Just last month I and my boyfriend of 3 years tied the knot. Soon after, we hopped on a plane for a whirlwind 2 week honeymoon backpacking through Spain and Morocco. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed all the sights, sounds, and smells of new places (and in some cases new people...). We visited six cites during our time overseas- Malaga, Granada, Ronda, Rabat, Fes, and Madrid; and though many websites warned against visiting during Spain's rainy season we couldn't find a dark cloud in the sky! We learned a lot about each other and a lot about saavy travel...
1. If Rick Steves writes a book for it, buy it and don't let it leave your day pack. We literally could not have done some of our day trips (Granada and Ronda) without Rick Steves' Spain. Without him, I'm pretty sure we would still be lost in the streets of Granada's Albayzin getting tricked by Spanish Roma. Rick shows you the best each town has to offer from the local's perspective- keeping you far from the tourist traps in most cases. We also appreciated the care he took with explaining the history and culture of each locale which helped us connect with our surroundings and be more open-minded to changes that would have otherwise been uncomfortable. Also, take his advice on hotel recommendations. If you do you are guaranteed a clean, friendly hotel or hostel that won't break the bank and provides basic creature comforts.
2. Rick Steves strikes again with his packing cube set. If you don't have some, buy them now. They will make your life 100 times easier, especially when backpacking. I've backpacked without them, and there's nothing more frustrating than needing a fresh pair of socks and having to dump out the whole pack just to find them. Packing cubes compartmentalize the mess that is the hiking pack and helps you feel put together even when you're roughing it.
3. Ryan Air. The most awesome airline ever.We bought tickets from this airline months in advance to fly direct from Fes, Morocco to Madrid, Spain. The alternative would have been about a day and a half of travel by taxi, train, ferry, bus, train, etc. The tickets were only $60 for the both of us, and we worried that we bought into something too good to be true. "Maybe we'll be flying in a small Cessna with cows and chickens" I'd say, "or maybe it's so cheap because they steal your luggage to make up for their lack of compensation." False. Ryan Air is cheap, efficient, and friendly. I recommend them to anyone so long as they aren't the snotty traveler type who feels every service should bend over backwards to accommodate them. Word of advise: don't purchase priority boarding if you're flying out of a small airport or a second or third-world country. Be sure the weight you select for your bag is in fact its weight, and don't worry too much about the strict carry-on regulations, for the most part they won't check.
4. If you can't speak the language well wherever you travel, learn to say "What do you recommend?" in that language and commit to asking and trying whatever they point to if you find that the menu is unreadable. This will fill your trip with adventure, help you connect with the restaurant staff, and ensure that you don't spend your time in another country being drawn only to that which is familiar.
That's all for now. There are many more recommendations and tips in the posts to come, but its a start in revamping your travel techniques to make for a more enjoyable and stress-free cross-cultural experience.
|Rick and I...|
|John at the La Torre Del Oro- a mini museum for bullfighting (Rick Steves recommended).|