I wake up on the floor of the airport in Ibiza, which is a surprise. And not just because I slept in the airport, but because 24 hours ago I had no idea I would even be here.
I wipe the drool off my Clipper Race jacket, which I’ve been using as a pillow, and take a good look around. I am delighted to find that a mere two-hour flight has removed me from the gray drizzle of the UK and transported me to the blinding summer sunshine of Spain.
I see a barefoot girl in a bikini standing in the airport’s corner café nonchalantly drinking a cappuccino. House music is pumping from the David Guetta nightclub located next to the baggage claim carousel. A group of European-looking lads in tight jeans turn to ogle a stream of twenty-something girls walking past in booty shorts, tank tops and ankle boots. No one is toting much more than a small carry-on bag, a clear sign that the incoming tourists all have the same plan: to step out of the airport and into one of the island’s nearest and liveliest nightclubs.
Rewind 24 hours:
I am shivering on the deck of a 70-foot Clipper yacht in the wee hours of the morning, wishing I hadn’t just done my Level 2 and 3 Clipper Race Training courses back-to-back without a break. After two straight weeks of sailing in circles around the English Solent, I am desperately seeking a view of something — anything – other than Gosport’s Spinnaker Tower. And something to eat that doesn’t include baked beans.
As soon as my boat touches the docks at 4:30 am, marking the end of my Clipper Race Training, I grab my computer and head for the marina office to snag a WiFi connection and the next EasyJet flight to anywhere. Open to any and all budget flight destinations, I soon discover that, for a mere $350, I could be enjoying tapas and a bottle of Rioja in picturesque Ibiza, Spain by nightfall. And the idea is just too tempting to resist.
By the time Ryan wakes up and asks what we should do for our week off before the boat delivery to London, I am eagerly waving two printed EasyJet tickets in his face. And just like that, with a few mouse clicks, I am plucked from a life of dragging sails up on deck, deep cleaning bilges and scrubbing floorboards and dropped into a world of sunshine, beaches, house music and nightclubs the size of small cities.
Tasha’s Top Ten Travel Tips
The idea of me — an accident-prone traveler with a bad sense of direction and a phobia of guided tours — writing a list of “Top Ten Travel Tips” for anywhere is completely laughable.
But since I enjoy a little self-amusement, I thought it would be fun to write my own version of the awfully alliterated “Tasha’s Top Ten Travel Tips” based on my latest jaunt to Ibiza.
Okay, so the Huffington Post or the New York Times Travel section aren’t likely to be interested in my brand of travel, which wholly rejects the idea of turning vacation planning into a full-time occupation, which blanches the wonderful spontaneity that makes travel so rewarding in the first place. But, then again, I understand how it wouldn’t make sense for a travel site – which relies on advertising from tour companies — to publish a list of Top Ten Tips for Ignoring Itineraries and Making Shit Up.
And yet that is exactly what I’m doing here. Except rather than call it Tasha’s Top Ten Travel Tips, I’ll instead call it my Top Ten Tips for Not Planning a Vacation or, maybe, Top Ten Tips for Living a Little.
For now, let’s not worry about the title.
Tip #1: Don’t plan, just do.
Planning is overrated. Just buy a ticket and go! You can figure out those small details — like where to sleep — later. If nothing else, park benches are free everywhere in the world. Not to mention, desperate measures always give way to serendipitous meetings and generous offers from strangers. And those moments always make for great stories.
Bonus: You get to avoid all the stress of pre-trip planning. Because, well, there is no pre-trip planning.
Tip #2: Research is overrated.
You can spend countless hours and all your lunch breaks reading everything about a destination before you arrive only to find your first impression is heavily tainted by what you’ve read. Why ruin the surprise or the chance to discover a place for yourself? Just pack a bag and go. You’ll have plenty of time to learn what a place has to offer once you get there.
Example: When Ryan and I got to Ibiza, we asked around and found out one of lbiza’s most famous DJs, Carl Cox, was playing a show at Space that night. So we bought tickets from a local tout, got gussied up and had ourselves an absolute last-minute blast.
Tip #3: Booking accommodation in advance is also overrated.
So what if ALL THE TRAVEL SITES tell you to book in advance for the high season? Don’t let those fear mongers get to you. There are just as many last-minute hotel cancellations as there are schmucks who turn up to foreign countries without hotel reservations. Trust me, I’m one of those schmucks. And I’ve not yet had to sleep on a park bench involuntarily.
