Travel Lessons We Learned in 2009

Posted by Katie Hamlin on December 03, 2009 at 8:00:25 AM EST | Post a Comment

Where did you go and what did you learn from your travels in 2009? Members in our forums recently shared their favorite lessons from a year full of collective travel to destinations both near and far. Below are just a few bits of wisdom (some funny, some reflective) they picked up along the way.

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Tell us what you learned

New Destinations

"I had my first trips to Senegal and South Africa for work this year which taught me that I am very blessed with the riches and people in my life. I also learned that Africa is an amazing country with many different tapestries to unwind." -- dutyfree

"Tanzania— I learned I am not so into safaris but that I love to travel where the people are as welcoming and warm as they are here. I also learned that sometimes something as simple as the color of the earth can stay in your heart long after your trip." --gruezi

"Rural Turkey—amazing countryside; warm people—I learned you can communicate without any common language." --immini

Planning for 2010: "Are you going on safari in 2010?"

Funny But True

"1) That scraping the fender of a rental car against a medieval wall doesn't have to ruin the day.
2) According to one of our waiters St. Louis is a drinking town with a baseball problem...or was it the other way around?
3) In Minneapolis I was adventurous enough to try eating deep-fried chicken feet. Waiters sometimes are lying when they recommend something." --LHS

"In my travels this year I learned that you should never order poullain and expect something to do with chicken. As the lovely rustic waitress would only tell me after I'd finished, it's 'Ha,ha! Pony!' Tasted good though." --oliverg

"Switzerland—don't miss the last gondola down." --colduphere

"We learned that the sea in Greece is very cold in May—don't jump in off the boat on the first morning without getting greased down first." --markrosy

Traveling Twosomes

"It is better to travel with people to places that I don't already love. Experiencing it for the first time together was better than taking them to someplace that I already love and holding my breath to see if they love it too." --BKP

"That without the daily grind, my spouse and I can spend 24/7 together for weeks on end and really enjoy one another." --PamSF

"I also went to Maui, where I learned that after 22 years of marriage, my husband and I are still in love. I also reaffirmed how much I love nature and the outdoors." --Iregeo

"From late September to now I learned—or maybe I should say I re-discovered—the great heart that abides in my wife. Following a trip to Kenya she returned home committed to doing her part to fight a nasty, but treatable, form of cancer affecting children in equatorial Africa. She's raising funds, working with volunteer doctors, lawyers, NGOs and government people…and it's starting to click. She's tireless and persuasive." --Gardyloo

Planning for 2010: "Suggestions for a quick romantic getaway in the Caribbean?"

Suit Yourself

"I have been to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and to Honolulu, Hawaii. It taught me that I am a happier person when I'm somewhere sunny with palm trees." --suze

"That one must go to a place and make up their own mind. Like most of us, I knew this and that's why we travel. We went to Amsterdam this year. After reading about it I suppose I was expecting much more. We spent 4 nights there and if it weren't for side trips, I would have needed to get stoned to enjoy it. Not a lot of people like Brussels but we spent 2 nights there and I could have spent more. Loved it." --LSky

"That Kauai is paradise, and the more you 'do' the less time you have to 'be'. Next time, less trips/tours/entrance fees, more quiet lunches, walks on the beach, afternoons on the lanai, etc. You get the picture." --rncheryl

"Paris—Fell in the love with the city on my second visit and would love to go again with a different cast of characters.
San Diego—Such a fondness for the city I lived in most of my life.
San Francisco—Unlike most, I realized I do not love SF and do not really have a strong desire to go back; it made me sort of sad to realize this." --MomDDTravel

"Cross-country road trip! What I learned: South Dakota is beautiful; Chicago is amazing; NYC is great but too hot and sticky and crowded in the summertime; gas is cheaper in the East but wow are those toll roads expensive; Yellowstone and Mackinac Island are beautiful but probably best visited off-season. Mostly I learned that driving across the US is a not-to-be-missed experience. I am so happy I got a chance to do this." --azzure

Traveling with Family

"Well, first it is hard to travel and accommodate everyone's wishes. I became a 'go-with-the-flow' person and it was much easier. My MIL who is originally from Austria changed our itinerary hourly." --girlonthego

"Four-year-olds love day sailing in the English Lakes—but they get stir crazy after 3 days at sea. Also its very difficult to get anything done when 80-year-olds chase your son around the islands for a hug each and every day." --Markrosy

"In Colorado I learned that you can have a great visit, even if it snows and is icy and you can't really do those things you had planned. Grandsons can keep one entertained in any circumstances. Even ones that are almost 15 and presumably not all that interested in visiting with old folks." --Challiman

"I vacationed in Cape Town and the Western Cape in August with my two grown kids. While there I learned that they are just as amazing and fun in their twenties as they were when they were two." --dutyfree

"There's nothing like seeing the Eiffel Tower with your parents, no matter how many times you've seen the Eiffel Tower (alone, or with one parent). That spending time with your parents is something to be treasured, and I'm glad I have them with me so I can take them slowly around the world (which is a dream of theirs)." --mcnyc

Planning for 2010: "Where in Europe should we go with our two kids in March?"

