The Ten Immutable Laws of Travel

{This is a commissioned travel article I wrote a while back.}


“The rewards of the journey far outweigh the risk of leaving the harbour.”


1.You are a better person when you travel: more adventurous, more outgoing, and probably a lot more fun.

You’re less inhibited and more open minded when you travel. Put on a Hawaiian shirt and a goofy sun hat and the world is your oyster. When is the last time you lead a conga line at your local Denny’s or regaled perfect strangers with your harrowing experience at the infamous ‘Running of the Kittens?’ Strangers and fellow travellers find you more interesting when you travel… because you are.

2. No place in the world is really like home – that’s why you travel.

You always say ‘man it’s good to be back in my own bed’ after returning home from travelling. By the second or third night, well… it’s just a bed. After a week or two you realize that the dumpy little hotel room above the fish market wasn’t so bad. After a couple of months you even begin to appreciate that while still arrogant, condescending and heroically rude, foreign waiters did have their charms. After a year you’ve read and re-read Hemmingway, Michener, Bryson and Mayle and you just have to get back out there to explore the world.

3. Everyone knows what is going on and exactly how everything works at your travel destination, except you.

Wherever you go, there you are: In the middle of a busy train station staring blankly at the schedule. You are working up the nerve to go over to the ticket window and engage the sour looking man behind the window knowing that he won’t, or will pretend that he doesn’t understand a word you say. Or you suddenly realize that you are lost and that you and your family have just wandered in to the part of town your travel agent nervously referred to as ‘Hell’s Bathroom’.  Or a major delay has just been announced at your airport/seaport/train station and everyone around you is already jumping into action. You, on the other hand, just stand there gazing in all directions at once – absolutely clueless.

4. The bank* is always closed wherever you travel.

{*Substitute ‘bank’ for pharmacy, hospital, post office or any establishment that is critical to you at that moment.} Is it a religious holiday? Are they closed for a Siesta? Are they operating on special holiday hours? Is there a strike? Are they out to lunch? Have they been closed for repairs since the end of the Second World War? Are they all hiding under their desks? Do they even care? A corollary to Murphy’s Law: The likelihood of an institution being closed is directly proportionate to the importance to you of it being open.

5. There’s plenty of time to see everything – until the last week/day/hour of travel, then you panic.

Parkinson’s Law states ‘work expands to fill the amount of time you have to do it.’ This applies to travel as well. You believe you have forever to do the all the things that you had planned until the eleventh hour when you’re not remotely close to completing your list of ‘must-sees.’ So you panic. “Okay, listen-up, we can zip over to the Grand Cathedral, swing by the Museum of Modern Taxidermy, work our way back through the ancient city of Badluck and make it back before the breakfast buffet closes.” In the end, you rationalize that you’ll be back. Perhaps you will.

6. Everyone puts off travel for some time in the future.

“I’m waiting until: 1. “I have more time.” 2. “I have more money.” 3. “I retire.” 4. “I win the lottery.” 5. “Hell freezes over and then I can skate there.” You fill your life with busywork and the weeks fly by. You make plans and revise them and the months go by. You experience a series of major life events and years go by. There’s always time to see the rest of the world… tomorrow.

7. It’s the little things that will make, or break your vacation.

It won’t be the grand palaces, magnificent vistas or the spectacular architecture that make the holiday. It will be something small. The kind gesture of a local, the ray of moonlight that breaks through the clouds just when you need it to, or the fellow countrymen you run into at a local market.  Those small experiences set the tone for the rest of your trip.

8. You never regret traveling

(…but those tech stocks will haunt you for years.) Life is what happens to you along the road to achieving your goals. Traveling makes that journey a little more interesting. Even the trips that seemed like disasters at the time benefit from the perspective that only time and maturity can provide. No one’s dying words were “I wish I traveled less.” (Except perhaps Amelia Earhart or Willy Loman)

9. The best travel experiences are the ones you don’t plan.

Sure, continue finessing that twelve page itinerary, buy all the travel guides, do your online research, talk to fellow travelers – that’s all great stuff. But the memories that last a lifetime come from things that were unintended {planned spontaneity doesn’t count}. You can’t plan on good fortune. It just happens – and usually at the most unexpected places and times. Doing the unexpected, taking a few risks and choosing the road less travelled tends to please the gods of serendipity.

10. The more you travel, the smaller the world becomes.

One of the wonderful benefits of travelling is that you gain a broader perspective on different cultures, attitudes and ways of life. The planet gets a little bit smaller with each new adventure.



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