Ten things you need for a successful (international) adventure:
1. A good ground blanket.
Not much can go wrong if you are prepared to picnic anywhere at anytime. It is important to note what you have in your limited travel inventory. My blanket is currently tacked up as a wall decoration in my flat. What is a tapestry by day can become a café, a tent or a sleeping bag by night.
2. Coin purse.
From my travel experience I have gathered that everywhere (Costa Rica and the United Kingdom) values coin currency more than the United States. The coins will pile up and overflow the little five-penny pockets we have on most American wallets, so do yourself — and every cashier — a favor and put them in a little pouch.
3. Adventure shoes.
You are going to walk on this adventure, so why not do so in style? My go-to shoes have been a pair of gray Keds sneaks. They match almost everything and are great when you need to run to catch that 5:52 a.m. train. I would also suggest getting a pair of those Dr. Scholls insoles, because, (hell to the yes,) your feet will be sore from all the adventuring. I walked a hole in one of my shoes by the end of the first week — but never fear — Primark is near with their unlimited supply, (and color selection,) of my beloved sneaks for a mere £3.
A solid wide-angle lens is where it’s at. I have partnered with my 18-55 mm on most outings. The wide angle allows more into the picture without having to take a million steps backward — a real perk in England since all the cute buildings happen to fall on the narrowest of streets. Taking pictures is a nice way to spend your time when you’re exploring, but be sure to put the camera away, too. Sometimes you don’t need a picture of something to document its existence.
Documenting what you think about your adventures can become an adventure in itself.
This bag will become your best friend, so choose wisely. A standard book bag size is the best bet for short excursions. If it can hold the contents of this adventure list + snacks, (scran in Geordie slang,) you’ve found a good one. You will know each stitch of it by the end of the journey. Pockets are great and carabiners make the best key chains.
7. An extra day dress, (or t-shirt, whatever floats your boat.)
You really never know when you might need it. See #8.
8. A “let’s get lost” mentality.
This last weekend, my friend Lauren came to visit me from France. We partied in Newcastle until Sunday morning and found that all the metro and bus services to Sunderland were nonexistent on Sundays. I recognized the town Sunniside on the destination board as “nearby Sunderland” so we took a bus there. The combination of rain and my apathy for getting off at the right stop made it hard to see out the windows, so we missed our stop and ended up in Dipton. Now, Dipton is a teeny tiny little town. When I called the one taxi service I had programed into my little phone, they told me we were too far to reach. Lauren and I just shrugged and walked into the one lit up building in sight, Prince of Wales Pub, smiling. We were immediately singled out as “not from around here” and a tall tattoo-covered man wearing leather pants approached us. His name was Nigel, he plays the organ in the church around the corner and lives within eyesight of the pub with his boyfriend. After getting to know him, Nigel offered us strawberry and vanilla sponge cake that he had baked and decorated in red and white for the Sunderland vs. Manchester City match earlier that day. As Carla, a worker at the pub, called us a taxi, Nigel said we were welcome at his house for dinner any time. (I think I’ll go back to Dipton.)
The point is:
You never know what you can find when you ditch the plans and truly wander about — with that said…
I think that maps are invaluable to an adventurer because of the sense of sovereignty and security they provide, but it is vital to consider your surroundings when you reference it. Maps are one of those dead giveaways that you are not from around wherever you may be traveling. Conceal your guidebook with a book cover (like the ones you used to beg your mom for at the Scholastic book fair in fourth grade,) and no one will be the wiser as to what you’re reading. For me, it has been easiest to study the street names and general information about a city before I get there. Because of this I have been given the endearing nickname of “Captain,” as I am normally guiding my travel buddies with my internal compass.
It is important to understand that moments do not last forever, no matter how wonderfully terrifying they may be. I think Alan Watts says it perfectly in his book Still the Mind:
“We live in a sort of hourglass with a big bulb at one end (the past) and a big bulb at the other end (the future); we are the neck in between… In fact, our present is enormously rich, and you will realize this if you understand that there is no time except present time. There is only now; there never was any time but now, and there never will be any time but now. It is all now. There is no hurry to gobble life down, and if you do you won’t be able to digest it.”
Cheers and beers,