So as the title states, there is always something to watch out for when travelling. I’ll tell you what the title means at the end, but first a few thoughts.
In the heat of travel season in Europe and around the world, the population nearly doubles and depending on the size of the town or city, it may triple at times. With these numbers being high and so many of the world travelers being oblivious to life, one must always take precautions. This is in no way to scare anyone from travelling, as it is something I believe is part of our human makeup and one of our life’s most important learning tools. We just want to make sure everyone watches your back. Travel in pairs or more. Be aware of your surroundings and if you pull it off…don’t look like a typical tourist. For example, 4 of my favorite cities in Europe are in the top 5 places for pickpockets. Barcelona, Rome, Prague and Paris are 4 of the top 5 cities for this type of crime.
Why do they pick on tourists is because you are usually too busy looking at everything, suffering from sensory overload and in awe of a place most people have only seen on TV, in movies or read about in a book (yes people still read books) and are too busy realizing that something’s gone missing.
The important practice of nothing in your back pockets and having zippers on bags and purses closed at all times. Not carrying large amounts of cash and keeping your passport safe (an American passport can be worth thousands of dollars to someone). Securing zippers with travel locks or the ever famous wearing a backpack on your front like a human kangaroo (I personally can’t stand it and don’t understand why you would want to look like a marsupial). One thing we forget is making sure you leave nothing on café table tops like cell phones, cameras, etc., as this is an easy grab and go. None of this will make you 100% target free, but it sure helps and keeps you at least aware of some of your actions. We have learned to keep an eye on our surroundings, we stay close pretty much at all times (that may be love though) and trust me when I say we get off the beaten path on almost every occasion. Street smarts go a long way when travelling and it is also something we pride ourselves on.
Our basic reason for the blog is to make sure you as a traveler don’t forget your brain at home…and now for the title.
I would always hope that Caroline would have my back and I have hers when needed, whether for safety or just to alleviate embarrassment. But who am I kidding; we would kill to be able laugh at each other at any hour of any day. While walking the streets we stumbled upon the woman below in the photo. Walking for blocks and her husband who was not caring at all for her situation, this was the view for the world to see.
Watch your backside…or in this case watch others.
Travel Tip #1…
…Ask questions, ask again for clarity and sometimes for fun, ask again (except I never do and always make Caroline do it. Guy = can’t ask for directions).
It’s not you acting like a dumb tourist, although they might think so. It’s just reassurance that everything goes the way it is supposed to go…if that even exists.
So the story goes like this. Arriving in Paris from Venice by plane, we found our luggage and decided the best way into the city center would be the train of course. It seems to be the quickest and most financially reasonable way of doing things in most big cities in Europe. So with luggage in hand, Caroline and I make our way to the ticket window. Knowing we must get from the airport to the city center, we tell the ticket agent what we need, grab our tickets and excitedly jump on the train.
We get to the train station where we must change trains and get onto the city center subway system. The ticket goes into the gate, the gate swings open and off we go for train number 2. We travel the 20 minutes or so until we get to Châtelet station, the big hub in the middle of the city. From there, we were to switch trains again on another line to get to our destination. Tickets go in the gate and a red light appears in front of us. Try our other ticket and the same red light appears. We then decide we could just exit and walk the 3 blocks or so and just bypass the train all together. Little did we know, these same tickets would be used to exit the station and lead us to freedom. We find the gate to exit with the same result. Tickets go in and the familiar red light shines brightly in our face. We then learned that our tickets were only good from the airport to our first stop where we switched trains to the city. Little did we know you had to purchase another ticket to get us into the sometimes confusing zones that the Paris subway system is split up into.
So what was the easy solution? Buy a ticket at a ticket kiosk or customer service center and be on our way. Well, that’s the easy solution. All the ticket machines are on the other side of the gate, where we needed to get to and after wandering the station like mice trying to get through the maze to the cheese, we discovered the customer service center was closed due to construction like most of the station at this time. If you would have been able to roll back the surveillance video of us in this 30 minute span that felt like 2 hours, it would have been a hysterical site to see. At some point Caroline and I were just staring at each other, in silence, utterly dumbfounded… So what was the answer to our welcome to Paris situation? Ask a military guard, who looked at us like we were some kind of travelling mutants. Seasoned travelers brought to our knees by the system, we thought we knew. With confidence shattered, tired from a 3:00 am wake-up call, running to a flight from the water transit system in Venice and now being caged like the non-paying criminals we were…we found our hero. A cleaner, who just pointed to a gate and said follow the lady with the stroller. We were free. Our criminal activity in Paris had come to end.
Travel Tip #1…Ask questions, ask again for clarity and sometimes for fun…ask again.