far are Uniqlo and Flying Tiger. Get on that, guys.

The village – Chapel Allerton

It’s probably more accurate to call Chapel Allerton an inner suburb of Leeds, but I have fallen completely in love with this village. Equal parts Stars Hollow and the decorative hamlet in Hot Fuzz (minus the mysterious murders), we live smack dab in the very centre of it and I am grateful every day that we do. It’s so well appointed that we often go days without ‘going into town’. Five pubs, ranging from hipster chic to frumpy Wetherspoons, lots of restaurants, two grocery stores, a butcher, a fishmonger, a cheesemonger, salons, a travel agent, a pet food store, bakeries, a burger joint, a pizza place, it’s pretty great.

The trains

Brits will laugh at this, be slightly stunned by the revelation, or wonder just how backward Canada is, but the rail network here is amazing. Leeds rail station is a busy hub that’s connected to pretty much everywhere. The only disappointment is how damn expensive it is to try and go anywhere at the last minute. But, with a bit of forethought and a practiced hand on National Rail Enquiries, travelling around Great Britain is a dream. Unless there’s a delay. Or a hen party. Or a bunch of drunken louts. Or all three at once.

So if you want me to visit you while you’re in London, I’m going to need a few weeks’ notice – unless you’re paying.

The rebirth of Yorkshire

You have to be pretty thick to not be aware of Yorkshire’s recent past, especially during The Thatcher Years. Films like The Full Monty, Brassed Off and Billy Elliot all portray a bleak time in the region’s history.

Even this 80s music video, filmed in Hebden Bridge, shows how grim Northern towns were back then, not helped by what looks like a wet winter day. Hebden Bridge today is a vibrant destination, filled with boutiques, cafes and pubs that cater to residents, visitors and walkers. Nearby Haworth has the Brontë Parsonage Museum and one of the steepest high streets I’ve ever staggered up.

I’ll take any chance to link to one of my favourite songs of all time, with stunning examples of Yorkshire hills, architecture and stonework appearing throughout the video.

My guide to boss travel: Step 5 – In transit

Flying

Flying over the Alps

Finally! The big day has arrived! 

  • Give yourself lots of time to get to – and be at – the airport. Most of the time you won’t need it, but there will be that one time that you’ll be glad you did. That chunk of hurry up and wait, do-nothing time is why books and airport shops exist.
  • Cutting it close is a great way to create drama and possibly even ruin your trip before it’s begun. 
  • Take advantage of online check-in.
  • When checking in online, find out if you need to print anything out. Some airlines flying within Europe have fiddly rules, like RyanAir and Jet2, and require travellers with NON-EU ID to have your PRINTED boarding pass stamped after an airline staff member inspects your travel documents and passport. It’s confusing and the rules keep changing, best to just confirm with a member of that airline’s staff when you first arrive at the airport, even if you’ve checked in online in advance. Don’t find out the hard way at the gate right before you board that you should have done that. They will not let you on the flight and you will be shit out of luck. I’ve read forum threads, people.
  • Remember to make sure liquids either comply with carry-on standards or are safely stowed in your checked bag before you go through security.
  • Relax when you’re going through security. Wear unfussy shoes or boots in case you have to take them off, and don’t pin your hair up with a metal clip – that is an easy thing for everyone to overlook, including security, and will slow you down. Ask me how I know.
  • Even if you’re flying within Europe you’ll probably have to go through passport control after security. Always best to assume that it’s necessary and make time for it.
  • Bring a pen on your flight and fill out the landing card handed to you by a flight attendant (when necessary) while you’re in the air. It will give you something to do for a few minutes. Have the address of where you will be staying handy, as well as your passport number. You can google images of landing cards for the country you’re visiting so you can see what information they’ll be asking for. Completing it ahead of time means you can breeze past all the dummies who didn’t bother when it comes time to queue for passport control.
  • And if ever this travel nugget was ever more worth mentioning – never pass a toilet without using it, especially if you’re part of the tiny bladder club like me.
  • Bring a travel scarf – with airlines cutting down on perks like pillows and blankets, a large, thin scarf can serve as either.
  • Those donut-shaped pillows are cumbersome, but they do work. I had the best airport nap of my life using an inflatable one – sat down at an empty gate, put my feet up on my suitcase, and the donut pillow kept my head from lolling.
  • This awesome post just showed up in my world this week : 10 Things I Do To Survive Airplane Travel. I have a feeling that Joy and I would get along well on a flight. We’d exchange pleasantries and then just get down to the business of ignoring each other unless one of us needed to get out of our row.
  • Before you’re all jet-lagged and bleary, figure out how you’re going to get into town from the airport. It might be as simple as getting into a taxi and telling the driver the address (write it down if that’s easier), but consider finding out the best way locals use, whether it’s a rail line or bus combined with un peu voyage à pied. If you’re heading somewhere remote, ask your contact person for specific driving directions.

