I first went overseas in 1995 (to Hawaii) and I got the travel bug immediately. Over this time I have acquired numerous travel habits and superstitions that follow me around the world, and even dictate my travels.
I Travel To London Every Year
Visiting London at least once a year is something that I make sure I do. I first visited London in 1999 on a working holiday visa. It is from my time in London that I discovered my career in travel and became the traveller that I am today.
Every year since then I have been in London at least once. It’s a city I’ll never tire of visiting anyway. I have friends in London, and it is a handy entrance point for travels to the rest of Europe. Part of this tradition though is also a yearly homage to a city that has made me who I am today.
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.
I Visit The Same Restaurant in London Once a Year
As well as visiting London once a year, the most consistent thing I have done in my travels is to go to the same Mexican restaurant in London at least once a year.
Cafe Pacifico Covent Garden – the greatest Mexican restaurant in the Eastern Hemisphere.
The restaurant is Pacifico in Covent Garden. I first went to Pacifico in 1999 when I met a friend from Australia there. He used to travel to London on business four times a year, so I would meet him there whenever we were in London at the same time. As a one time Los Angeles resident he had acquired a taste for Mexican, and had been coming here for years to get his Mexican fix.
He has since retired from his business but I continue the tradition in his absence, and I am compelled to text message my presence to him whenever I am there.
I Visit Germany Every Year
Now this is a hoodoo I can do without. I thought only Germans and people on business visit Germany every year, but I too am a yearly visitor to Germany. This was completely unintended of course. It started out innocently enough. When I was living in Dublin I got a free airline ticket to Germany in a newspaper giveaway. It was to Dussefdorf, in February. Not the first idea for most people when planning a day trip to a European city. It was free and I hadn’t been there so I went, and it was a good day out.
The following year it was a 1 pound Ryanair fare. Then I drove through it going somewhere else another year. A World Cup here, visiting friends there, and next thing you know I’ve been there every year since 2003.
I was quite happy in my ignorance of this fact, but in 2009 I realised this travel run had occured, and I accommodated my travel plans to continue the run. I was in the Netherlands near the German border, so it wasn’t a big deal, but now I find myself wondering if I can accommodate my travel plans around a trip through Germany.
I must say that during this unlikely run, I have discovered that I like Germany more than I ever thought I would.
Mainz – Just another amazing German city.
I Have A Pre Take-Off Prayer
It’s not so much a prayer, rather a reflection on a good life. I love flying, so when I’m sitting in an airline seat taxiing to the runway, I find myself grateful to be flying again.
Tarmac ponderings. Here we go again – thanks be to the travel gods.
I Have An International Currency Wallet
I have a wallet dedicated to foreign currency. I have Euros, GBP, USD, RMB and other currencies in small notes, as well as a coin purse with Euro and Pound coins. Part of this is just practicality. As I am in the UK and Eurozone at least once a year it is handy to have the small stuff for when you arrive. Whether it be for bus ticket vending machines or for something to eat upon arrival, having small change beats trying to break a 50 euro note at a kiosk.
So this is one part practicality, but there is also some travel voodoo involved as well. I figure if I have a small reserve of a currency I will return to this place eventually. This theory is partly modelled on Ernest Hemingway’s method of writing. He said to avoid writers block he always left something in the well to return to the next day. I apply the same principal with my currency. I also have useful currencies to me such as Thai Baht, Malaysian Ringgit and Swiss Francs.
The total amount wouldn’t add up to $100, so the $5 a year in lost interest is more than made up for in good travel energy.
I Have A Patron Buddha In Bangkok
I picked up this habit from a convicted drug smuggler actually. Go to any second hand book shop in Bangkok and you will always see a copy of Mr Nice by Howard Marks. In the book he mentions his love for Bangkok and how he had picked out a Buddha at a Wat, which he then visited every time he was back in the city.
I too love Bangkok, and I like the ritual of visiting a Buddha in thanks for being in Bangkok once again. I have modified this tradition to visit a Buddha according to what Wats motto would best help me at the time.
Need some calmness? Wat Pho will sort you out.
