Episode 4: That Time My Bankcard Didn’t Work

365 Dates of Travel Podcast

365 Dates of Travel Podcast Transcript:

This week I’ll be talking about December. So December is a month where I go backwards and forwards between the 1992 American trip and a 2018 Christmas themed trip in England and Germany, before a 1996 trip to Israel and Egypt begins later in the month. Three brilliant trips.

In America, I’m still in Florida, and I still can’t believe I nearly missed out on a space shuttle launch. The only opportunity I’ve ever had my whole life, because somebody slept in. Luckily, it didn’t actually stop us from seeing the shuttle launch, but we were so close to missing out, and that just would have been awful. I hope he would have lied to me and just told me it was cancelled or something. Without my mobile phone and the internet, I probably would never have known. 

But the rest of the time in December in America, I had an incredible Psycho movie moment in Vermont, which is an interesting read. I visited Philadelphia on two particular days, but I had a day in Atlanta in between because I never stayed overnight in Philadelphia; I visited Chicago; visited everything Elvis in Memphis; St. Louis and its arch, which I loved; the Grand Canyon covered in snow. Oh, magical, magical time to visit the Grand canyon. Do not think the Grand Canyon is somewhere that you can’t go in winter. Trust me, it is beautiful. And I gave Los Angeles a second chance and had a good day in Los Angeles. 

But a lot of these days, somewhat really easy to write because they’re just burned in my memory for life. And you’ll understand why once you read the stories. And the others, though, were completely difficult to write because I literally just don’t have much documented about it. 

In contrast, I had a great daily diary entry for the Israel and Egypt trip in 1996 that was full of financial disasters. But despite the trials, it was an incredible trip. And the diary, reading the diary, just made the memories come flooding back. And I think I’d forgotten the intensity with which I hated Cairo. Like, I’ve always remembered that I hated cairo. But to hear my or read my words at the time, it literally the feeling of the pressure and the stress and the nightmare that was cairo just all came flooding back. And I did have to take breaks a few times because it really was quite a difficult sort of time to remember. 

I was so brave back then, like being an independent female traveller in Egypt back in the 90s. I’d never go back there now without joining a tour or having something all organised for me. And I would absolutely never, ever am I going to arrive at in Cairo airport without a pre-arranged, prepaid for, taxi or car or transfer or whatever it is you want to call it. And trust me, if you’re going to Cairo, you will appreciate this. Put that in your planning. If you are going to go to Cairo, include the transfer. I don’t care what it costs, trust me, include the transfer and you will have a much better time in Cairo. 

I so wanted to love Cairo. Like, I was desperate to get to Egypt. I loved everything about Egypt before I went there and it was disappointing to have constantly things happening that made you not love it, because I really wanted to just fall in love and have it be the best place in the whole wide world. But that, unfortunately, was not reality.

And even like the start of the whole trip. So literally, I’m flying to Israel, which is when I discover that my finances are not going to be abundant. The exact words I’ve written in my diary. So this is me sitting at the airport after I’ve checked in and realised that I’m not going to have the budget that I was expecting. I’ve written, “I was crying my eyes out. I was thinking of cancelling. I said to Owen, I might be back earlier than expected.”

So Owen was the flatmate who now had my PIN number. Not that the PIN number helped me, and so it really wouldn’t have helped him in any sense of the word either. Bit of a disaster, that card, actually, a bit of an oopsie, really, but never mind. I survived. 

Even though the diary was quite extensive, I have very messy handwriting. I’ve never been known for neat handwriting. I can usually at least decipher my own, which, in years of practice of deciphering my own handwriting made it easier for me to decipher doctors handwriting when I became a nurse. And people always used to joke when I was younger that I should become a doctor because my handwriting was so bad. So sometimes now we’ve gone to electronic records, but I do miss the joy, the pleasure, the satisfaction, I guess is the best word that you got when you deciphered some really bad handwriting and now everything’s typed, you don’t have to decipher anything, but there’s no satisfaction in reading what was written in front of you. 