We Heart Europe

"There's a lot to be said for an 'integrated' itinerary, but hard to anticipate how to do it. Completely unintentionally, we went to many places that artists had painted (around Provence and then Giverny near Paris) and then went to the museums that showed those artists' paintings. It turned out to be a richer experience than we could have guessed or planned." --Cyanna

"Rome - It is a lot better the second time around—in fall not summer, and with a lot less touring and more cappuccino and wine drinking." --gruezi

"Paris in September—need I say more! It was our 7th trip there and it still holds all the charm of our first. On this trip we learned that if we could afford to live anywhere in the world with no worry about cost it would be Paris." --TPAYT

"I was reminded how wonderful the pharmacists in Paris are and what great remedies they have. I learned that knees can be fragile things." --mms

"I went to Wales and learned that you can't trust the people in tourist info booths when they tell you something is a 'short walk' away, and that little kids speaking Welsh sound really cute especially when it's along the lines of 'welsh welsh welsh Bob the Builder welsh welsh welsh." --nona1

"Paris grows on me every time I visit. The first time I didn't care for it. The second time it was great. Third time was magic. London will always be one of my favorite places. Belgium is far more interesting than I would have thought." --lennyba

Planning for 2010: "Splurge-worthy choices in Paris and Provence? "

Old Favorites

"I learned I can fall in love over and over again with a place! There are pockets of NY still to be discovered while the abiding objects of my affection (good pastrami, blintzes, and pizza) continue to be objects of my affection. I adore New Yawkers and all their kindness, humor and relative lack of pretense" --PamSF

"After 20 years of searching the Caribbean and liking different islands for different things, we returned to Provo for the 2nd time and we learned that it is the perfect island for us. We will return again in 2010." --TAYPT

"London is still my favorite city in the whole world. It feels like the center of the universe." --BKP

Attitude Is Everything

"If something bad happens to you in a place, you may reach the conclusion that it's the place you don't like. It's worth trying to remember that just because you got lost, missed a connection, didn't get the last ferry, had something stolen, got food poisoning, that doesn't mean the place you were is across-the-board a lousy place. I don't always manage to keep that in mind myself...just saying." --Cynanna

"Finally, I learned that you take your home-based worries with you and they can have a negative impact on even the most beautiful, intriguing, charming place." --immimi

"I learned to eat when I was hungry, because restaurants in Europe aren't always open to accommodate my US dining habits." --Challiman

"That a lackluster year of color in New England (to the natives) is one fantastic one to me." --PamSF

"I learned that although travel is wonderful, there's no better feeling than coming home to our own little nest and realizing how fortunate our life has been." --southeastern

Your Own Backyard

"How many people actually reduced their travel due finances and travelled closer to home only to find that what is on your doorstep frequently beats what you pay an arm and a leg to see. We discovered South West Scotland which is a micro version of BC, Canada. Its 2 hours drive a very very quiet anyone out there travelling between England and Scotland should try a half hour detour to Dumfries." --markrosy

"Apart from trips to NYC and Baltimore, I think South Dakota was my only trip in 2009. I learned that places right here in the USA can be every bit as exotic and different as places on faraway continents. Really, I think I wandered around SD with my eyes bugged out almost as much as they did in India. It felt just impossibly foreign." --StCirq

Planning for 2010: "Any long weekend trip ideas from southern New Hampshire?"

Universal Truths

"I learned that a few days away, in our case a long weekend to Ireland, can be just a rewarding and enjoyable as four weeks away." --hetismij

"I learned that I can pack for two weeks in a carry on and tote bag. I'm very proud of myself for that. You would be, too, if you had traveled with me on my first trip to Paris and London." --Beachgirl247

"The journey IS the destination and what a glorious journey. The drive through the mountains from Boise to Sun Valley/Ketchum is worth the 5 hours. ....capped off with frolicking in the Kirkham Hot Springs right off the mountain road (so glad I had gym clothes packed to change into)." --ncounty

"Fodorites are the best—not only they give great advice, there are also some who would go out of their way to help you even if they had never met you before." --yk

Photo credit: Istockphoto/brittak

Member Comments (9)  Post a Comment

  • Luisah on Dec 5, 09 at 12:25 PM

    I learned to step outside my comfort zone. First, by booking a trip to Turkey, which was a wonderful overall experience. The Turkish people were welcoming, the shopping was fun and the numerous museums, mosques and churches that I visited were educational and the art (mosaics, religious paintings, Iznik tiles) was stunning.

