My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets

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Here’s the deal: Katie at Tripbase had the very clever idea to post her best 3 travel secrets, then ‘tag’ 5 others to post theirs. Jodi at LegalNomads was kind enough to tag me, so I’m gonna take my best stab at it. I’m arriving late to the party (as usual), so I suspect most of the good ones are already taken. “Pack less”, “bring more money,” and “avoid Nigerian investment opportunities” have probably been covered extensively. But fear not, I will blindly stumble forth –  forsaking fear, doubt, and common sense. As usual.

A bare-bones camping setup can really enhance your journey and take some stress off your pocketbook.

Tip #1 – Camping May Be an Option. Now, this really depends on the length of your trip and the destinations you have in mind, but a bare-bones camping setup can really enhance your journey and take some stress off your pocketbook. For my upcoming RTW trip, I’m bringing a light 1-man tent, an ultralight sleeping bag, and a slim Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad. By lurking around eBay and such, I paid a total of $350 for the setup and it all weighs less than 7 pounds. I will certainly be lugging all of this unused through many countries, but at other times I think it will come in quite handy.

During an earlier trip through Italy, I camped 1 kilometer from the heart of Sienna for $12 a night and then spent a week at the water’s edge on the coast of Sicily, drinking red wine and skinny-dipping at night while Mt. Etna glowed and rumbled in the distance. I spent 2 weeks camping 1k from Centraal Station in Amsterdam for less than the price of a hostel. All of these campsites had showers, laundry, and snack bars. On my next trip, I hope to spend a week camping on the Lido near Venice for about $15 a night and taking the vaperetto into the city in the morning. Other camping possibilities for this trip: Greece, trekking in Nepal, National Parks in any country, the Andes in South America, Central America, and the occasional “oh shit, I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere” moment.

Tip #2 – The Ultimate Travel Accessory, the Bandana. This is a simple one. Bring several of these bad boys — they can really save your butt at times. I’ve used them a coffee filter, as a doo-rag to protect my bald head from the sun (or hold in heat when it’s chilly), as a mask in dust storms, and as a tourniquet when my arm was bitten off by a shark. True story — google it (please don’t).

Run out of toilet paper? You’ll be glad you brought extras.

Tip #3 – Camels Are Evil. Ok, you weren’t expecting this one — I understand. In many parts of the world, it is considered de rigeur to go on a camel trek into the desert or pose for a photo atop one of these disgusting beasts. Do not fall for this. Camels are foul, hateful, nasty creatures. If embarking on a trek, you will sit in a ‘saddle’ that is essentially a couple of 2×4′s covered with a napkin for padding. Within 30 minutes you will not be able to feel your legs. This is actually a blessing, as the crazy riding angle and the constant see-saw, back-and-forth motion will be slowly grinding away at the skin and muscle of your inner thighs. You are not going to walk right for a week.

An unhappy camel is not something to be trifled with.

When you’ve had enough of this, your guide will pull hard on the reins (attached to the camel’s nostrils) to stop your mount, thoroughly pissing him off. An unhappy camel is not something to be trifled with. We’ve all heard the stories of camels spitting – this is not exactly accurate. Like cows, camels have multiple stomachs (approximately 34 of them – I’m not exactly sure on the number) and when they spit, they basically puke the partially-digested contents of their uppermost stomachs at you. The smell is truly indescribable — imagine that you stuffed lawn clippings, goat cheese, and Satan’s spleen into a Tupperware container and stored it in the direct sun for 3 months. That would be almost as bad. A camel can ‘spit’ that concoction about 50 feet in any direction with pinpoint accuracy.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

As for who to send this to next… I really have no clue. The list of previously-contacted people is a mile long and I’ve been blogging for a couple of weeks. So let’s just say, if you’re interested in carrying the torch, send me an email or contact me on twitter.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie, Tripbase December 10, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Super tips Johnny, thanks for sharing!

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Ryan February 17, 2010 at 3:01 am

LOL @ Camels are Evil. Thanks for the advice, We’re starting our RTW trip in Egypt and we’ll definitely keep your camel advice in mind! Haha.

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wes February 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Keep your eyes peeled! Have a great trip. Maybe we’ll bump into each other somewhere along the way.

