We often get asked by clients, “where should I go next?” I suppose the answer is best decided by a few return questions. Where have you already been? What are your interests? What activities are you looking for? There can be nothing worse than putting someone on a trip that they are clearly not suited for. It only leads to troubles for themselves as well as the rest of the group. At ElderTreks we categorize the activity levels on our trips from 1 to 5 with 5 being the most strenuous trip we offer. This would include trips that involve extensive hiking, often at high altitude or through swamps and jungles. Obviously those travelers with any mobility issues or those suffering from certain medical conditions should really think twice before joining one of these trips. But what about trips of a lesser rating, say a 1 or 2? Could we still have problems? The answer is a resounding yes! It may not be the physical limitations, which come into play, but rather the general conditions at the destination, which may affect the trip. When traveling to less-developed countries conditions may not be what we are used to at home or even what we have experienced on previous trips. It is each person’s reaction to local conditions that will largely determine whether the trip is a cultural odyssey or a disaster.
What do we expect when we travel to foreign lands? I am the first to admit that nice hotels and clean restaurants are of primary importance but should they “make or break the trip”? In my experience the answer has mostly been ‘no’. When traveling I tend to remind myself of where I am and that things are not like they are at ‘home’. Sometimes the level of accommodation or food served is truly the best available. It often helps to find the humor in the little differences we may encounter when traveling. I once stayed in a hotel in Djerba, Tunisia. The room was OK but what caught my attention was the decorative trail of rose petals that were strewn about the room – including bed, shower and toilet - in an attempt to brighten up the place! I stood transfixed upon entering not sure if I was supposed to move anything or just trample over the flowers. I spent a restless night in a raised longhouse in Northern Thailand once. The villagers had placed a pig under the floor and he squealed forever. Rising groggily at dawn I was cursing the animal as I came down the ladder. I did not have long to wait before a few of the locals arrived with long knives and untying the pig, proceeded to butcher him in front of my eyes. He had apparently been brought in the night before for our benefit and was to be the main dish for our welcome dinner. How many of us have been to a restaurant in China, eagerly awaiting a local dish only to have the proprietors proudly serve us a huge plate of French fries! All you can do is smile. No matter how difficult, frustrating or ugly things can get while traveling I am always glad to be on the road exploring somewhere new. Remember, it is these interesting experiences that will make the best stories when you get home.
If you feel you are someone who has to have their trip go smooth – in all aspects - then may I kindly suggest that you choose your next destination very carefully. No matter how exciting you find the prospect of visiting somewhere like Ethiopia to be, the food and hotels will surely disappoint. But then again if these comforts are what motivate your urge to travel you will miss out of some truly amazing experiences.