 

Previous posts in this series
My guide to boss travel: Introduction
My guide to boss travel: Step 1 – Deciding where to go, and when
My guide to boss travel: Step 2 – Who’s joining you?
My guide to boss travel: Step 3 – Time to dream
My guide to boss travel: Step 4 – Sorting out the boring stuff

Upcoming posts in this series – published on Fridays 
My guide to boss travel: Step 6 – Your trip, your way

#myguidetobosstravel

To hell with the uber-cheerful facade

I’m finding the returns on that investment grow smaller every year.

It’s a deeply ingrained pattern, a coping mechanism, a wall.

It’s helped me work with horrible bosses. It’s helped me advance my career. It’s helped me pretend I like people that I really don’t and tell them what they want to hear so that I can just be a normal, functioning part of a team. I will probably employ the cheerful facade in my business dealings until the day I retire. Don’t most people?

But I’ve noticed in my circle that this facade isn’t always helpful. People feel like they can say stupid things to me, patronising things to me, nasty things to me, and I’ll just take it on the chin. Newsflash – that’s not what just happened. I’m just surprised and baffled by what you just said, because after all, I’ve never been anything but nice to you. I won’t come up with the perfect retort until 3 am. But I will steam over it, oh yes.

And if I get angry, I’m adorable. Great. Just what every adult woman wants to hear.

I don’t know – have I done such a good job of fooling everyone that everything is awesome all the time that some people forget I’m real?

That I have feelings, character flaws I’m sensitive about, parts of my face and body I don’t like but have been trying to learn to love, problems I’m struggling with, bad days, creative wobbles, career woes, health concerns…

I could go on, and with some friends I do, in the right context and space. But in general, I try not to complain and moan, not because I don’t want to, but because people who do it all the time are deeply boring and draining. I also believe that keeping positive is the key to a happy, vital life, and the more positive and filled with gratitude I am, the more ‘luck’ I seem to have.

Yes, my life is pretty great. I’m very thankful for that. I’ve worked my ass off to make it great. But I’m sorry if my cheerfulness has given you the wrong idea.

I’m serious.

me

I posted this profile photo very briefly on my Facebook page last night. I was just so thrilled that I’d finally taken a selfie containing one chin instead of three, and realised my overseas friends and family hadn’t seen my face for ages – I tend to hide behind the camera.

I was surprised at the reaction some people had to my non-smiling face. One good friend quickly qualified his comment on my seriousness with a compliment, which I really needed to hear. Another person said I looked ‘angry’ and ‘upset’.

I dislike most photos of myself, and can ruin a group selfie with the best of ’em. I get sad when I see the disconnect between the fabulous woman I think I am, striding around feeling badass and wonderful, and the photographic (albeit slightly distorted) evidence that I’m not 23 anymore and those pints of Ben and Jerry’s don’t do me any favours.

So when I was playing around with my phone last night after a haircut, I was surprised and pleased with this image. It feels like the real me, when I’m on my own and not trying to people please. Which thank god for Yorkshire, and its down-to-earth straightforwardness, I feel less and less like I have to do. And before you think this outburst has anything to do with my new friends here, it doesn’t. Everyone is lovely and kind, in a much calmer, less forced sort of way.

So unless you have something positive to say about someone’s appearance, or it’s something they can fix easily – something caught in their teeth, a tag is sticking out, they forgot to zip up their pencil skirt all the way – shut the hell up.

I’m serious.

