I’ve been at this backpacking game for 26 years, but I’m still picking up a few tricks along the way. And useless bits of trivia, which might not be so useless if you ever go to Suriname, Guyana or Trinidad. Here are 10 things I learned during my trip in March.
- At least one window opens on a Boeing 737
- Kids’ Tevas go up to a six in U.S. sizes. This is equivalent to an eight in U.S. women’s sizes. Kids’ Tevas are cheaper by half and lighter by a lot. Comfort-wise, I didn’t notice any difference from my old, heavier adult Tevas.
- Remember a few years ago when everybody was all “drink açaí juice, it’s the new super food, you’ll live to 100 and your penis/breasts will grow larger?” And then you bought some (because you wanted to live to 100) and it had about a teaspoon of açaí berries in it, mixed with water and grape juice and ‘natural flavors and colors’ (probably from beaver butt)? Well, see that pulpy film around the inside of the glass? This is what real açaí juice looks like, and as for taste, it’s delicious and not at all like what we get in the store. (The orange stuff is awara juice, also extremely yummy.)
- Even though I’ve been wearing merino wool for years for layering in cold and warm climates, I hadn’t been able to wrap my brain around wearing wool in sizzling hot and humid climates. Well, I put it to the test on this trip and wow, I was impressed. After three days of hiking in Suriname in the same wool t-shirt, in 94 degree weather with Amazon jungle humidity, the shirt retained zero stink. I came home and immediately ordered another t-shirt and two tank tops online. It’s all I’m going to pack on my next trip, and the bonus is that it also totally retains its shape after hand washing it in the sink and wringing the bejeezus out of it. One thing to be cautious about is if it is described as a base layer, it may be really sheer, so read the customer reviews to get a better sense. (Sierra Trading Post and Mountain Gear are good places to get merino pieces at closeout prices in the U.S.)
- Does sweating make your skin break out in little bumps? A wise pharmacist in Trinidad turned me on to medicated sulfur soap, which I used to wash my hands for five days and like magic, all the bumps were gone. The active ingredient in Metasol, the one I bought, is 5% Monosulfiram B.P. but there are also other brands.
- Expired sunscreen really is just that. Don’t try to be ‘thrifty’ (cheap backpacker); throw it away before you go out and burn like I did.
- The seminal texting abbreviation of the 21st century, “OMG,” has caught on in developing countries. LOL!
- Section 213, Chapter 78:01 of Trinidad and Tobago’s Customs Act states that all camouflage clothing, shoes and accessories, pink included, is prohibited unless for use by the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force. This law covers importing, acquiring, possessing and selling. It also apparently covers anything to do with law enforcement, as I discovered when I wore my “Ghost in the Machine” tank top that said “The Police” on the back and was stopped on the street by a real live police officer and told ixnay on the optay.
- My new fave travel thing for hot countries is MiO Fit water enhancer. Plain water can get so boring, especially when you’re traveling in a hot country and have to drink a gallon a day. Voilà, MiO Fit. I wouldn’t buy it all the time because it uses artificial sweeteners, but once in a while for a trip, man, what a little gem (and little is the operative word, as you can see in comparison to my computer mouse). Bonus: the lid has a double snap and shuts really tight, so I had no leakage in my backpack.
- Google Maps is pretty slick, don’t get me wrong, but when you’re in Trinidad and it finds a Safeway grocery store just blocks from your guesthouse, don’t get too excited.
What random travel tips or trivia have you learned on your journeys, whether through clever research or cultural faux-pas?