On The Road
By Shmem Geddes
To say I’ve done a bit of travelling throughout my career may be considered an understatement. I started working on cruise ships back in 2005. I toured the UK, Ireland, Australia, and Asia. I’ve been an official resident in three countries other than my beloved Scotland and taken almost every type of transportation to get to these places.
I’ve made some mistakes and learned some very valuable lessons along the way, things I wish people had told me about and so as a gift to you, my dear friends, I’ll share some of these nuggets of knowledge with you. None of these things are gospel, they are just my humble opinion, so take only what you want from it and happy travels.
Living out of a suitcase is tough. It’s tougher still when those suitcases are not appropriate for the job. As lovely as it is to strut your stuff up to the check-in desk with a top of the line, hard shell, four-wheeled, all-singing-all-dancing suitcase I can guarantee it won’t stay pristine for a hot second while you are on tour. “But Shmem, it comes with a 5-year warranty” I hear you cry. And while that may be the case (pun intended) things like wheels being broken off by an over-enthusiastic baggage handler, or an accidental collision with a fork-lift truck will not be covered. Also, these cases take up a lot of space when they are not in use. I’ve seen some pretty bijou accommodations in my time and unless you’re planning on doubling your suitcase as a makeshift dining table, just don’t do it to yourself. For cruise ships, it is definitely out of the question. Do try to find a durable bag, maybe one that is waterproof (I have a lot of friends that use those mountaineering type duffle bags). If you want wheels, get low profile ones. Anything that can fold up and be tucked away out of sight is a winner in my book. Now go get packing.
The thrill of adventure is alluring, I know. Sometimes the pull of it is so strong you don’t stop to weigh up the pros and cons. I know plenty of folks that have packed up their (travel suitable) bags and flown off to some distant shores with promises of the “job of a lifetime” only to find out the caveat was that said lifetime belonged to someone else.
It’s ok to decide a job isn’t for you, no matter where you are. There is always a plane that goes home again.
For moments like this, and much more, I encourage anyone to have an emergency credit card. A card with a reasonable credit limit that simply sits in your wallet, just in case you need a ticket for that plane going homeward. Or for when your transportation doesn’t show up at the airport and you need to get a taxi at 3 am. Or when, in your post transfer revelry, you decide the drinks are on you but your cash is not. Ok, maybe not the last one but you get the idea. I cannot tell you how many times my ECC has saved my bacon and I wouldn’t be without one now. They are also particularly handy when you move to a new country and have to wait for a month or two for your paycheck to appear in your bank account. Fact!
Passports. Your key to that big, wide world out there. At the tender age of cough 35 cough, I’ve had three of them. The photos are always, inevitably, terrible but then again it’s not meant to look like a vogue cover shot.
If you’re planning on being a nomad, there are a few things to bear in mind. Most international contracts require you to have a valid passport, with at least six months remaining before the date of expiration. If you are going to need a visa to be stuck in your passport, you’ll need at least four completely empty pages.
If you need to renew, and the option is available, pay the extra and get the same day service. In the UK we can choose between a regular or a jumbo passport. Regular has 32 pages while the jumbo has 48. Two out of my three have been jumbo, this way I’ll be less likely to run out of pages for all those annoying stamps and visas. If your country has something similar, again, pay the extra for it. It’ll undoubtedly save you hassle later on. I would also suggest that you carry a copy of your photo page, or at least save a copy to a thumb drive, as well as any visas you obtain. When out and about in foreign countries, take the copy with you and leave the original in a secure place, this way if anything gets stolen, you won’t need to take a trip to the embassy/consulate to get an emergency passport. Also, in some situations, your passport may be taken from you, for example, cruise ship contracts or here in the UAE. Having a copy gives you piece of mind, plus, you’ll get to look at that terrible photo whenever you like.
If you don’t yet have a passport, what are you waiting for?