Mistakes not to make while travelling

These are some mistakes I made while travelling and when I’m not taking care I tend to repeat them.
Here’s when to be careful and how to fix the situation if I screwed up.

Forgetting stuff
Some things are prone to being left behind when moving around. When handling these, take extra care to put them back and take them with you:

  • towel
    After showering one usually puts these someplace to dry. If the place is highly visible, it’s easy to forget. Lots of forgotten towels in hostels stress this point.
  • showering products
    If these are left in the shower while drying off, there’s a big chance the next person will enjoy free shower gel.
  • media like usb sticks
    This is a point when using other people’s computers or internet cafes. Always be careful to take all your items with you!

Of course there might be more items like this. I tend to have a quite loose connection to some of my stuff, so some just leaves occasionally. Also see the bag point below!

How to fix this:
First thing to decide is whether you actually really need the item in question.

  • If you don’t, it’s all good and you will travel lighter in the future.
  • If you need an item of the kind (like a towel, not neccessarily this towel), there are several ways to go. In case it’s too much trouble to get the original thing back (see below), you can get a new one. Some hostels have a “free stuff” box with things other people left behind for one reason or another. Maybe a friend has a spare one. If not, well, it’s the shop option. Some countries have social stores where you can pick up things for real cheap (great for “grandma” items and household things), otherwise it’s the convenience store.
  • If you actually need the forgotten item (like the usb stick with all your data), you will want to get it back. Here’s what to do:
    Where did you leave it? – Get into contact with the people who run the place as soon as possible and find out whether they found your stuff. If they haven’t, make sure they know what exactly you lost and how to contact you in case they find it. If they have, horray! If you’re still nearby you can just go get it.
    But if you’re farther away there might be better options: Have it posted. If you’re on the move without a fixed address you can have it sent post restante to a post office along the way. This post office will keep it for a period of time and you can go get it with your ID. The trouble here is to figure out how to pay the postage and how to make people go through the trouble of posting something.
    Another option is to find a travellerstill in the location you left your item planning to travel your way. Promise them some money, tell them where to pick up your item and inform the people holding the item about your plan. You can find out about travellers either by phoning hostels in the area or over the internet (eg travel forums or the couchsurfing website). Of course you’ll have to put some trust into the person you choose and it’s not an absolutely safe method. However, I’ve had some good experiences with this when I left a usb stick at an internet cafe a few hours away, so it can work.

The last two possibilities lead to stress and eventual money and/or item loss, so the best way is not to forget anything vital in the first place. It still happens though, but maybe it’s just me..

The Bag Trap
One lesson learned dearly: When done with getting stuff into and out of the bag during travels, always close it. This especially applies to moving places and locations with steep borders like mountainsides. If the pack falls over while you’re busy doing something else, things can easily fall out and away. I lost a nice torch and some food on a mountain, some stuff on the subway and an old mobile phone on the plane that way.
If things are lost like this, it’s hard to nearly impossible to get them back.

Missing information
When travelling free floating, it can happen that vital parts of information are missing. The exact location of something, a time for the bus to arrive or hours of opening.. as my travelling style can be quite random at times it is hard to anticipate what information will be needed.

What to do:
A first thing to get is a basic map – I usually stop at the tourist office since they have decent maps for free. They also have information and can help, but they mostly know about big and expensive tourist attractions and big hotels. The next thing would therefore be to find an internet café where most information can be gathered. However, finding these can be a task in itself, so researching in advance while still on the net somewhere else can help greatly. If all else fails I can, of course, still try and randomly ask people – if the question concerns the area shop keepers are a good first guess.

Still, not having information can lead to stressy times, so I have to make sure to have all the information I know I will be needing on me, either on paper or on my camera card.

 

I’m sure I forgot some mistakes, but since they will happen again I’ll just extend this account when that happens. You might not be as scatterbrained as me, but hopefully you can get something out of these tips. And what are your mistakes that you’re prone to repeat?

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