TGIF! I’m so excited it’s Friday because it means that today was my last day in the office here in Addis Ababa and I’ll be heading home tomorrow. I had a great time here in Ethiopia and will miss my co-workers but I am SUPER excited to go home. This has been the best work trip I have had in years. I’d be happy to come back to Addis anytime. To end the week of travel related posts, I thought I’d finish up with sharing 10 travel rules I live by.
1. Take a chance. Micah and I always like going somewhere new. The old standbys are nice but exploring somewhere new is an adventure. You never know what you will discover.
2. Better safe than paranoid. The water at my hotel in Lalibela smelled a little funny. I felt silly for brushing my teeth with bottled water but I decided I’d spend my entire trip in Lalibela worrying about stomach problems. Any hint of something not right in my belly would have me regretting the brushing decision. In the end, I brushed with bottled water and didn’t give it a second thought. Sometimes it’s better to be a tad over precautious if it means you’ll be able to enjoy yourself.
3. Trust your gut. I was supposed to go on a weekend trip with some co-workers to Awash National Park a few weeks back. The morning of the trip I was up early because I didn’t feel good. I could have pushed through but I was feeling crummy and really jetlagged. I decided to sit it out. The trip went south (bad) fast and the group returned to Addis as soon as they could. I also found out later that the park was in a malarious area and I didn’t bring any anti-malarial drugs because I knew I wouldn’t need them in Addis or Lalibela. It would have been bad if the girl who works on the malaria prevention program got malaria. I think sitting the trip out was the one of the best decisions I’ve made while here.
4. If you can’t live with a substitute, bring the real thing. Some people have very specific products they have to have (think feminine or hair products). Anything different will not do. Bring those with you. You may find what you are looking for but you may not. You don’t want to waste time looking. I have a thing about a certain type of floss. I’ve never seen it in Zambia and anything close to it costs 10 times what it goes for in Seattle, so I always bring it with me. I feel the same way about deodorant.
5. Go prepared. Recently, a person from my organization (but different office) came to Addis for a meeting. She was here a week and literally didn’t eat anything but bread and cookies. She was a picky eater and unwilling to try the food. She should have come prepared with nutrition bars, instant foods like oatmeal and soups, or brought a couple bags of nuts. She didn’t eat which contributed to her getting sick which made her cranky which affected her attitude throughout the trip. She had a miserable time and everyone knows it. The local staff were upset/hurt/sad that she now thinks so little of their country and doesn’t want to come back. If she had been honest with herself and brought a few provisions, it could have changed the entire trip for her.
6. Don’t bring anything you would mourn losing. Ok, besides your iphone and your passport. Well, even losing your iphone (which I have done) isn’t the end of the world. Leave the fancy engagement ring at home, don’t bring your custom made dress that needs to be dry cleaned and I’d avoid wearing the Prada sunglasses. Things get lost, ruined or stolen. You don’t want spend your trip crying about the crushed sunglasses or worried about being mugged.
7. Careful with the camera. I was talking to some co-workers in Zambia and here in Ethiopia about foreign visitors and everyone brought up the issue of pictures. They all mentioned how weird it was that foreigners take pictures of people without asking. I know there have been some places I’ve been where it’s really disrespectful. If you are taking a landscape picture or a crowd where you can’t really see faces or are at an event, then it’s probably OK. If you want to take an individual picture, I’d ask first. I always ask and have never had a problem. And, when I do take pictures of individuals, I make sure to either buy something they are selling, donate to their church (like the priest in Lalibela) or at the very least, show them the picture.
8. Shit Happens. Sorry for the language but it does. You just have to roll with the punches. I am much more laid back when I travel than when I am at home – a completely different person. If you compare where ever you are to home, you’ll never be happy. The food will never taste as good, the hotel will never be as clean, etc. I forget too sometimes and get frustrated but once I remind myself of where I am and why I am there, things are better and seem easier.
9. If you really like and can carry it, buy it. I don’t know how many times I’ve passed on something because I thought I could find it elsewhere for cheaper only to never see it again. If I like something, can carry it and think the price is fair, I will buy it. I don’t like shopping regrets.
10. Speaking of shopping, don’t forget to visit the grocery store (or equivalent). Some of the best presents I’ve picked up on my travels have been from a local grocery store.
Have a wonderful weekend.