    I tried to follow advice I read shortly before leaving to travel with a "Buddha" mind -- be open to new experiences. So armed with two goals, maintaining an open mind and moving outside my comfort zone, I booked a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia and what a wonderful experience it was! Floating gently above the surreal landscape was a first step in curing me of a long-time fear of heights.

    At the end of my trip I booked a room in a small Ottoman-style hotel in Sultanahmet and was charmed by the neighborhood. Watching boats and ships on the Sea of Marmara from the hotel's rooftop terrace was relaxing and, although some complain about the early morning muezzin's call to prayer, I looked forward to it; it was a new experience for me and I found the sound -- pretty much in stereo since the call came from several mosques -- to be quite beautiful.

  • txgal on Dec 3, 09 at 09:13 PM

    I learned that I have little to no luck at slot machines, but love the excitement of Las Vegas. That there is nothing as beautiful as The Baths on Virgin Gorda and I really can breathe through a snorkle. I learned that Disney World at Christmas is magic and that huge crowds add to the fun. That cruising is a good bang for your buck, but Sandals Jamaica is a splurge well worth it, and the Jamaican people are among the friendliest in the world.

  • Kitty_Parigi on Dec 3, 09 at 08:24 PM

    I learned that travel is a gift that keeps on giving! I never imagined that, after years of travel to Europe, I would be hit like a ton of bricks with a deep passion for Venice, one of the most popular, expensive, and crowded destinations on earth. Which just begs the question: What other places might have this unexpected effect on me? Keep traveling, everyone! As Dotwa says, people are friendly around the globe, especially if you travel with a warm heart and an open mind. It's truly worth all the delays, jet lag, language barriers, and culture shock, when in the end you come away so enriched.

  • Dotwa on Dec 3, 09 at 01:10 PM

    I learned that if I had the money and no obligation to anyone I would travel almost all the time. At 67 I have this feeling that I must make up for lost time and see places I have dreamed about for years. I also reaffirmed on a recent trip with my sister that we are blessed as a family with unconditional love for one another. Not all families are so blessed. And, last but not least, people are friendly in every corner of the world.

  • Nancyvtravels on Dec 3, 09 at 12:50 PM

    I learned that although Prague is absolutely gorgeous, I preferred Krakow for its heart, people, and manageability.

  • opus on Dec 3, 09 at 09:36 AM

    I learned that although I love my children and their children dearly, I do not love them quite as much when there are 6 of us in in a campervan, hitting the backroads of North Island, New Zealand. My hippy days seem to have come, sadly, to an end when it comes to riding backwards trying to console a carsick toddler chained to her carseat while her father casually veers around precipitous corners in a van with 4 mismatched tires. I loved it when we stopped, though. Picnics by lazy rivers, thermal springs to soak in, clear lakes to paddle around, building castles on long stretches of people-free beaches-- and eating my first (and last) deep fried lasagna-- all travel memories that stick, while the stomach knot caused by the sashaying campervan has long fled.

  • DonnaD44 on Dec 3, 09 at 09:13 AM

    In 2009 I learned that it is possible to go on vacation spontaneously. In the past I was sure that vacations had to be meticulously planned, airline tickets booked months in advance, guidebooks pored over and over so that absolutely nothing would be missed. Well, it's just not true. My husband and I decided one day in August to spend the weekend in Tuscany. On Monday I bought the tickets, on Wednesday night we were flying and by Sunday we were back home--all without a plan or a guidebook. The airline ticket prices were actually much lower than I would have expected. There were plenty of hotel rooms available and we had a fantastic time. Full disclosure: we went to a place we had visited before and did not need to research the area. Having so little time to fret or ruminate over the planning of the trip allowed us to just enjoy each other in a setting we love.

  • momlyn on Dec 3, 09 at 08:58 AM

    I just learned that travel insurance really is a necessity- got out to LA (from the east coast) and was too sick to get on the flight to New Zealand. I also discovered that the people at the New Zealand Adventure Co. are incredibly kind, and that the rules at Quantas and New Zealand Air aren't! So... we're re-scheduled with no extra charge from the travel co., and are paying the airlines over $1,000. Lesson learned.

  • lilaki on Dec 3, 09 at 08:45 AM

    i learned that if you're in paris and your DH has thrown his back out ... the french word for 'registered massage therapist' is "kinésithérapeute". and i also learned that if you ask for a "massage", you'll get a funny, disapproving look because the locals will think you're looking for a red-light district massage!

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