March 14, 2012

TRAVEL TIPS: On the Road

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“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde

Things that will casually ruin your life: skydiving without a parachute, taking your SAT without a number two pencil and showing up to the airport without your passport.

I can’t say I’ve actually forgotten my passport, but I’ve seen the agony it inspires. So I, and most of the imbeciles with whom I travel, have made a system to remember our passports. It’s called “CHECK IF YOU HAVE YOUR FLIPPING PASSPORT!”

Many things should make you think of checking for your passport. But this system is much more progressive than that. Hey, there’s a crying baby – I’m going to check if I have my passport. My passport number is now as familiar to me as my CTB order.

The only time I’ve ever seen someone try to cross the border without a passport is when my mother forgot my older sister’s along the Italian border to Switzerland. I remember them questioning my sister over and over again to make sure she wasn’t some sort of stolen Italian orphan.

If anyone were capable of smuggling an orphan, though, it would be my mother. A theater major from a random Ivy League school in Ithaca, she could sell sand to people in the Sahara. Needless to say, my sister accompanied us to Switzerland. I haven’t seen someone cross a border without a passport since, except for in some truly exceptional immigration movies. So remember yours.

Second tip: timing is everything. I suggest in these times of travel and complete self-reliance to leave time in between travel connections. Oh, sweet were the times when I would vacation with my family, free of responsibility and herded like a sleepy, oblivious sheep. My recent transition from the train from Florence to a bus at Ciampo was not quite as picturesque.

In case you betray and accordingly fail yourself, make sure you have a bag that you can strap on your back and sprint with. I’m not talking about a Sunday jog around the park or a brisk walk to make it to class on time. I mean hauling legs, body and miserable belongings so fast that small children think you’re a convict running through the station. Our transition from the train rolling in at 9:57 for the 10:00 bus was less than elegant.

Lastly, civil rights do not exist in international airport security. Keep this in mind when packing. I would like to a give a personal shout out to my friend Eleanor at London Stansted Security, who despite the seemingly harmless name had the disposition of Ms Trunchbull. I was almost instantly taken aside in the security line, most likely because as I mentioned earlier I am the offspring of international criminals.

Eleanor scolded me for wearing my scarf through the metal detector. After it went through twice more, we established that I had not, in fact, hidden contraband in my measly excuse for a fashion accessory. Ellie continued to take out the entire contents of my bag – bag in this context is a generous term for a large purse – which had enough stuff in it to humble a Wal-Mart supercenter. She took out my various pairs of colored underwear and laid them out with tongs. There was a nun in line behind me.

Ultimately, all I can say is check for your passport, leave extra time and, for the love of god, remember to heed to the holiness of airport security.

Annie Ziesing is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at aziesing@cornellsun.com. Notes from Abroad: TRAVEL TIPS appears on Thursdays.

Original Author: Annie Ziesing