On-the-Road Travel Tips (part 12)

By Randy Keck
This item appears on page 29 of the March 2021 issue.

With this issue, we have completed something unimaginable to me a year ago: 12 months’ worth of On-the-Road Travel Tips submitted by ITN readers (each followed by my own comments). It has been a journey of sharing and discovery. It has also provided a most pleasant distraction from the enduring pandemic that has affected our lives in so many limiting ways.

It seems appropriate that these travel tips appear in a column entitled “Far Horizons,” since that is where we all hope to be traveling to again soon. As we plan for the better times ahead, we invite you to continue sending in your favorite tips on anything that makes the travel experience work better for you while actually traveling (125-word limit or close).

Birute Skurdenis (Oakland, CA) — I often visit fine arts and history museums when I travel. When allowed, I use my smartphone to take pictures of the works of art I like and of their exhibition labels. This is especially useful if I am unfamiliar with the artist.

When there’s time in the day, I’ll do an internet search to find out more. This usually provides information about other artists of the same era, so as I continue my travels, I not only keep my eyes open for work by the artist I enjoyed but look for similar artists of the period.

Since I have the digital photo and information with me, I can refer to the info when I find a piece of art elsewhere that reminds me of the first work. In this way, I familiarized myself with Spanish Impressionist painters while traveling in Spain’s Catalonia region.

When I get home and organize my photos, it’s useful to provide the background information in the next photo frame.

I follow the same steps when history exhibits interest me. When an exhibit label/description is not in English, I can use an online translator or show the photo to an English/native language speaker. From the additional research, I learn more about the history of the place I am visiting.

I also take photos of interesting graffiti or even advertisements. Since they often use slang, I can improve my idiomatic use of the language, also sharing foreign marketing cleverness with friends on Facebook. Wow, Birute! It sounds like you should be teaching a course on this very thorough approach to fine arts and museum history appreciation. — RK


Ted Mullett (Lake Toxaway, NC) — In some 50-plus years of travel, my wife and I have discovered that people are far more interesting than museums and cathedrals, and here’s our secret to meeting people: the “open sesame” name tag.

When we arrive in a foreign country, we ask a local clerk, guide or teacher to inscribe our name tags in the local language. Mine will say “Hello, my name is Ted. Please practice your English with me or SMILE!”

In thousands of encounters, we’ve never had a negative response. We discovered that people want to be friendly and, especially in Asia, are eager to speak or learn English.

Besides sparking conversation, this has led to some special experiences, such as teaching English in a Brazilian high school, having dinner with a couple in China, and attending a birthday party in Vietnam.

There is only one negative. Be sure to have a supply of hand cleaner, as you’ll be shaking a lot of hands.

Well, Ted, you receive a Gold Star from “Far Horizons” because — through creativity and simple genius — you’re in the trenches meeting the locals. While not all travelers desire this degree of immersion, those who do now have a great way to help that process happen.

We all hope we will again have the blessed opportunity to shake hands with locals on foreign soil in the not-too-distant future. — RK


Randy Keck (Jamestown, RI) — Hey, that’s me! I have a travel tip to share.

When leading groups in the year leading up to the COVID shutdown, I always traveled with a telescoping walking stick. Almost always, one or two members of my group ended up needing it at some point during the journey.

Prior to purchasing it, what I was searching for was an inexpensive, telescoping, lightweight model that would break down to be as small and packing-friendly as possible. What I found was a collapsible trekking/hiking pole from EarthTrek Gear (earthtrekgear.com), with the longest breakdown section being only 12 inches, which even fits into my small backpack.

It comes with a pouch and weighs only 10½ ounces. It is available on the EarthTrek Gear website for $23.98 as well as from other online sources.

To me, traveling with a tucked-away, unimposing, collapsible walking stick like this is a no-brainer for anyone with walking-related limitations.

Contact Randy at 80 America Way, Jamestown, RI 02835; 401/560-0350, randykeck@yahoo.com.