My guide to boss travel: Step 4 – Sorting out the boring stuff

Leela

She saw the suitcases emerge from the cupboard. She knows.

Sorry, this one might be a bit of a slog, but these are the details that can keep you up at night if you don’t take care of them.

Packing and luggage

  • Any hotel worth its salt will store your luggage before you check in, and after you check out. No need to picture yourself dragging your suitcase around your first day’s walkabout. Airbnb hosts will have also anticipated this question and will have good recommendations or solutions too.
  • As I mentioned in Step 1, British and European cities usually have some sort of luggage storage, so research options for your specific cities. London’s King Cross has a Left Baggage service right near their silly but fun photo-op, Platform 9¾. Amsterdam Centraal has luggage lockers. And sometimes the best solution can also be a bit unexpected: Ned Kelly’s in Dublin is a 24-hour sports club and casino that also cheerfully handles bag storage for reasonable prices. It’s right next to a popular O’Connell Street stop for coaches going to and from Dublin Airport.
  • Check the climate and weather overview before you pack. Layers are always the answer in Europe. Pack something cooler than you think you’ll need, as well as something warmer. Something waterproof for misty, drizzly days. And a swimsuit, just in case you come across a beach, pool, hot springs or spa. Remember you can always buy something if you need it.
  • Consider travelling light with a carry-on suitcase. It can be done. And you’ll thank me when you’re sprinting through an airport someday.
  • Rehearse what you’re going to pack. Try it all on, choose stuff that doesn’t wrinkle. Ladies, jersey material is your friend. There are many resources online for packing tips, techniques and wardrobe planning. How to wear all of your holiday suitcase is a recent fave.
  • Dig into the specific etiquette of your destination. For example, you need to be garbed respectfully in religious buildings like the Vatican. More specifics, especially outside of Europe, in this fab post: How to Dress for Conservative Countries: Modest Clothing Essentials.
  • Find out the baggage guidelines for each flight you are taking. Your trans-Atlantic flight will probably be more lenient than your wee hop between European countries, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to fly or take trains within Europe. No point bringing a huge bag overseas only to have a low-cost European airline charge you a tidy sum to check it.
  • If you aren’t checking any luggage for your flights, remember to look into all your airline and airport rules for carry-on bag dimensions, maximum volumes for liquids and the size of the clear ziploc bag they need to be kept in.

Money

  • Xe.com for currency conversions.
  • Euro (EUR) €: This one should be straightforward, but isn’t. Most EU countries, including the Republic of Ireland, use the Euro. However not all of them do, and some countries that aren’t in the EU do use it. Have a look at this detailed map from 2016 but it’s probably not a bad idea to check each country you’re visiting to confirm.
  • British Pound Sterling (GBP) £: in the UK, including Scotland. Here’s where it gets a bit confusing. Scottish banks print their own notes of GBP, but it is still the same currency. I haven’t had any problems using them here in The North (of England), but I’ve heard anecdotes of English establishments further south that don’t recognise them or try to not accept them. So when Robert the Bruce shows up on your £20 note, keep this in mind:

  • Have a 4-digit pin for your bank card. If yours somehow still has six digits, you’ll have to update your pin.
  • Find out if you need to advise your bank and credit card company that you’re travelling, and be prepared to give them specific dates and cities.
  • Rather than stuffing your wallet with a dangerous wad of euros and pounds before you leave, consider getting a modest amount of cash for the first few days and then using ATMs and credit cards as needed. Or, if overseas ATM and credit card fees have you spooked, at very least consider what one of my friends calls a ‘geek wallet’ for safely storing the bulk of it, or taking advantage of your hotel room’s safe.

Safety

  • Don’t spend the whole time worrying about pickpockets and thieves, but at the same time, keep alert and aware of your surroundings. When I worked in a downtown Toronto office near one of the most touristy bits, I was gobsmacked every time I went out for lunch by how casually visitors treated their money and property. People with fancy DSLR cameras slung over their shoulders. Men with fat wallets stuck in their back pockets, women with open handbags nearly dragging on the ground, wallets in full sight. Almost lost my mind at a Starbucks once while watching someone pay for a latte from a dripping bundle of bills, loose in a trouser pocket. All good ways to become a target.
  • I’ve only been approached once in Paris by someone operating the ‘Ring Scam’ and I simply ignored him and walked away, but Rick Steves has rounded up the most common Tourist Scams and Rip-Offs.
  • Please use your best judgement, keep your wits about you, and don’t give into fear and panic.

