What I Got Right, What I Screwed Up on This Month-Long Trip

Insert B.S. quote about traveling and coming home here….

Phew, 32-days later I’m on my way home to New Jersey. There are worst fates. Time to take stock of the past month in terms of what I did right and what I didn’t do a good job of doing.

First off, everything went off without a hitch. Although I started with getting bumped off my initial flight to London out of Newark, everything after that was right as rain. No missed flights, trains or bus departures or transfers. No lost luggage. No muggings or pick-pocketing. No hotel reservations gone wrong. Best of all, I’m coming home healthy and free of injury.

To give myself a pat on the back, it’s all in the planning. It’s good old-fashioned crossing the t’s and doting the i’s. I allotted the correct amount of days for each city. My favorite was Sevilla and four days was perfect in soaking in the city without feeling rushed. The ashtray that is Casablanca was fine at two nights. A full day is all you need to hit the major sites and local haunts. I don’t feel I needed more time in any of the cities. I do admit in Joburg that I hit a wall and was mentally/physically exhausted from doing things.

Another thing I did very well was pack accordingly for the changing climates. I jettisoned a cardigan sweater from my outfits and I definitely did not need it. I washed my undies, shocks and t-shirts twice in the process and ended up with the correct amount for 30 days with twice having two day flights where I had the wear the same thing in that time.

Above everything, I got to do, see, eat and drink everything I wanted to do. I don’t do itineraries, but I have check-lists of must-do, see, explore, eat and drink. What I felt like doing that day, I just check my Google doc on what I found interesting in my research.

Which brings me to the big thing I screwed up — I didn’t get to go on a day safari to Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa. I tried booking in advance via Viator and a few other sites but I was getting error messages or the sites wouldn’t book one person to add to a group. I said to myself, “Okay, I’ll just do it when I’m there and the hotel could help me.”

cecil1When I arrived in Johannesburg, I asked the hotel for help and they would gladly book a day-trip for the Friday I was there. No dice. They tried their usual tour groups they worked with and they were all fully booked. They tried five difference places. As they were told and they told me, the day-trip to Pilanesberg is popular and books up weeks in advance. In this case, there was a wine convention in town and the groups booked up all the available slots. Rats.

Lesson was that I should have called via Skype or e-mailed the websites that did the day tours. So no Big Five for me. The lions lost sleep that night.

The other somewhat minor occurrence was that I didn’t bring enough Euros or Moroccan currency and too much for South African. I actually left 100 euros at home, thinking 200 was enough. When you’re drinking cheap beer and wine and small pintxos and tapas, charging 5-7 euros doesn’t make sense so I just plopped down some cash. That starts adding up when you go to four bars a night. Eventually, I had to hit up an ATM.

In cases like this, check your bank’s website to see what deals they have with international banks that will waive their fees. For me, Bank of America works for Deutsche Bank in Spain. I had to hit it up not once, but twice in Spain.

MoroccoIn Morocco, no one has change and the restaurants that have credit card machines will ask you, “Oh, do you have cash? It will be easier.” I have a feeling they can’t be bothered getting out the machine.

The no change thing was a huge pain in the ass. I would pay for something that cost 70 dirham with a 100 bill and I would get, “Do you have change?” I call bullshit. They have change, they just don’t want to give it to you.

The minor thing that I didn’t need with me was my DSLR camera and lens. It’s eight-years old but still gets the great low-light pictures with clarity.

Since when I got that, the point-and-shoots are just as good — more compact, faster, great with low-lights  and easier to use. I got a deal on the Canon Powershot 700. What you’ve been seeing here is from that, so you’ll be hard pressed to tell the difference. I’m think it’s time to retire the DSLR, it just screams “TOURIST! Pick-pocket me!”

That’s it folks. I’m going to sleep for a few days and when I’m back on Eastern Standard Time, I’ll have a huge amount of posts from this trip that will give you a sense of the cities.

Thanks for tagging along and hopefully I gave you some good insights.

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