- Try to climb the Statue of Liberty without pre-booking
I have spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to get to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, never succeeding. Each time I end up tired and poorer, a huddled mess yearning to have several hours of my life back. The last time –and I say “the last time” advisedly — after three hours waiting in Battery Park, I boarded the Statue Cruise Line only to find on arrival at Liberty Island that there was a three hour wait to get back off the island – and Lady Liberty had closed!
Generally, you need to book months in advance — at the moment the next available slot is over three months out, and I have no idea whether the booking system actually makes the experience more tolerable. Regardless, if you haven’t booked, my recommendation is to take the Staten Island ferry. It is free, frequent, and hardly ever slams into the pier killing people. The ferry gives a great view of the statue and the entire harbour, too. Optionally, you can use twenty minutes of the hours you save to explore the wonders of Staten Island.
- Miss your flight out of Istanbul on the last day of Ramadan
The casino was buzzing with the strapping young men of the Australian Navy, in town for the commemoration of the Gallipoli debacle, and we were winning big at blackjack. Not an easy situation to leave. Finally we tore ourselves away at six o’clock in the morning, happily inebriated, yet determined to catch our ten o’clock flight. The short nap was not short enough. Having slept through a wake-up call, our plane left without us, and with it went two weeks of travel plans, like dominoes.
Travelling on the last day of Ramadan in a Muslim country is much like travelling in the US on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving – everything but everything is overbooked. Hungover to the point of a green shade, this was the only time in my life that I asked an airport ticketing clerk to give me the next available flight to anywhere. These days, I imagine that would set off all kinds of security alarms, but that day we ended up in Izmir. I’m guessing most of the denizens of Izmir had similarly little choice in the matter.
- Have ice in your drink where the water supply has been shut down due to bacterial contamination
Avoiding the tap water is often advisable, even where the locals drink it, as they frequently have built up immunity to bitsy critters that give out-of-towners a run for their money. Once at an eastern Mediterranean beach town in high season, the bartender mentioned in offhand fashion that the town water supply had been shut off because sewerage had overflowed into it – after having served me several gin and tonics with ice. My eventual diagnosis was blastocytes, and rarely has science applied such an appropriate nomenclature.
There are many horrible places on this planet, and a surprising number of them are Philadelphia. It is the only place a passing ambulance driver once tossed a lit Molotov cocktail at me while I was carrying a can of gasoline. Only in Philadelphia did my first significant other invite me to a party where I was expected to spend the night with his other significant other. It is a city proud of its lawyers, where cheesesteak sandwiches represent the gastronomic apex. I could go on. I will not go back.
- Take a luxury train in Australia
I love a long train ride, and Australia has some of the loveliest, longest train rides. Unfortunately, they tend to traverse Australia, which is dull enough to make one miss the corn fields of Nebraska. Counting the rotting carcasses of cattle that thirst to death entertains only so long.
First of all, it is bloody expensive. The landing fees that are passed on to passengers are about the highest in the world, making any trip going through Heathrow much more expensive than it needs to be. But the real problem with Heathrow is the security is too damned good. The English have been dealing with this terrorism thing for so long – thank you, Ulster – that they simply do not miss a trick. Thus, having flown in from Amsterdam, I had a security official actually squeeze out the contents of my tube of toothpaste until it was empty in search of contraband. Then – my favourite part – she handed it back to me! And I took it!
- Travel with people you don’t know well
The mathematics of travel is such that time wasted on bickering rises exponentially with the number of people travelling together. Thus I like to travel with individuals that respond to the “Too Many Generals” syndrome by shutting up and taking orders, preferably my orders. Even that favourable circumstance can end in tears if one or more of a travelling party requires a few hours in the bathroom each morning.
In polite society, which I am to understand exists somewhere, one’s bathroom time is sacrosanct. This is good and proper, as such private moments should not be the subject of interrogation nor forced to adhere to another’s scheduling expectations. Lest one embark on a frustrating journey, it is important to know the habits of potential travel mates, yet they are impossible to discern short of first hand experience. More often than not those who hold a travelling clan hostage in their hotel by doing lord-knows-what in the water closet will show inexplicably little in the way of improvement upon their eventual dismount.
So if you like to pace and curse, travel with some folks you don’t know well. It’s like dinner on a cruise where you aren’t allowed to change tables.
- Go to the wrong airport
It is often said that the most dangerous part of air travel is the taxi ride to the airport. That should be reason enough to go straight to the airport from which your flight plans to depart, rather than taking a tour of the various landing fields some pesky cities insist upon offering. I doubt there are statistics kept on the number of travellers killed rushing between the domestic and international airports having first attended the other in error, but I would guess it is substantial. Some airlines offer the advanced challenge of allowing tight flight connections at airports miles or even hours apart. Try it, it’s fun!
- Find a dead body on the beach
Few things add more zest to a Hawaiian sunrise on a deserted, remote beach than discovering a dead body bobbing face-down across jagged lava rocks in the shallow wash of thirty-foot breakers. This provides the opportunity to try to convince anybody one can find at five-thirty in the morning that they should call the police to report it, and that this is not a joke. Once you accomplish that, listen to the locals who tell you it happens all the time, it is no big deal, so there is no need to wait for the police. The police will be most arrestingly indignant when later explaining their contrary view.
10. Try to re-create the best trip ever
Surely, if you go back to the same places and do the same things you will have every bit as much fun, love, and enlightenment as you experienced the first time. Except this time the hotel will put you in the basement instead of the penthouse. The surfer dude who sold you that super weed for cheap will have passed on the franchise to an asshole who charges top dollar for what turns out to be oregano. Then your hotel room will be robbed while you are having sex in the shower, leaving you in a strange land without cash, credit cards or any form of identification with a week of holiday ahead and a hotel bill to pay. It is a brief but powerful insight into the life of the destitute and desperate.
Take my word for it.