Power

  • We have used this particular travel adapter set by Kikkerland for years, but you can get good ones virtually anywhere.
  • Probably best to purchase them in your own country though, as one of my Canadian visitors wasn’t able to find a North America-Europe adapter in the UK. There were all sorts for UK-North America, UK-Europe, and North America-UK, but he had to wait until he arrived in France to get what he needed.
  • And I found this out right before a trip to Dublin – although the Republic of Ireland is in the EU and uses the Euro, their plug type is the same as the UK.
  • Plug, socket & voltage by country

Health

  • See if your workplace benefits include emergency medical coverage abroad, or consider buying short term travel medical insurance.
  • If you have severe food allergies, do what a friend of mine did – he had his list of food allergies translated and printed onto a card that he then had laminated, and simply handed it to everyone he ordered food from.
  • I memorize ‘I can’t eat eggs’ in the language of where I’m going. Ik kan geen eieren eten. Je ne peux pas manger d’oeufs. Non posso mangiare le uova. Nem tudok tojást enni. Ich kann keine eier essen. Jag kan inte äta ägg.

Admin (see? I told you this was boring)

  • Create a folder in your email for everything to do with your trip: hotel reservations, museum tickets, train tickets, boarding passes.
  • Find out when you can check in to your flights, and whether you need to print out boarding passes or if it’s enough to have an electronic version on your phone.
  • Having trouble determining the correct international dialling code prefix? Visit Country Calling Codes and simply choose your ‘from’ and ‘to’ countries from the dropdown menus and click submit. I’ve got this one bookmarked for emergencies.
  • Make a packing checklist. Sounds dumb, but make sure you have your wallet, passport, keys and phone, and anything else unique and difficult to replace – glasses, contact lenses, custom mouthguard, medical prescriptions…
  • Make a photocopy of your passport and pack it in a different bag from the one containing your actual passport.
  • Tripit.com is a great website and app for keeping track of your entire itinerary. Might seem a bit tedious at first, but it’s worth it to have everything available at a glance. And maybe this is just me, but I get a frisson of delight when I see my finalized itinerary come to life.
  • Make note of whether or not the hotel(s) you’ve booked include breakfast in their price. With a multi-city tour it can be easy to forget.
  • Find out if your overseas flights include meals or not.
  • Buy tickets to museums and galleries in advance – sail past the lineup of people buying tickets for a boost of smug satisfaction. And for next-level brilliance, find and ‘star’ restaurants a few blocks away from sites so you’re not stuck in the overpriced onsite cafeteria or tourist traps mere metres from the exit.
  • Think of buying tickets for popular day trip tours in advance as well.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

  • Arrange for housesitters or kennel time for your furry friends.
  • Put some of your lights on timers if nobody will be home.
  • Can a neighbor or friend grab your mail, water your plants, take out your recycling bin?
  • Clear your fridge, cupboards and bins of anything that might go off, and consequently begin to smell terrible, before you leave.

 

Previous posts in this series
My guide to boss travel: Introduction
My guide to boss travel: Step 1 – Deciding where to go, and when
My guide to boss travel: Step 2 – Who’s joining you?
My guide to boss travel: Step 3 – Time to dream

Upcoming posts in this series – published on Fridays 
My guide to boss travel: Step 5 – In transit
My guide to boss travel: Step 6 – Your trip, your way

#myguidetobosstravel

My guide to boss travel: Step 3 – Time to dream

Clifford's Tower

Clifford’s Tower, York

This is when you can start having a little more fun. Let out that breath you didn’t know you were holding in while you were buying your plane tickets. Let your imagination run riot, like the little girl in the bottom right corner of this photo about to run up that hill.

