The taxi driver drove over to the front of the hotel, hopped out, and asked me if I was going to Suvarnabhumi airport. I said yes, and quickly, he lifted my suitcases down the steps and loaded them into the trunk of his taxi. I got in.
As soon as the door closed, I had a nagging feeling I’d forgotten something. But it was almost three hours to departure, and I was pretty certain I’d checked all the hotel drawers and the bathroom counter when I was packing. No, I hadn’t left anything behind.
I noticed the taxi meter was covered with a small cloth and was off. I said to the taxi driver in Thai, “You’re not using the meter?”
The taxi driver glanced at me from the rearview mirror and said, “Airport is 400 Baht.”
Ah, that was what I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten that you don’t get into a taxi without first verifying (a) the meter would be used and (b) if not, you had to haggle for a reasonable price.
He stops at a gas station and fills up his gas tank. While he’s buying gas, I take a photo of his license plate number, and he sees me doing this. I don’t say anything the rest of the ride. When he drops me off, he gives me back some of the money I hand over. I would have given him 300 Baht knowing that he probably will have no fare from the airport back to the city, but now I am a little upset that he is only giving me back money from the overcharged fare because of the threat of a report to the Transportation regulatory bureau.
I’m more upset with myself for forgetting to bargain. Because that’s what you do in this situation. And I should have known better, etc etc. It takes the forty minute ride to let it go, in which the internal dialog goes like this:
Me: That was avoidable. You should have remembered.
Me: Let it go.
Me: How could you forget?
Me: Let it go.And it went on and on for 40 minutes.
On holiday your itinerary and choices of hotels and restaurants pretty much decide how much your budget is. And like a good holiday traveler, you plan for the budget before you go. Often, the occasion for travel can impact your decisions: to stay in a 100$ a night villa (Antun and Gabi on their 16th honeymoon, they have several a year) or eating a $2 lunch (Light Chaser on assignment, keeping expenses down so travel writing earnings don’t go all go to restaurants).
When you’re not on holiday, the budget is a little different. You don’t want to overspend, you have a daily range for expenses, and getting complacent about what you’re doing can cost you.
Sometimes the complacency can sneak up on you, like at the Manila domestic airport when Antun buys a local SIM card. He sees the sign “Tourist SIM – PHP50 and one month data for PHP1000.” So he buys the package and the seller puts the SIM in his phone. He doesn’t wait for the message telling him the carrier has credited his number with the data package. He doesn’t ask for a receipt. He does not Pass Go and Collect 200, instead descends the escalator to Gate 131.
A day later, he’s run out of data and the girl watching that Tourist SIM card booth at the escalator to Gate 131 of the domestic airport in Manila is PHP1000 richer. He finally learns how to check his phone’s prepaid account balance and finds he only had about PHP 84 left after a day.
We can do the research so we know how to navigate our travels with budget and sanity intact. But the harder navigation is likely the transition between the mindset of a holiday-maker to the thinking that makes us people who travel for life. It’s not an automatic switch, and we have to work hard to think differently.
4 Tips for staying mindful on the road
Always ask about the process of how something works.
The other day, Light Chaser bought a device for prepaid wifi, which promised plug-and-play ease. There was missing communication from the shop, in that the device has to be registered through its IP address, and a package chosen in order to activate the free 10GB of the first 7 days of the device account. This part of the process could not have been more crucial to getting the device to work. Light Chaser had to go back to the shop, whereupon one of the sales people patiently showed her how to register.
Always ask about or research cost.
Ask people at the hotel, the doorman, the receptionist, other travelers whom you meet about the cost of transport, food, etc. Read up a lot on the costs for items and services in places you are going, before you get there. Sometimes, your guidebook is a little out of date and there may be a different pricing on the ground, so be sure to confirm costs by asking around.
When things don’t go your way, it doesn’t solve the problems by getting angry or upset. Other people’s behavior is not something you can control. Your own reactions are what you control. When you have to be assertive, be so. When you have no other option but to let it go, do that. You’ll be happier on the road if you apply a little flexibility to your thinking.
Take care of your own stuff.
Especially when you’re traveling alone, no one is going to look out for you as much as you would for your own safety and well-being. Protect yourself and your stuff by being conscious of what’s going on around you. When you leave your room to roam for the day, don’t leave your valuables strewn around. In some cultures, whatever the owner doesn’t protect is open game for the taking. Generally, it’s good to have a packing routine each day that you will leave your luggage in a hotel room, a routine which might include locking stuff in one bag, and putting that bag away in a closet. It’s not only safe, but your room will also be neat and ready for the cleaning service.
Travel in peace and friendship,
Light Chaser and Antun