Friday, April 14, 2006

Lessons from the road

Before I forget, I should note a few things for travelers to remember:
  • If possible, understand all your gear before leaving: motorcycle/vehicle, camera, computer, working with internet cafes, etc. Study the manuals, instructions, service locations, etc.
  • Full face helmet. Don't be caught without it. (Thanks to this, I still have my teeth.)
  • TIRES! If you're riding a big bike (above 500cc), don't assume you'll be able to find tires. If possible, arrange in advance to have them waiting for you!
  • If you need to import parts, tires, etc., consider asking the shipper to declare the items of minimum value (i.e. under $100). In many countries, customs duties are exorbitant and can easily double your cost.
  • Air freight and courier (DHL, Fed Ex, etc.) charges can be outrageous and the process mired in bureaucracy. If you network with other travelers, consider having someone hand-carry needed items.
    • Learn which countries require vehicle permits and International Driving Insurance and procure them in advance, or at the border.
    • BE CLEAR about the duration of your visa (the time officials have allotted you for your stay in their country. This may be noted in your passport upon entry.)
    • Plan critical crossings well in advance! Where to ship from/to. Ferries, airline connections, etc.
    • Get required vaccinations well in advance. Reactions could cause symptoms that will sap much-needed energy in the final days before departure.
    • Try to prevent things from rushing you. If you need to hurry, it’s more important than ever to go through a mental checklist, then be extra alert. These are the times when accidents are more likely to happen.
    • If you don't have an economical cellphone, buy and use pre-paid phone cards in each country.
    • Think carefully about documenting your journey. If you plan to do a blog or website, be prepared to commit an hour on that project for every hour you're away - it is easily that much work!
    • Exchanging currencies upon return is a losing proposition. Try to use up your currency before leaving a country or exchange at the border (where there is a demand for that particular currency.)
        • The people you meet are the teachers. You are the student.
        • Remember: you are a guest in their land. Conduct yourself accordingly.
          • Remember, it is all part of the journey!

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