When Hotels.com showed no available hotels in Ibiza Town, we just turned up and walked the beach until we found a hotel with a nice pool. It turns out they had an available room, but for one night only. No problem – we’d take it and find another room later.
Tip #4: One person’s lack of organization is another person’s excuse for an adventure.
Variety is the spice of life. If a last-minute reservation for a week’s stay in a hotel is unattainable because you booked too late, then take what you can get in one or two-night bookings and move around. You’ll see so much more of a place that way anyway.
After one night in Ibiza Town, Ryan and I heard Sant Antoni was where all the English tourists tended to hang out in all their holiday-making glory, and we kind of wanted to go see it…in that way that you might go to the zoo to observe the mating habits of chimpanzees. To get there, we rented a car and set out to find somewhere new to stay. Moving around is always a good excuse for a road trip anyway.
After two nights in Sant Antoni, our hotel had no more rooms available, so we hopped in our rental car and drove from town to town across the north of the island, stopping now and then for tapas and a glass of wine. On the way to San Miquel, we discovered a campsite in the little town of Es Canar, where there were available Tee-Pees and one-room bungalows. We booked two nights in our own wooden bungalow and it turned out our little mid-forest campsite full of hippies and families was our favorite accommodation in Ibiza.
Bonus: We’d never have found Camping Es Canar if we’d booked ourselves a week’s stay in a hotel in Ibiza Town.
Tip #5: Dress for immediate relaxation upon arrival.
For example, wear your bathing suit under your clothes when flying out for a beach holiday.
After sleeping for 4 hours in the Ibiza airport, Ryan and I made our way to a hotel in Ibiza Town that had a lovely pool with comfortable sun loungers perfect for sleeping on. Since we’d just booked our room, the hotel offered for us to go use the pool and relax until our room was ready. And since we were already wearing our swimsuits, it took us all of five minutes to make ourselves right at home for the afternoon.
Tip #6: Pay little attention to Top Ten Travel Lists.
The best travel experiences don’t come from following someone else’s itinerary. For one, the travel experience of a blogger on a PR junket means they’ve had their tours provided, their accommodation given to them for free, and they’re ultimately being paid to say everything they did was THE BEST THING EVER. In short, you should take what they recommend with a grain of salt. Not to mention, you don’t want to recreate the sterile, paid-for travel experience a blogger has written about in a Top Ten List anyway. You want to go out there yourself and have your own, unique experience.
And who can produce ten actually good things to write for one of these top ten lists anyway? And I don’t mean that list of Top Six Things I Know Plus Top Four Things I Just Made Up Because I Had to Write This List. How about I just stop at the six things I actually know. Or maybe just forget the list altogether. Excellent idea.
What a difference a day makes. I’ve gone from being cold and wet on the a boat I share with 14 other crew to lounging with Ryan by an aquamarine pool overlooking the Mediterranean, sipping cocktails, falling asleep on a sun lounger and waking up now and then only to shove tapas and pour red wine into my face.
After a week in Ibiza, Ryan and I return to Gosport with our batteries recharged, our bodies rested, our minds unwound and our enthusiasm renewed for racing across oceans, living on board with 21 other crew and facing the challenges posed by putting our mental and physical limits to the test in the upcoming Clipper Round the World Race.
That’s what travel does for me. It offers me an escape from my current routine and the opportunity to see, taste and experience things I don’t get in my everyday life. And it whisks me away from my stress and reminds me that there’s nothing worth being miserable over.
The trick is to take advantage of a good travel opportunity when it comes up and not shy away from a trip just because I think I don’t have enough time to plan. Of course, there is nothing wrong with planning a trip in order to make the experience as stress-free as possible. But when the effort of planning an escape from work becomes a job in itself, it’s good to remember that I can always just pick up and go. Things will work out in the end, and if you embrace the unknown, an adventure is guaranteed.
Sometimes you just have to let go of your plans and live a little. To me, that’s what travel is all about.
Tasha and Ryan are competing in Legs 1 and 3 of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, which started September 1st, 2013 in London, UK. Tasha is competing on CV21 (the Henri Lloyd boat) with Skipper Eric Holden and Ryan is competing on CV28 (the PSP Logistics boat) with Skipper Chris Hollis. You can read more about the crew and the boats here at www.clipperroundtheworld.com/