I was also I’ve never been neat, so I was the last person in year four, so nine years of age, I was the last person in my class to be eligible for my pen licence, so my handwriting in pencil was not considered good enough to be trusted with a pen. So I wasn’t even neat when I first started learning how to write and I haven’t really got any better since. 

But I really needed to make sure I understood every single word. And also this diary, it was a one page per date diary, so you couldn’t just write as many pages as you liked. It was one day per page. And so I would write in every little corner. I would write two lines of text in each printed line. I’d go round the borders, I’d write over the top of the date, and there was a little calendar for the month on the side, so I’d just keep writing over the top of that. So all these years later, trying to, one, decipher my writing and sort of get really an accurate picture. 

I took a photo of every single page, pretty much, and with the photo, I was then able to zoom in and had that on my iPad while I was writing all the way zoomed in so that I could actually get every single word. And there’s no way I would have been able to decipher as much as I did if I hadn’t have expanded and zoomed and all those things. So thank you for technology, for helping me be able to read my diary, but I know it worked, and so I can always do that again in the future if I need to. 

So it’s amazing what you learn. You have all these things, but just because you have them doesn’t mean you can read them. I still had to come up with ways of deciphering the words and with different documentation. 

Again, the 2018 trip, this was in the phase where I’d already started writing the so called travel bible. So I had all the details of what was planned for the day all in one little space, with all my directions and how much everything costs, their opening hours, everything. And I had sort of daily diary entries as well. 

So by this stage, I was keeping all sorts of records. So I would start off with the date at the top. So I’ve got Wednesday, 5th December. Then I’ve got 3-4-5-6. I’ve got seven lines on my spending for the day. So I talk about my cheese sandwich on the train, which cost me €6.90 at the markets. I had my fruit punch for €4. I had a bratwurst sausage for €3.50. A hot chocolate, including the cup deposit to be reused was €5.50. I ate waffle with nutella yum yum yum. That was €4. I had to pay fifty cents to go to the toilet. My tram cost me €1.60, although I didn’t really kind of spend it or use the ticket properly. And I also had to pay some city tax in cash at the hotel, which was another €7. So I spent €33 on the 5th December. 

Underneath that, so I’ve changed, I always have a four color pen, underneath that I’ve changed the color of the pen. And I talk about what I wore. So I literally can tell you every single day of this trip the exact outfit that I wore. 

So this was the day where I spent a long time on the train. And so I’ve worn my very comfortable plane skirt. So the plane skirt is a very long stretchy skirt. That is the most comfortable thing to wear on a plane. I can sit in any position, lie in any position, get in any position I like and everything is just comfortable and I’m covered. So in my long train trip, I’ve enjoyed wearing my plane skirt. I’ve worn a white three quarter top, long socks and boots. I needed my cardigan in the morning on the train because it was a little bit cold. 

Then later when I’ve arrived in Dresden and then gone out for the Christmas markets, I’ve obviously got changed. And so I’ve documented what I wore there. So I put my jeans on, changed into a black top, used my black fleece, my vest coat, my big coat, Skechers for shoes, long sock still, and a hat and gloves. And then I’ve annotated the notes with, “slightly cold at times, especially legs, but good.” 

So I was trying to work out and know for the future, I guess, how many layers I was going to need, what to wear based on the various temperatures, but I didn’t actually write down the actual temperature, so how would I actually know what I would need to wear on another time? It’s all just hit and miss. That whole layering process is just the best way to go. 

I’ve also documented that I did 10,868 steps, so not bad seeing as I spent 7 or 8 hours on trains during the day. So that’s what happens when you go to Christmas markets, you get a lot of walking done and I did do a lot of walking that night in Dresden. 

So this diary has a bit of everything from that trip which gives a good rounded picture of what was happening. But this Christmas market trip, I was just really wanted to get into the Christmas spirit and I decided that I just wanted everything Christmas. So even when I was in London, I did the Christmas was at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland and we did our ice sculpting, which was a fun new Christmas activity to do. But I knew the Christmas markets I wanted to go to were the German ones. They are the most famous Christmas markets. 

