The trick to never getting lost again lies in some very old travel wisdom.
It's not everyday that you get to use a piece of travel advice that's been rolling around the back of your head, well, for a few decades at least. However, on my recent trip to Honolulu, a very old travel tip popped in my head at exactly the right time and I'm glad it did.
The old advice goes something like this: When you check into a new hotel or guesthouse, pop its business card or a box of branded matches in your pocket. (This is how you know it is old advice - what inns have personalized matchbooks these days?) When you inevitably get lost on the winding streets of Barcelona or in the medina of Rabat, you don’t have to rely on your sense of direction or ability to describe a featureless property in a language that isn’t your own. You can just show said address to a taxi driver and you’ll be on your way.
This advice is repeated in Marybeth Bond's book, Gutsy Women (which is still a superb resource for female travellers, even if a few passages are now a bit out of date). In her entry, she also emphasizes that having a hotel business card is invaluable in countries like Thailand or China where you are unlikely to read the language and your English-language notes aren't going to help the local residents when you ask for assistance.
Well, I FINALLY used this advice, albeit in a modern, updated way. Here's the story.
In Honolulu, we hailed a cab to take us home after dinner one night. However, our cabbie had no idea where our hotel was. The name didn’t ring a bell, nor did the intersection (which was two major streets – why was this suddenly so hard?) I tried to describe how it was very close to a famous landmark hotel but that only led to more confusion (no, we're not staying there - we're NEAR there!) Then our driver said that many hotels change their names, which sounded like a bit of a cop out. Uh, do you not know your city at all? I had forgotten about the Uber-ization of the entire taxi industry, in which entering a precise address in the system is a necessity for drivers and the days of jumping into a cab and declaring "Take me to the corner of Main and 82nd street!" are long gone. Our driver needed an actual street address and he wasn't moving till he had one. Our ancient phones and their Canadian data plan meant no internet for us. What could we do?
But then I had my moment of triumph! My hotel key card was still in its paper cover. Said cover had the hotel’s address on it. HUZZAH! When I remembered I had it and yanked it out, it was a moment of absolute triumph. YES SIR I DID INDEED KNOW THE ADDRESS. He only had to glance at it for a second before we were off. He clearly did know where he was going and we were there in less than ten minutes.
The joke's on me, in the end, as the minute we pulled up, our drive exclaimed "This used to be the Getaway hotel!" Our hotel HAD changed its name recently, just as he had predicted. Had we known the old name, we likely could have sorted out our problem much earlier.
Based on this little mishap, I've concluded it's best to:
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