Here are a few travel tips from our friend Shelly Biswell, who continues her overseas experience in the UK.
In March we visited York (Jorvik), which was like a walking history lesson. Eric Bloodaxe’s reign! How did I miss that in Dr Newell’s English history course?
At York Minster, they have a thought-provoking exhibition on what it means to take a pilgrimage. At the beginning of the exhibition they ask visitors whether they are pilgrims, travellers, or tourists. It got me thinking: can the journey change you over time? Perhaps you start as a tourist and end as a pilgrim, or the other way around.
What I do know is that after a few months of travelling I’ve learned some things that have made our trip easier and richer. I’ve also included some of Ken’s top travel tips, which are more technology oriented (big surprise).
If you’re a globetrotter, this isn’t meant to tell you how to suck eggs, but here’s a list of some of the things I’ve learned—in no specific order.
- Join local organisations. Our friend Meredith turned us on to the benefits of Southbank Centre membership. Because we’re housesitting in and around London, it’s been great to have a place to work and meet new people – and did I mention the view? Plus there are lots of membership benefits for exhibitions and events. We’ve also joined English Heritage, which has been a good excuse to immerse ourselves in English history. You can buy these in advance of your trip, which means you’ll be receiving updates about what’s happening and special deals in the lead-up to your adventure.
- Get creative when organising transportation. Check out commuter deals, and see if you’re in a place long enough to justify using them. We’re using the Two Together Railcard to traverse the UK, and it has saved us heaps. The website redspottedhanky.com has some good suggestions. My friend Sharon suggested to get on a bike to travel in London – “to make the city your own”. I’ve found walking has a similar effect, and is the way I understand how neighbourhoods fit together. Ken takes a perverse pleasure in navigating the Tube and trains – all those people seeming to know exactly where they’re going.
- Have a purpose. Or as my yoga teachers would say, “set an intention”. While the idea of travelling for its own sake has an allure, I’ve found it’s been helpful to have general things I want to learn about. One of my interests is science communication, for example, which has meant visiting places like Poole’s Cavern in Buxton and the Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe, London – places that possibly don’t show up on the top of most “10 things to do” lists, although both would easily appear on mine. Ken really does love old pubs, which has meant wherever we’re housesitting, he’s looked to find the oldest, most quirky pub possible. (There have been several great ones, but the winner for me right now is The Rock in Chiddingstone, and Ken would still be at the Beau Nash Tavern in Tunbridge Wells if I didn’t drag him out). Vive la différence!
- Bring your own bottle and drink plenty of water. I learned this one the hard way, which ended up requiring medical attention. Travelling, you’re already asking so much of your body, and this is one way you can care for it.
- Don’t talk about how expensive everything is. There might be moments on your adventure when you look at your dwindling bank account and freak out (we’ve done this a few times), but if you’re travelling by choice, it just makes you sound like a spoiled brat.
KEN’S TOP TIPS
- Have a second email. This should be one you don’t care about (but can access) that you can use for all the free Wi-Fi sign-ups and such (so you don’t receive loads of junk email on your main email account).
- Get a pre-paid local phone number for your cell phone in your base country. Use that number for everything. At the same time, make sure you bring along a second cheap phone that you can keep your original SIM card in. We’ve needed ours for receiving text messages for things like paying our taxes, accessing our bank accounts, and checking work emails.
- Get a good data plan and don’t be afraid to use it. We’ve learned free Wi-Fi isn’t always dependable.
- Pick a post code in an area you like and can remember. You’ll need it for all kinds of sign-ups. Also investigate Poste Restante for a delivery mailing address.
- Bluetooth is king. Bring a small mobile Bluetooth speaker that can connect to your phone and have some of your favourite playlists downloaded, so that you can set ambience in any environment.
What are your top tips for travelling? Let me know in the comments section below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll share some of your ideas (with credits) in a future blog post.
When not on her OE, Shelly Farr Biswell works as a communications consultant in New Zealand. You can follow her on Instagram (shellybiswell).