Everybody knows about the Germany markets, but with so many towns in Germany, each pretty much with their own market, it’s like, well, what towns do you visit, which ones do you go to, what do you do? So during my planning, I basically got every travel brochure that had a Christmas market tour in it and I sort of lined them all up, wrote down all the markets that they all went to and then picked out the ones that everybody went to, so I assumed they were the best ones. And then I looked further into all of those markets and then I also Googled “the best German Christmas markets” and sort of match that up with the list I had from the brochures and came up with this. 

You needed to also work out how to get from one town to the next and the distances between and the time limits that I had. But I tried to pick markets that had something a little bit different each time, so I wanted something new to experience with each individual market. So that’s how I chose from what was considered the best ones that have visited, the most ones that I could get to in some sort of general itinerary that wasn’t sort of too much backtracking here and there and too much trouble or not enough travel because I had to enjoy time on the trains as well. That was all part of it. But the German trains literally go everywhere, which is just amazing and they’re really not that expensive, even when I splurge for first class. And yes, I just literally wanted to have something different. So sometimes I’d get to a view or there’d be different types of shop selling or different types of buildings in the background or night shows and stuff like that. So I did a lot of research in choosing which market and stuff I went to which had me in good stead. 

But there was one day where I printed off a map of the markets numbered with all the different stalls and exactly what was sold at each store. So it took up about four or five pages in my travel bible. Not sure it was really necessary, I didn’t really use it when I was there and I didn’t get a lot of shopping done, but a lot of that was because there were just so many people around. 

I found it particularly with I am embarrassed about not being able to speak the local language and it’s really hard when there’s lots of people around and it’s noisy and everything. It just sort of adds to my stress of trying to, I feel guilty for talking English in somebody else’s country or making somebody else speak English in their own country when it’s not their native tongue and that’s where a lot of it comes from, it’s the guilt. I just think you should be able to speak the language and obviously not everyone can speak the language but I feel like I should be the one to make myself understood rather than them changing to understand me. So it’s one of my annoying things when I travel. It definitely makes things more complicated and it’s more so when I’m by myself. A lot of the time if I’m in a group then it’s a lot easier because everyone’s just speaking English anyway and so it all just sort of happens in communication, just comes easier. But when you’re by yourself, obviously no one can hear you talking English before you’re coming or just talking in English in the background. So to know that you might not speak the language and there’s just not that protective layer, I guess, which I kind of need when it comes to talking foreign languages in foreign countries, or even talking foreign languages in my own country. But that’s one of my issues and somehow I always manage. 

But shopping for Christmas stuff did not go down very well. And to be honest, I could have come home with 10,000 things, but what I came home with was all my souvenir mugs, and I got one little Christmas elf, gnome, troll, whatever you want to call those little things to add to my collection. So I was happy with what I bought. I didn’t need to buy lots of souvenirs, so it probably helped save me money by being nervous about speaking foreign languages. And the more money I have means the more travel I can do. So if that gets me extra travel, then I’ll continue to be nervous speaking foreign languages and not spend as much money. 

So there’s a little bit of an insight into all sorts of different ways of documenting and traveling and everything that sort of happened in the month of December over my 30 years of traveling. I hope there was something in there that made you smile, whether it was remembering the pen licence, deciphering doctor’s handwriting, being nervous about speaking a foreign language or whatever it was, or just how I pronounced something or did something, or who knows? But I hope I made you smile somewhere in one of those stories, and I hope you understood a lot of what I said. I realised I’ve actually been talking very fast.

Next week’s episode is only four days before the launch of my first book, so I will talk a bit more about the road to self publishing and how I got to where I am, to the fact that it is only four days till my first book is available to buy. So I’ll chat to you then. 

But before I go, questions for this week. What have you done or where have you gone because of a television show or movie that you’ve loved or somewhere that you’ve visited because of a childhood interest or dream? I’m really looking forward to hearing those stories. Or am I the only person who does stuff like that? 

Well, that’s this week’s podcast. Thank you for spending time with me today. I hope I made you smile or laugh. Don’t forget to check out my website for more details about myself and the book, “365 Dates of Travel: The first six months”, and various ways to follow me should you wish at franheapwriter.com.

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