How to be a happy traveller

How to be a happy traveller

It doesn’t take much for one to be a happier traveller.

 

I was in Lviv, Ukraine, when a message popped up on my phone. It came from a friend who was visiting the Vatican City with three others. They were on a self-driving tour and they had parked their car by the side of the road. Unfortunately, thieves had broken into the car and carted away everything; luggage, valuables … not a piece was left behind.

I consoled my friend by telling him that not all was lost. At least none of them was hurt and they still had their passports and other important documents with them, which meant they could continue with the rest of their journey.

Such misfortune, like theft or an accident, can happen no matter how careful we are when we travel. According to recent reports, more than 250 people have died in their pursuit of taking selfies while travelling.

My friend and his group spent half a day at the police station to file a report. This is necessary for travel insurance claims purposes. During the process, they met a Chinese interpreter from whom they learnt about the hardships of Italians. Italy’s economy has fallen back into recession with zero economic growth predicted for this year. This news somewhat mellowed their anger towards the thieves.

Interestingly, the theft led to a positive impact on the four. Initially, there was tension among them as there was some disagreement over who suggested the self-drive tour and it was even an option. But, after losing everything, they bonded. They felt a sense of comradeship as they had to lean on and support each other to get through the crisis.

My friend marvelled at how such a bad experience could bring positive changes.

 

The writer (left) feels that chatting with folks at a park will help give you an insight into the lives of locals in a foreign country.

 

I wasn’t surprised because I too have had my own “positive” mishaps while travelling. A few years ago, at the airport in Copenhagen, Denmark, somebody had pick-pocketed my backpack and I lost my camera and all my cash. I was lucky, though, as three days later, the police caught the thieves and recovered my belongings. There and then, the police officer became a good friend of mine.

On another trip, this time to Athens, Greece, my group stumbled upon a street demonstration and we had our first experience with tear gas. It was indeed scary when it happened as we had to run for cover but we also remember how exciting and thrilling it was for us.

In other words, I can now chalk “getting tear-gassed” as another memorable experience from my travels.

Travelling requires a coordination of the five senses. What we see can be reinforced by what we hear and touch, and what we taste can be tempered or enhanced by what we smell.

Travelling is also about people. For example, it is great fun when you bump into famous people when you least expect it.

For me, I was pleasantly surprised to see actress-director Sylvia Chang in Taipei; Hong Kong actor Tony Leung in Hokkaido; and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Sapporo.

 

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