By Bill
A FORWARD ... By Lou

A friend of mine (for many years) sent me some of his favorite “travel tips.” He said that if I thought they were “worthy” of being included in Random Thoughts of Gold I could include them in my travel tips chapter.

Bill is quite the adventuresome person. His passion is scuba diving and underwater photography. He has traveled all over the world as you will discover.

I was quite impressed with his “tips” and thought that I would indeed include them in my travel tips chapter. It was then that I discovered that I didn’t actually have a travel tips chapter.
Yes, I do have some travel stories (A Travel Dilemma ...See Entertainment), a chapter about (Cruising…also in Entertainment) and a chapter about (Protecting Yourself Against Scams…see Totally Random). So, my “travel tips”... are scattered throughout.

My decision was to give Bill his own corner and I cleverly came up with the title BILL’S TRAVEL CORNER.
Anyway here are Bill's travel tips. 

I sincerely hope that he continues sending in more material. His style of writing and his knowledge would be a most welcome addition to Random Thoughts of Gold.

                         BILL’S TRAVEL CORNER

                                                                           By Bill

For a struggling business owner, I travel quite a bit. Most of my travels involve scuba diving and I lead trips all over the planet. Because I'm an underwater photographer, I like areas that offer the strange and exotic. This usually means places with strange, almost unpronounceable names and involve transits of multiple days to get to my destinations. Sometimes I travel to places or live aboard boats that others would think are in dangerous areas or dive with creatures that are commonly regarded as deadly. The maxim of "be prepared" couldn't be more apropos.

In my travels I have learned a thing or two about what I carry and how I can best be prepared to survive. In no particular order here are things I do to set myself up for the most comfort and to be able to successfully handle the unexpected.

I pack all my clothes inside plastic garbage bags with drawstrings (in case baggage is left on the tarmac in some tropical and wet location just when an unexpected downpour occurs.)

I carry a small, generic, wrapped gift. (Someone in my group always celebrates some event, whether it's a birthday, anniversary or a 500th dive. This is especially effective when it's someone you just met. The gift I carry is usually a small framed photo of me doing something stupid. The Real gift is the Dollar Store frame, the picture just brings laughter).

I get a base tan and eat garlic and yogurt for at least a week before the trip. Many a trip has been lost by someone getting fried on the first couple of days diving. Pre-tanning may not be healthy for the skin but it's sure better than the alternative. The garlic acts as an internal mosquito/bug repellent and the yogurt puts acidophilus into your system to counteract the local foods and alternate view of sanitation.

I carry color copies of my passport, driver's license, tickets, reservations confirmations, transfers and credit cards in a safe place.

I carry money in three different places. In my pocket, in my carry on and in my clothing bag. If I'm robbed, I still have money.

I carry a light weight change of clothes and mini-toiletries in my carry on in case I'm separated for a period from luggage that's been delayed.

I give the counter person my claim checks when I check in at each airport and they can look on the computer to see that my luggage has been put aboard. This is very important since the reason I'm going is all tied up in my camera and scuba gear. I took a trip this last year that involved 7 flights over 2.5 days to get to the live aboard boat just to start the trip. We were the 6th group to have ever dived this area. The location was Fakfak and is considered to be the epicenter of biodiversity on the planet. It's located in Irian Jaya which is just below Raja Ampat on the Bird's Head Peninsula on the island nation of Papua. Yeah, THAT remote.

If I travel to a third world country, I use it as an opportunity to share (unload) all of the gifted Hawaiian shirts that I've always hated or the t-shirts that I'm given that I'd never wear. I leave them for the crew of the live aboard who usually wear the same shirt the whole trip (their only one) and are ecstatic to get new clothes.

I use a computer case as my personal item. That case has rollers. No matter how small your computer is or how little it weighs, it gets heavy as you schlep all your gear from the International Terminal to the one used for local flights. I gave up "macho" about 10 years ago and never looked back. All my gear has rollers.

I carry an abundance of low denomination bills - 1's and 5's. You can always dole out a passel of bills to total the bill but it's sometimes difficult for the locals to make change for a $20 when you want a soda. And $100 bills??? You might as well be carrying Monopoly money for all that's worth in small communities.

I also carry about $100 worth of the local currency … also in small denominations. Get it at the airport. It's nearly at bank exchange rates and a heck of a lot better than at the hotel.

I drink only bottled water on which I've cracked the seal. Too many are being refilled locally with "filtered" tap water.

I carry more medications than most physicians and I have several in our group. Usually, when you reach real adulthood (over 60 and in good health), you can coerce your doctor into giving you what you want with a simple explanation of "why." ...or you can take a chance and just wait until you get there. Ambien, Ampicillin, Viagra, Cipro, Percodan, Tramadol, Z-Paks, and Prednisone are all over the counter in third world countries.

I take small, easily transportable toys and hard candies for the kiddies I meet and for the families of the Dive Masters and crews of the boats and resort from which I dive. You would not believe the extra service that these thoughtful gestures can garner.

Enough back to work.