The Travel Adviser: Travel quotes, goofs and gaffes

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”

A Flight (photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
A Flight
(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
We’ve just completed the dog days of summer, that sultry period that relates to the hottest, most uncomfortable part of the season. Promotions abound in American ballparks to boost ticket sales for mid-afternoon games, while newspapers compete among themselves to wake up their readers from their languid sojourns.
So it is with great admiration that I go back to the true source of “dog days” – its relation to the “Dog Star,” Sirius, and its position in the heavens. For to the skies million take flight this summer, seeking out new horizons, visiting old haunts, exploring the unknown or sinking their teeth into a romantic novel as the waves lap their toes. It is with those pictures of pleasure dancing in my head that I offer to you a list of “travel quotes, goofs and gaffes.”
1. It was Mark Twain who quipped, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
This is a man who never flew on a plane, never saw for the umpteenth time the flight attendants’ demonstration of how to fasten a seat belt.
News flash for airlines all over the world: we know how!
2. Another famous person who never set foot on a plane was Chief Seattle, a noted American Indian who in the mid-19th century quipped: “Take only memories, leave only footprints.”
Which leads into that inquisitive inquiry: Why do we still take off our shoes for the Transportation Security Administration? It’s been nearly 15 years since the deranged Richard Reid attempted to light his shoes on fire.
Surprise people, no Nike shoes have exploded, yet travelers still have to remove their footwear before boarding a plane. The practice seems more frustrating than comforting, unless the TSA officials take pleasure in watching us parade barefoot through their machines.
3. Revered travel writer Bill Bryson says, “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
Travelers to the Far East relate the near life-changing experience of a Japanese toilet. Complete with heated seats, pressure-adjustable water spray attachments and soft warm blow driers, it makes for a hygienic and satisfying bathroom experience.
Of course when you delve deeper in the many countries in the Far East, you’ll also get to experience first-hand a “squat toilet.”
4. Helen Keller, a deaf-blind author and activist was known to say, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
It was Yaffa who shared the following tale with me. She was flying on a British Airways TransAtlantic flight from London to JFK, deeply content in her window seat when a tall lean man with chiseled features put his bag in the overhead compartment and sat down in the aisle seat. Without batting her eyes, Yaffa leaned over and said, “I think we’re going to be lucky.” The stars were aligned on that flight; the middle seat stayed empty and the conversation flowed like the wine they continued to imbibe.
When he asked her if she wanted to go out for dinner in New York, she readily said, “I do.” One year later she repeated those same words under a huppa overlooking the Old City walls of Jerusalem.
5. Science fiction, fantasy and mystery fiction writer Ray Bradbury wrote, “Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world.”
He didn’t advise bungee jumping from some natural wonder, though. The fact that so many sane travelers in their home country feel the desire to attempt something abroad they wouldn’t do at home leads to near tragic results.
Consider the bungee jump off Victoria Falls in Zambia. No matter that almost 50,000 people a year endanger their existence as they hurtle toward the Zambesi River. It only took one snapped bungee cord to send Erin straight into the river. Infested with crocodiles, and having a collapsed lung and bruises all over her body, she managed to escape death.
No doubt the large amount of antibiotics coursing through her body led her to comment that she might consider bungee jumping again.
6. Eugene Fodor, the Hungarian-born writer who turned his travel guides into a publishing force, loved to opine, “You don’t have to be rich to travel well.”
That might be true, but the multitude of online hotel booking sites still omit the properties that one should avoid at all cost. Black Lives Matter may be a political movement in the United States, but the experience that the Steinbergs had at an inexpensive hotel they found in Koh Samui left them wishing they had spent more money, as the black lives they encountered most definitely mattered.
The encounter transpired in their hotel room.
The hotel was listed on the sites as a bit run down, but they arrived exhausted early in the evening and decided to stay there and look for better accommodations the next night. They put their backpacks in the room and went out to grab some grub. When they returned, the walls seemed blacker than before.
