I love November… grrr… Workload is rising, weather becoming dark, rainy, and gloomy… blehh. The only good thing is that you can start planning your Christmas holidays. This year I’m planning to spend three weeks in the Alps – skiing and sightseeing. Can tell you, the perspective on travel changes drastically after 30.
The price of comfort
In my 20’s my view on travel was the more the better. Visiting country after country, ideally four different places during one trip or hundreds of places in one country. Comfort, sleep, and accommodation didn’t matter. The cheaper the better. The more places seen the better. Geez when I think about it now it was so exhausting. One of the trips I remember being a hard core one was my Adventure Borneo. The three-week itinerary was packed, literally packed. Landed in Bangkok, took a plane to Laos. From Laos flew to Tawau in Borneo. Did one diving week in Borneo. After diving, I took a bus from Semporna to Kota Kinabalu (KK). From KK went on a one-day trip to Brunei. Returned to KK and took a plane to Penang. From Penang, I went to Bangkok, stayed there two days, and went back home.
Another memorable one was in the Balkans. Booked a ten-day sightseeing tour with an agency and in those ten days saw – Croatia, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Montenegro… yeah very intense. The whole trip was on a bus. OMG it wasn’t very comfortable, and I changed hotels quite frequently, but the views and food were totally worth it. Especially as it was before Game of Thrones so I could enjoy walking around Dubrovnik without bumping into hordes of tourists. My friend PF told me, Alice, you could fly in the overhead baggage compartment if the flight was cheap enough. Well, she had a point. I didn’t care how exhausting the journey was as long as it took me to the place I wanted to visit. Also, when it comes to transfer times at airports.
Gosh… I remember a night spent at Stansted airport… think I made at least 15 thousand steps walking around it. Night at Malaga airport where I was sleeping head down on the table at a restaurant. Surprisingly nobody asked me to leave 😛 Best one… the night spent at Beijing airport… three times! Well, comfort didn’t mean to me much in my 20’s as it does now. Don’t get me wrong I still don’t pay thousands of euros for top end five-star hotels or business class flights as it is pointless. However I do pay attention to the hotel standard. It needs to have a comfortable bed, aircon/heating, wi-fi and a private bathroom. Sorry, I can’t be bothered to use a shared bathroom anymore. Plus, I want to have my privacy. Only, there are exceptions to everything. When I’m staying in a city for one night coz my flight is the next day or something like that and the city is crazy expensive, I go for the affordable option. For example, in Cairns after I got off the diving boat I needed to stay one night in the city as my flight was very early in the morning the next day. As hotels in Cairns are super expensive, I found a nice hostel with a room just for myself and sadly a shared bathroom. Oh well, at least they had air con and a fast wi-fi. When I woke up in the morning, I had a weird feeling. My butt was itching. I had a mirror in the room – oh hostel luxury, so I took off my pyjama pants and there they were… bites all over my ass! No picks from the bitten ass! Have no clue what it was, bedbugs or some other insects but it was itching as hell. In the airplane I needed to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes to take off my trousers and scratch my ass. Doing it in the cabin in front of everybody would be highly inappropriate 😛 After that incident I remembered why I don’t like hostels and why I prefer to pay a bit extra to have my comfort without an itching ass. Only in this case the bit more to pay was beyond my budget so Alice shut up and stop complaining.
Quality than quantity
After some time, I noticed that my travels were more experience and quality focused rather than quantity. I’m not the travel junkie as I used to be, but rather turned more into a good wine connoisseur… regardless still an addition 😛
Now when I travel I do it for a specific reason. Mostly it’s for diving and sightseeing. However last December when travel was limited due to covid and there were not many options I went to Spain and Portugal. The goal was to see Game of Thrones filming locations, ride the famous Lisbon trams and try port wine in Porto. Everything else on top of it was nice to have. Despite a quite busy schedule I also had lots of time to walk around without any special goal, enjoy good food and wine, plus do some shopping. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever had. Same with my trip to Zanzibar last spring. The goal was diving and seeing Freddie Mercury’s birthplace. The 20-year-old me would also like to go to mainland Tanzania or maybe to neighbouring Uganda. The 30-year-old me decided that I can go to Uganda another time and enjoy more of the country than just see Kampala or Lake Victoria. Now I’d rather enjoy more of the place I visit than just see the main sights and leave.
My approach towards means of transport also changed. I can’t be bothered anymore to kill myself taking a 24-hour bus ride. Well… all depending on the price of course. If the bus would be 10 Euro and the flight ticket 100 Euro, I would consider the option if saving 20 hours is worth the struggle or not. For example, I had a situation like that in China – before covid. I wanted to take a train from Zhangjiajie to Chengdu. It turned out that I would have to change the trains twice and the whole journey would take like 16 hours.
On the other hand, I could take a plane from Zhangjiajie to Chengdu for nearly the same price as the train ticket… Choice was obvious. Same is with taxis. Previously I was a huge adversary of taking taxis. Was convinced that this is going the easy way without trying to figure out how to get to your hotel. My opinion was – only weaklings take taxis from the airport to the hotel. I can do it myself and figure out which bus or train to take. I lost that attitude. Although I mostly try to get from the airport to my hotel using public transport – some airports are very well connected, however sometimes it’s simply not possible. This June for example after landing in Male with all my diving equipment and being tired as hell after the flight I was not in the mood to figure out Male’s public transportation. I went to the taxi stand, negotiated the price, presto, done. Besides, the price for the taxi wasn’t gargantuan – 10 Euro.
I’ve also observed a change when it comes to the hotels I book. As mentioned previously, I used to book the cheapest one there is. Mostly those hotels were outside the city, and I needed to commute to the city centre to do some sightseeing. Now I only book hotels in the city centre or very close to it. Point is that paying more for the hotel gets equalised by paying less or nothing for public transportation in the city. Again, I don’t target the cool high-end hotels. Mostly the ones I book are mid range hotels with good ratings. As long as they meet my requirements – comfy bed, aircon/heating, wi-fi, private bathroom it’s perfect. Sometimes I get surprised how cool the cheap mid-range hotels are. From the top of my head the top three would be:
1. Mount View Cottage in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China. A bit far away from everything. It was in the middle of the mountains, but the owner was super helpful. The room was in a rustic style and the view was just breathtaking.
2. Mnarani Beach Cottages in Nungwi, Zanzibar. Big room, cool bathroom to hang all my dive gear and it had an amazing ocean view.
3. Hotel Jerez & Spa in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Again, big room, nice balcony and I have no clue why there was a red light in the bathroom.
In a bit more than a month from now I’m going for a three week trip to the Alps. The agenda is also full of places to visit but the main purpose of the trip is skiing and enjoying winter wonderland. Everything else is nice to have. As I plan to drive all the way to and back from Italy there will be lots of room for spontaneous city visits… I can’t wait.
Looking back at the past fifteen years of traveling, do I regret the change of my approach towards traveling? Not a bit. Yes, I do miss my wild, sleepless, and exhausting adventures sometimes but it’s not that I’ve abandoned this style completely. Now I’m more relaxed and experienced focused during travel, however!!! Bet a wild, sleepless, and exhausting adventure is just around the corner… only even wilder and with better accommodation.