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cody February 18, 2010 at 4:51 pm

In many parts of Scandinavia you can camp anywhere for free (of course, you won’t have such easy access to facilities):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_to_roam#In_the_Nordic_countries
(See the section about Nordic countries)

I’d say if you were gone for 2-3 months or longer on a RTW trip, free versus $15/night would be awesome :)

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wes February 18, 2010 at 6:08 pm

oh yeah, those kind of savings add up quickly. I spent 3 months on a motorbike in the US one summer and saved a fortune by primitive camping most nights in National Forests. Thanks for the tip!

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GRRRL TRAVELER February 19, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Funny Camel Tip! LOL. I agree about the camel ride- totally uncomfortable… your thighs might have been gripping but my butt was totally clenching. I would put elephant rides along in that category too. It looks so laidback & easy but its all an illusion. Sometimes, you’re only strapped in with a flimsy rope (*placebo safety)… i’ve found its another butt balancer!

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wes February 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm

oh no! elephants too?! Well, hopefully they don’t spit at you…

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Matthew March 13, 2010 at 3:26 am

A bandana for a coffee filter? That’s brilliant! With tips like that, I assure you I’ll be back to your blog!

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wes March 13, 2010 at 4:39 am

Heh, thanks. It works well, but it’s a one-way trip. That bandana will never look the same again ;)

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Capo For Guitar May 20, 2010 at 11:23 pm

I wants to include your blog to my blogroll please tell me what anchor ought to I use?

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Raji January 4, 2011 at 7:21 pm

It is so very important to keep your sense of humor intact when travelling for so long like this. Did you experience both – run out of toilet paper and use bandana; and couldn’t walk properly for 10 days after camel ride ? :))
Raji recently posted..Long time- No See !My Profile

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wes January 5, 2011 at 10:38 am

Yup. Been there and done that ;)

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Theodora January 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Just got to this post via Phil in the Blank. And, may I say, having travelled on a camel in the Sahara (not the luxury end of the Sahara, or at a luxury time), and put a tonsilitis-ridden 2 year old on one in Egypt (I thought he just didn’t like the height…) and had to be assisted by men on horseback after getting off it (fine for him, bit gropy for me), I can safely say that camel travel is not at all fun.

Even when they’re not puking on you.

You appear, also, not to mention here the biting. They are bloody vicious. I’ve never been bitten, but they can take absolute chunks out of your legs.

Now, wild camels… That’s another thing. Apart from anything else, you don’t need to get up close…
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wes January 17, 2011 at 9:59 am

Ha! Glad to hear someone else speak the truth about camels. They are, indeed, biters — I had two of ‘em try to nip me at the Camel Fair in Pushkar. The worst, however, was when one sneezed right in my face as I was passing by. Disgusting.

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Lauren Thomas February 9, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Camels are evil! I’ve never met another creature that’s quite as unpleasant and ill-tempered as the average camel. The smell is one thing but it’s definitely the spitting, biting and general discomfort that really got to me.

My first experience of camel-related trauma was on a family holiday to Tunisia in the mid-nineties when I was around twelve or thirteen. At such a sensitive age, the smell was positively nauseating and my camel had a more than passing interest in one of the lady camels a fellow traveler was riding…

My second camel encounter was many years later in the Sinai desert while taking a much needed day trip into the wilderness while on a Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. This time round I had a nasty camel who seemed to be determined to either throw me off or bite me. I managed to avoid falling off but did get nipped on the arm – the bite needed to be throughly disinfected afterwards, though apparently I was lucky it wasn’t much worse.

Is this aggressive streak exclusive to the camels you find around the Sahara or are other breeds just as unpleasant?

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wes February 10, 2011 at 10:38 am

I haven’t met the camels from the Sahara but I can attest to the fact that camels in India are ornery, cranky beasts. Can’t believe you got bitten by one! Evil creatures…

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Quade Baxter July 22, 2013 at 2:37 pm

I haven’t read all your posts, but hadn’t seen much about camping. I am gearing up for my own trip like yours, and debating bring a sleeping bag & tent. Are you still carrying yours?

And yes- Camels suck! Saw a guy pay to ride one at the Great Pyramid, and the camel handler left him up there …til he paid even more to be helped down! So you can add extortion to your Camel Hating List!!

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