Enduring travel advice

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you. -Edward Abbey

It’s definitely the season for travel and, of course, the opportunity for some desk-bound vicarious world explorers to settle for the warnings, suggestions and adventures of others to fuel fantasies of exotic experiences.

Most travel columns review and recommend specific sites or events. I’m more interested in the premise, and maybe the promise of travel; of encountering the unknown and, at times, unexpected.

Most of us travel to see the world, but it is often the case that we end up seeing our homes and even ourselves from new perspectives.

My first commandment of travel is very simple – be prepared. The wrong shoes can ruin a trip – as can a misfit companion.

The road doesn’t tell the traveler what lies ahead.

Perhaps, to some degree at least, when we travel, we anticipate the new and unexpected – as long as it isn’t too new and unexpected.

The word “travel” comes from the same word root as “travail” as in physical or mental exertion or even agony or torment. And some travel can be like that. I’m sure we’ve all been on those trips that have been more ordeal than enjoyable.

In short, there is the journey, the destination and the company – any one of these can demolish the best potential travel experience.

Some roads are not meant to be traveled alone

Travelling alone has its attractions. But very quickly the “alone” aspect becomes the dominant, sometimes oppressive, factor. Making decisions on your own is easier. But so is getting lost or missing a connection.

A good travel companion can be hard to find. Look for one that shares your passions as well as your energy level. And sleep schedule.

Travel gear

When it comes to travel, nothing is better than good equipment. And nothing is more frustrating than equipment that breaks down or doesn’t work properly. The best equipment is that which has been travel tested and used, even battered, by extensive use.

Travel light – and compact

The best way to travel is to keep it simple – or at least keep it all in one place.

Most travel guides (like Rick Steves) recommend keeping everything in a carry-on. Checked luggage has become almost legendary for getting lost or being stolen.

Keeping everything in a simple carry-on can make you travels much less stressful – if you can cram it all in. To help make it all fit, here’s a review of packing cubes to help make the best use of space.

And for travel gear extraordinaire, take a long look at these two sites mentioned below. I can’t say enough about these two product lines.

First, Matein (www.matein.com) makes the best carry-on sized case I have seen. The one I have turns into a (very comfortable) backpack (with a special pocket to stow the straps when not in use) but it also has two handles (to carry the case vertically or horizontally). Both handles are strongly enforced and made to withstand vigorous use. Matein products come with a lifetime guarantee and liberal return/exchange policy. As solid as their products appear, I don’t expect to ever have to make use of such services – which to my mind at least, is the greatest compliment.

Tripped Travel Gear (www.trippedtravelgear.com) among other things, makes a series of absolutely great travel bags/pouches that serve both semi-universal and extremely specific purposes. As one who has previously travelled with plastic bags for shoes, laundry and hygiene products (from toothbrush to sunscreen) I can’t even put into words how much easier my last trip was because of dedicated containers for dirty laundry, shoes and electronic devices, cables and chargers.

Your focus in travelling, after all, is on the experience of the new place and its offerings – not on sorting through seemingly endless look alike bags for a toothbrush or clean socks.

Zip it

Both of these products had a feature I never knew I needed before – solid and strong compression zippers. These allow the contents of the suitcase or pouches to be compressed when space is an issue. Having zippers to enclose a space and compress a package can be confusing.

On the Matein case, the zipper is supplemented by two sets of heavy-duty straps to pull the case tighter. The Tripped Travel Gear packages have main enclosure zippers that are color coded. Both of these product lines make the ordeal of travel easier and allow a deeper focus on the reason we are travelling.