When they switched on the lights, the walls started moving. Suddenly thousands of cockroaches ran down the walls and started scurrying back to where they had come from – the toilet. Needless to say, they quickly checked out and found the wherewithal to spend a few more bahts for nicer sleeping conditions elsewhere.
7. Peter Hoeg, the Danish writer once wrote: “Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.”
I’m not sure if he was describing traveling with a teenage son, but traveling with a brooding teenager can raise the shackles of the most patient parent.
Too often steeped in use of his smartphone, his surly outlook on the wonders his parents had planned for him led to reactive behavior characterized by both clichéd and comic results. Following unwillingness to ask for directions as a GPS sent them scuttling in the wrong direction, sounds emanating from the back seat appeared to be smart-ass comments about the lack of planning.
Warning to all beneficiaries of parent benevolence: snide travel advice to those who are sleep-deprived, undernourished and lost is never appreciated.
8. US travel writer Tim Cahill commented, “A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”
No doubt he never participated in a Birthright tour from the United States to Israel, where one of the goals is a shared experience. As the college- age group traversed the roads of northern Israel, the bus stopped at a beach for bonding. As they traipsed into the water, a big wave came in with dozens of jellyfish. The soft plop as the gelatinous tentacles slapped the youths across their chests and legs could be heard all the way to the seashore.
Almost everyone got stung, and while the jellyfish aren’t poisonous, their stings burned and itched unbelievably. For the next few days, everyone had to urinate on each other to soothe the wounds. Talk about a bonding experience.
9. French writer and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “He who would travel happily must travel light.”
Traveling with just hand luggage should be your goal. Do you really need six pairs of heels, tea bags, and an iron? I’m not trying to be sexist, but personal experience and anecdotal evidence has led me to postulate that when it comes to the Battle of the Sexes, women tend to over-pack. Take less and you’ll travel cheaper, with no check-in luggage fees. You’ll also travel faster, as there will be no waiting for your bags, and you’ll travel easier, as one carry-on means less to lug around.
10. Anna Quindlen, an American journalist and columnist remarked, “The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.”
That may be true, but taking on the role of a smuggler is one that far too many travelers have tried. We have all read or seen passengers trying to smuggle in drugs and live animals. Smugglers have attempted to sneak through customs drug-filled goat meat, chocolate chip cookies, cocaine-filled breast implants and bags of custard. Live tarantulas and other insects have also been discovered.
The oddest smuggling attempt must belong to a Cypriot Monk, detained by Athens security. This man of the cloth had inside his luggage a skull and a skeleton.
Insisting they belonged to a sainted nun, he felt obliged to bring it to his Order. Unfortunately for the misguided Brother, the bones belonged to a far more mortal nun, who, unable to fly, had passed away just a few years earlier. With no bones to pick, the monk was charged with theft and desecrating the dead.
11. Gustave Flaubert, a French novelist known for his literary realism wrote, “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
Tiny places are one thing, but stuffing an infant into an overhead bin borders on senseless stupidity.
No blushing virgin, a flight attendant on a Virgin Blue plane was fired for putting a toddler in an overhead bin. She claims she was just joining in with the boy’s father, who was playing peek-a-boo with the 17-month-old child and got carried away.
The child wasn’t physically hurt, though three months later he was apparently seeing specialists for anxiety. His mother claims that she was so traumatized that she left her husband.
12. James Michener, an American author who wrote lengthy sagas covering generations in an historical locale commented, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”
To that sage advice let me leave you with two more tips. Learn a little lingo. Memorize a handful of words of the local language and don’t be embarrassed to use them. It’s amazing how just a few words will go a long way; locals tend to appreciate those who have made the effort to communicate with them in their own tongue.
Finally, know when to keep your mouth shut. If you are in a country where it is unsafe to drink the water, keep your mouth closed in the shower.
The writer is the CEO of Ziontours, Jerusalem. Email questions and comments to [email protected]