  • Before you even think about googling your destination or cracking open that city guidebook, close your eyes and think about what you’d like to do. Write everything down – sites, food, drinks, shopping. These are your must-dos. Ask your travel mates to do the same thing. Now you can look at travel guides and round out your list.
  •  ‘Star’ points of interest in Google Maps. You need a Google account for this one, and in my opinion it’s worth it, for this functionality alone. Google Maps is a wondrous thing, but even more so when you take advantage of all its handy features. Directions are provided for driving, transit, walking (and cycling and flights); great for judging distances between two points.
  • But take it one step further and start ‘starring’ everything you want to visit – restaurants, museums, attractions, anything that has an address, really. You’ll get the bird’s eye view on your computer, so even if you don’t have a smartphone it’s worth it to determine where everything is and get a sense of where you’ll be spending your time. But with a smartphone it becomes a truly potent tool for transforming your trip planning. And even if you turn off your data and use only wifi on your trip, the maps can be downloaded into your phone and used offline. You’ll have a bit less functionality – oh how I rely on that live blue dot to tell me where I am – and less information will appear for each item, but it’s still better for navigating than anything else I’ve ever used. ‘Past You’ is the best travel guide and personal assistant that ‘Travel You’ could possibly have.
    York Google Maps

    Desktop version – map of York

     

  • Not a bad idea at this juncture to find out which days different sites and attractions might be closed, especially outdoor markets. Google Maps can help you there too, providing the website address, hours of operation and peer reviews.
  • Grab a calendar – online, paper-based – whatever you’re more comfortable with, and start figuring out the internal itinerary of your trip. Are you travelling from city to city? Or are you going base yourself in one place that’s also handy for day trips? Or a combination of the two?
  • Find a hotel that is convenient to something – the rail station you arrive at, the part of town where you plan to spend the most time, or perhaps something more affordable that’s a bit further out but quieter and near excellent transit. Trawl through TripAdvisor, scan the reviews, and find a good blend of affordable and location. Do this as soon as possible after you’ve booked your flights – this is another area where the early bird truly does get the worm. I’m not trying to make you panic. I use Booking.com most of the time, and start by booking a good place that doesn’t ask for any money up front. That becomes my ‘safety hotel’. It might end up being my final choice too, but at least now I know I’m not homeless on that leg of the trip while I spend more time looking for a great deal. Also, consider Airbnb too, especially if you’re staying in the same place for a few nights.
  • Learn key phrases in the language of your destination. ‘Hello. Please. Thank you. I would like a glass of red wine, please. How much does that cost? Where is the toilet? Can we please have the bill? I will not buy this record, it is scratched.’
  • Bone up on history or fill yourself with anticipation with films, TV or books. Visiting Paris is cool. Visiting Paris is even cooler when you walk past a statue of Henri IV and remember that he’s the well-loved ‘Good King Henry’ who came up with the phrase ‘a chicken in every pot’. Don’t be that guy who didn’t know what Ellis Island was (or represented) when he cruised past it on the Staten Island Ferry.
  • If you don’t already know, find out what will make the best souvenirs, or the best shopping a city is known for – sometimes clichés are clichés for a reason. Think leather goods from Italy, perfume from Paris, whisky from Scotland. More ideas here.
  • Ask people for recommendations. But don’t feel like you have to actually follow their advice. If something sounds good, star the place right away. I usually whisk out my phone on the spot so that I don’t forget and can confirm that I’ve found the right place.
  • Ruthlessly cut anyone out of your life who tries to guilt trip you if you didn’t make it to that nice restaurant they told you about.
  • My favourite resources are a combination of books and websites. I can’t possibly list them all here, but I owe a lot of smooth, happy travel to Rick Steves, The Guardian’s Holiday Guides and Lonely Planet for dreaming and planning. I seek out and watch any travel show with Richard Ayoade or Anthony Bourdain in it.
  • Adjust your trip’s internal itinerary if you haven’t locked down your hotel dates and rail tickets… is Paris taking up more days than Amsterdam? Now’s the time to sort that out.

 

Previous posts in this series
My guide to boss travel: Introduction
My guide to boss travel: Step 1 – Deciding where to go, and when
My guide to boss travel: Step 2 – Who’s joining you?

Upcoming posts in this series – published on Fridays 
My guide to boss travel: Step 4 – Sorting out the boring stuff
My guide to boss travel: Step 5 – In transit
My guide to boss travel: Step 6 – Your trip, your way

#myguidetobosstravel