Right of Way: A Vietnam Travelogue

I look at the traffic, coming in droves from all sides: mopeds, taxis, pick-up trucks, and bicycles. The mopeds are the most impressive; some solely carry their driver, others are laden with flowers, food, cartons, ducks, hens, pigs, and other animals, with cargo carried on baskets behind the driver, or on laps, or on a well-constructed and expertly balanced pyramid over the rear wheel. Others carry families, three kids flanking a parent, laying waste to the idea of a saloon or people mover as a household requirement. Lanes, to the foreigner’s eye, are nonexistent, and instead, one sees constantly created pathways as each vehicle finds its own way, in its own time. The moped engines are the loudest — a quick rev of each engine as they weave through the melee — but the tut-tut honk from the cars and trucks give them decent competition for volume. The sound, collectively, takes on a low-level roar.

On my first day in Saigon, I am intimidated by the streets, and stick close to Van, my old friend and host for the next two weeks. I confess this outright, so we can address it right away.

“Perfectly normal,” Van says as we approach our first intersection. Her gait is smooth and unhurried, perfected over eight years living in the city; her tone is calm and soothing, developed after welcoming countless Westerners here.

We stop at the curb and look at the waves of oncoming traffic. The impulse, whether Western or Darwinian, is to dart. But it turns out this is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Read the full story over at Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel

Photo courtesy M M via Flickr Creative Commons

How to Travel with Just About Anyone

This photo shows a man in the driver seat talking to a woman leaning in through the passenger window

When I teach the “Beyond the Hostel” travel chat at Society of Grownups, I always ask my students about the best and worst trips they’ve ever taken. More often than not, their “worst trip” answers involve traveling with people who didn’t mesh well, ranging from clashing personalities to disagreements on food, activities, budget (you name it).

We’ve all been on trips where we didn’t necessarily get to choose whom we traveled with — and should you find potentially incompatible travelers will be joining you on your next trip, you’ve still got time to make the most of it.

Get the full story over at the Society of Grownups blog.

 

Debunking ‘Best of’ Travel Lists

This photo shows a globe and a headset

“What’s the best day of the week to book airfare?”

“Where’s the best hotel in Paris?”

“Who has the best lobster roll on Cape Cod?”

When it comes to travel, I often get some variation of these questions from friends and family — and it makes sense at first glance. We work hard and get precious little time off each year, as such, we want to make sure we’re making the most of our vacation. Hence the pursuit of bests — if we’re only getting a week in Jamaica, or a long weekend in San Francisco, we want to make sure we’ll enjoy it and have an ideal experience.

Any and all major magazines have their “10 Best” lists popping up for everything from airlines to airports, hotels to restaurants. (I may even be guilty of having authored a few such stories in my previous life.)

But here’s the secret: Even after 10+ years of studying consumer travel trends, I’m here to tell you that the word “best” is — at best — a fallacy. Think about it: It’s a means of finding a quality experience that will appeal to the most people, across all walks of life. It’s a way to quickly distill something complex and nuanced into an easy-to-digest format. And it’s a method for busy travelers to save time during trip planning — after all, consulting a “best of” list is the quickest way to research a new place.

But by focusing on the generic “best”, ironically, you might miss the experience that would be best for you. So it’s time to remove the term from your Grownup traveler vocabulary.

Get the full story over at Society of Grownups blog.