I Always Have A Ticket To Somewhere
Being a travel addict I feel better knowing there is an unused flight to somewhere in my travel documents file. This is similar to my international currency stash theory. Always leave something in the well. As I write this I have six unconsumed flights for the rest of the year. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a live ticket available. I don’t know if it would be bad luck for me to not have a flight somewhere booked, but I’m not in a hurry to find out.
I’m sure I have other travel habits, rituals and superstitions which I’m not aware that I am doing. I know people who always pack a lucky trinket on their travels, and people who always light a candle in cathedral of a visited city.
What travel habits, rituals and superstitions do you have?
Constant stars for me are:
Cafe Lisboa, Golborne Rd, London,
This place combines London and Lisboa, how can you go wrong!
pastis de nata and cafe com leche, a mountain of memories
and always a familiar face
Peter Pan in Kensington park gardens is my little statue
I leave a note in the rocks he plays his pipe on
and praise my beautiful life
remember to be light and always have joy.
The flower market in Bangkok,
I just walk slowly around buy
a coil of jasmine and wear it in my hair.
I revisit painting in galleries like old friends
and stay longer at particular views
The Bund from a roof top in Shanghai
The three sisters in katoomba
There is a hotel in Goa
I did a painting on the wall
to find again
I also keep money too for another day..
The thing that I love most though
is noticing the night sky,
Finding the constellation orion (up the right way)
and missing the southern cross
thats when I really know where I am
and where I have been.
nice post James.
Great article, James! I feel like I know you a bit better now. That is a good idea about keeping small bills in various currencies for countries when you know you’ll be back there again. I always seem to have some Canadian bills on hand for my annual trips to Montreal. The bit about the Buddha is fascinating….and charming. I like it.
I have the separate currency wallet myself, you’re right it’s both practical and motivating. Loved the patron Buddha as well, something nice and personal. You are definitely the superstitious type.
I’m not exactly superstitious, but I have noticed some patterns. I always have to buy a new book in the airport, which I read for the first hour ot the flight, and nine times out of ten never end up finishing. I also, without fail, forget something small but important, like a toothbrush, or a cellphone charger.
Bernard Pollack says
alex paris says
London is a great place to visit and worth be visited every year, but why going to a mexican specific restaurant??
James Clark says
@Alex I got the Mexican habit from my friend who I met there every year for 10 years. He lived in LA for many years and and acquired a taste for Mexican. He doesn’t get to London these days so I continue it in his honour.
alex paris says
ok, clear:). Sometimes is better to go to a specific restaurant that you know. As an example, I was in Paris to eat something specific to a French restaurant, and I do not like it, food was awful – perhaps I was unlucky; on the other hand, in Prague I was absolutely delighted with Czech cuisine.
I am yet to find somewhere that I have to return to every single year, but Paris is close. There’s an underlying fear of time which which makes me sometimes a little reluctant to go to the same place twice. I could get run over by a bus at any point, so I have to see as many different places, meet as many different people, and try as many different foods, as I possibly can. But I do have some travel rituals which never, ever change:
1. Learn the basics of the native language (doesn’t mean I’ll execute it effectively though)
2. Google the national dish / weird local food and go on a search for it
3. Get my passport stamped (or ask nicely anyway). Sometimes they say no 🙁
James Clark says
I’m lucky in that I love London and it happens to be a hub city, otherwise i totally get wanting to see new places.
I used to love getting my passport stamped but now I have to get a new passport because I have run out of pages. At one time in my life I was travelling to Switzerland often and I never got a stamp from there. I asked once, and the man joked with me saying the ink costs too much 🙁
I definitely agree that having a ticket booked ahead of times satisfies the urge.
I like the idea of always having a ticket to somewhere handy, good to know whatever’s going on there are always new pastures awaiting exploration. Also good to keep an eye on the future, I guess it makes the memories of previous trips seem more happy somehow as you always know there are new adventures around the corner and don’t pine after the good time you had in the last place.
Hi James, cool post. My ritual is to always donate my leftover change to UNICEF or whatever coin collection they’ve in-flight. I too believe that being able to travel around the world is a privilege and am fortunate to do so. At the same time, realizing so many of the people in the countries I visited don’t have the same opportunities. So I’m grateful for that.