Wear a Skirt and No Knickers: Travel Advice

“Wear a skirt and no knickers,” is the most concrete piece of travel advice I have received so far. The statement was made by a 64-year old woman I met last week, who was staying in the hospital where my mum works. After taking a nasty tumble while on holiday, she had ended up on a hospital bed chatting to her about all the countries she has travelled to. My mum had suggested she meet me to pass on a few wise words seeing as she has visited many of the countries I plan to travel.

I doubt the previous statement is what my mum would consider ‘wise words’ but when put into context they certainly do make some sense. Like many people I know who have been to India, Gwen told me that it is a country you cannot help but fall in love with and the best way to travel around the country is by train. Unfortunately, one of the downsides to India is the no-nonsense ‘hole in the floor’ toilet and on the train it is a case of holding on to a couple of railings while you squat and grace the train tracks. Attempting to do that at the same time as undoing your trousers and pulling down your knickers is next to impossible. And so you have it, a skirt and no knickers is good advice indeed in the right situation.

Gwen had many other tidbits of information to share with me, such as not to use the straws, which are usually made at the rubbish heap, and not to be deterred by a messy-looking restaurant but to carry antiseptic wipes with me just in case. As for the infamous ‘Delhi belly’, Gwen has never had to deal with this and pointed out that a “robust” girl such as myself shouldn’t have a problem either. The fantastic thing about Gwen is that she started travelling at the age of 37 and hasn’t stopped since. I have been following many travel blogs over the past months and most of them centre around travellers in their twenties so to speak to a woman who already had a fair bit of life experience before setting out on the road was such an eye-opener. When she told me how old she was I couldn’t quite believe it, having pegged her at around 48 to 50 years old. Seeing how animated she became when talking about her love for India and all the countries she visited in Africa, I have no doubt that the constant travelling and experiencing new things is what has kept her looking so young. Perhaps we should all put away the wrinkle cream and take out the passport instead?

The more I talk about travelling, the more I meet people who have travelled and have their own stories to tell. I always seem to meet these people in the most unusual of circumstances – from the electrician who spoke to me about his time in South-East Asia to this most recent case of discussing India with a bedbound stranger – and I hope this means that day by day I am becoming more open to listening and learning from others’ experiences. The idea that I walk past so many people everyday who have more such stories to tell makes me want set up shop at a set of traffic lights somewhere and stop everyone who comes past. I have a feeling I should stick to visiting strangers in hospital for now.

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