I love travelling, which is partly why I wrote Nina and the Travelling Spice Shed, a story about a girl who has all sorts of adventures using her aunt’s travelling machine!
My love of travelling has also landed me in some tricky situations, so here are my top tips to help you avoid getting into a pickle when you hit the road!
1. Never go for a morning jog in Mumbai
I should have guessed it was a stupid idea just by looking around.
No one jogs on the streets of Mumbai. Probably because they don’t want to navigate around cars, rickshaws, carts, buses, motorbikes, hoards of people and street vendors on dusty pavements that end abruptly in the middle of the road, and be looked at as if they are barking mad. Which, if you’re jogging on the streets of Mumbai, you probably are.
2. Don’t leave buying a guide book till you get to the airport
Planning is the key to good travelling. A guide book is the best way to find out what to see, how to get around and all that other important stuff.
When I went to South America, I bought the guidebook at Heathrow Airport. I was going to read it on the plane, but there were films to watch, meals to eat, naps to be had, and an international rugby team occupying the rows around me to chat to.
When I landed in Chile, I discovered that I had no idea what to do next – terrifying!
3. Beware of local fashions
It’s fun and practical to dress like the locals. However, some of the clothes you buy in other countries may never be worn at home. Take my colourful, hand-knitted jumper. It’s perfectly okay wear in a supermarket in Peru, but in the UK, people give you funny looks.
4. Learn the language
Speak as much as possible and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I learnt this in Spain, where I became fluent in Spanish. I also discovered a handy little trick. If you don’t know the Spanish word for something, just put an a or an o at the end of the English word and bingo! Accent becomes acento, band becomes banda, and camel becomes camello.
This rule does not always work though. Once, when I wanted to say, I’m embarrassed, estoy embarazada, everyone looked at me in surprise. I had just told them I was pregnant.
5. Be prepared to be surprised
Before going to the Alps, I watched loads of YouTube video on how to ski. I practiced in my living room. I was sure it was going to be a breeze. When I got to the mountain, I fell flat on my face! It’s the same with travelling – you can prepare all you want, but it’s surprising. Enjoy your experiences and even if you get into a muddle, you’ll laugh about it afterwards.