Discovering Your Inner Cheese...
Vancouver Travel Blog› entry 2 of 21 › view all entries
A few months after deciding to go to Ghana and getting the O.K. from the parental units, Janelle and I still giggle like little schoolgirls when the topic comes up. This is routinely followed by a couple hours of spitting out non-stop ideas about what to do when we’re there or what we’ll need to bring. And as life usually goes, those hours should have been reserved for things more important, say, for studying for exams. But let’s be reasonable now, what’s an exam compared to Africa? It’s not like we’ve actually signed up for the program yet, or bought plane tickets, but we’ve planned, oh, we’ve planned like no other. In this experience, I’ve discovered there are a few keys things to know when you’re planning such a trip, and in honour of David Letterman, the top ten things go as follows:
10. Find your destination on a map. I’m sure you’ve already done this, but it’s just a precaution for those who think Barcelona is in South America (it’s not).
9. Prepare the parents or worried loved ones. Remember, when travelling on your own or without family, you can’t be self-centred. Be aware of how anxious your loved ones are of your travelling to your destination. For example, don’t let your parents watch Hotel Rwanda before you go to Africa. I foolishly let my movie-guard down and found myself relentlessly defending Ghana the next day.
8. Know your destination. I’d say aim to know enough to write your own travel guide (“WONG’S travel guide to GHANA” �" what do you think?) or to host a travel show, being able to ad-lib the whole time of course, but this comes naturally to me. I’m sure that in no time I’ll be able to recite verbatim sections of the Brandt travel guide.
7. Select a soundtrack. Music, for me, is a way of life. Every situation and experience has a suitable accompanying soundtrack. It’s the music that you picture playing in the background of the movie that’s being made of your life when you’re rich and famous. I’m played by Sandra Oh.
Now playing: “Inaudible Memories” by Jack Johnson.
6. Choose a documentation style. This is important. The way you document your trip decides how accurately you capture the emotions and experiences for every time you look back at your trip. Think big! Think hired camera crews to film your trip, a producer, film editor, stunt doubles and a corporate sponsorship from Starbucks! Or go with a good old-fashioned camera and journal.
5. Stand your ground. The earlier you plan your trip, the longer your parents have to try to convince you not to go. Don’t be swayed by the ‘Are you suuure?’’s, the ‘Have you changed your mind?’’s or the claims that there are no arriving or departing flights to Ghana for the next two years… something about a really long storm. Unbeknownst to any parents, saying that you can’t believe you’re actually going is not code for ‘I actually don’t want to go. Help me change my mind!’.
4. Calculate your budget. Are you a lavish, big-spender who only stays in five star hotels? (Sorry, but there are no five star hotels in Ghana… or four star hotels for that matter) Or are you a buy-what-you-need-and-ONLY-what-you-need traveller? (Who needs insoles in your shoes when newspaper works just as well?) If your needs differ from your travel companion, solve the dispute with a friendly game of thumb war. God, that game is awesome.
3. Decide where you want to go. Consult alumni travellers of your destination for the most worthwhile attractions or see travel guides to find information on every possible attraction or town you could possibly visit, worthwhile or not. I, personally, like to scour the internet for the sample itineraries of tour companies, of course that always seems to lead me to a way of seeing the whole country in 5, very full days. If your needs differ from your travel companion, see the above note on thumb wars.
2. Be a tourist. You know you want to. Don’t be ashamed. To absorb your country to the best of your ability, you must immerse yourself in the culture and life, and sometimes that requires walking around in confusion with a backpack, money pouch, 5 photocopies of your passport distributed evenly throughout your bag and clothes, and a large map permanently open and in front of you. So bring on the tilly hats and cameras eternally hung around your neck, and let’s see the sights!
1. Discover your inner ‘cheese’. I’m not asking to find out whether you’re gouda (I’m fine, thank you), but instead am asking you to embrace the cheesiness that you know is within you. Everyone has this personality factor. Most like to hide it away and cover it with punk rock anthems and piercings, but incorporating cheesy ideas is the most important thing to do when planning a trip. The cheese, the fromage, the queso becomes the essence of a well-remembered experience. It may be embarrassing, but it’s the best part. And it’s easy: Add to any idea, mix well and enjoy. Not only may it include a Steven Spielberg directed documentary on your trip (see #6) including filmed good-byes from your new friends that plays through the credits, but also a vintage-style journal including meant-to-be-messy handwriting and various restaurant napkins and admission tickets taped haphazardly among the mounds of writing. Whether you’re a lactose-intolerant, macho, tears-are-a-weakness person, or a hand-me-a-tissue-Harry-Potter-is-a-beautiful-story person, don’t forget the extra cheese, and eat it up to your heart’s content.Now playing: “Everybody’s Changing” by Keane.