Some go to a second home, some to a pre-arranged vacation (whether of their own making or one organized by a 21st century merchant known as a “travel agency”), and some to “hit the road” and engage in sightseeing around the country or around the world.
Being a quite experienced tourist myself (having done a number of ocean voyages across the Atlantic, with destinations of England, Scotland, France, etc.), I thought it might be helpful to offer a few suggestions on making your voyages more enjoyable and less worrisome. So here are Ben Franklin’s top ten tips for traveling: (also see slideshow following the story)
1 Planned activities: Bring along something else to do while on the road (that is, for your passengers). Young passengers, particularly, seem to get bored very easily, and will quickly need some guidance. In my day, we sang songs, enjoyed the scenery, and engaged in conversation. While that may still work in these modern times, I understand that sometimes these are now superseded by iTunes, movies, and texting. Whatever works for you, do it.
2 Scientific pursuits: I often amused myself on my ocean voyages by charting the Gulf Stream, inventing designs for a less sinkable boat, and investigating the human psychology found on shipboard. And once, on a cross-country trip on horseback, I rode my steed directly into a small windstorm or “dirt devil,” wanting to see if my presence could interrupt or affect the miniature tornado.
3 Food: Be aware of your companions’ tastes and usual meal times – and ignore them at your own peril! In my day, we didn’t have this amazing new invention of refrigeration, so we were rather limited in what we could bring along on our trips (one gets rather tired of jerky after awhile). So stock your coolers full of snacks, drinks, treats, etc., that will last you for the length of your trip, and beyond.
4 Accommodations: Once, on a wintertime trip through the upper part of the colony of New York (no Thruways or interstates in those days!), my companions and I had no other choice but to sleep on the hard floors of some abandoned houses. For an older person like myself, of course, that did not come without consequences. For those of you traveling in these modern times, I would advise planning ahead and making reservations, if possible. That way, you can sleep on a real bed, not some wooden boards.
5 Climate control: Traveling with John Adams once, we shared a room overnight and discovered we both had different thoughts about fresh air. I preferred to sleep with the windows open, while Mr. Adams wanted them closed because of a cold he was suffering. I proceeded to use all my scientific knowledge to persuade him that colds do not come from fresh air; on the contrary, the air is good for you! He allowed me to keep the window open while I expounded on my theories – but had the audacity to fall asleep in the middle of my lecture! To make a long story short, try to work out a compromise with your companions on what “air conditioning” temperature to have in your room (since all too many hotel rooms these days no longer have windows that actually open!)
6 Be open to serendipity or fun detours: Sometimes, departing from an organized itinerary can be more entertaining or rewarding than your original plans. If my boat hadn’t been blown off course by a storm, and if I weren’t so hungry and bedraggled-looking when I first arrived in Philadelphia, I might not have made the impression I did on my future wife, when she saw me walking down Market Street with two loaves of bread sticking out of each pocket.
7 Bring spare keys, spare necessities: Being locked out of your vehicle, or your room, can put a real damper on your trip. Life was much simpler in my time, but I know what an inconvenience it can be when your clothes and belongings become separated from you because they went on a separate ship, while you traveled on another. So be prepared for similar unpredictable circumstances.
8 When in France, do as the French do: Be careful to observe local customs and practices, so as not to cause any unnecessary conflicts or confrontations. Do not assume that everyone will always cater to Americans (or southerners to northerners, easterners to westerners, etc.). Sometimes, the traveler will find it most helpful to engage in a role reversal and be hospitable to one’s hosts. On the other hand, there are times when sticking to one’s culture of origin may have its benefits; in France, by dressing as the “rustic” American with a fur hat (rather than powdered wig and other finery), I found that I amused and amazed the natives, and got a lot more mileage in my diplomatic endeavors.
9 Accidents happen: Sometimes, they’re unavoidable. Make the best you can of the situation, and remember that the other people involved are most likely just as put out as yourself. By engaging in a spirit of collaboration and mutual benefit in any negotiations, you will both come out much further ahead than if you were to come on like a bull in a china shop and play the role of an aggressor.
10 Before signing your name, read everything: As one who has put his name on numerous documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, etc., I know it can be fairly time-consuming to check everything over before signing. But that way, you’ll avoid the regret of a choice you inadvertently make without knowing all the facts, which later turns out to be rather costly or embarrassing. When I gave my support to the Stamp Act while I was in England, I had no idea that the colonists back home would react so negatively to it, even to the point of threatening to burn down my home! Always read first, then sign later! Otherwise, if you sign in haste, you’ll regret in leisure.
11 Take plenty of pictures: So, I’m one tip over my limit. Just go and have fun, and take plenty of pictures along the way, to remember your travels.
Your humble servant,