Travel Tip #41….Never ever (ever) let a ticket go to waste / and Travel Tip #53…Go to the travel clinic

Y’all remember I was supposed to go to Ghana last December?

It was for a Minnesota college. I was going to photograph a student travel and study program there, but it was cancelled due to uncertainty about the Ebola situation in West Africa.

So there was an unused ticket. Sitting in my desk drawer.

Taunting me.

The restrictions on rebooking seemed a little extreme. Taking my own schedule into consideration…sometime around early April I realized that if I was going to use the ticket, I needed to fly by the end of May.

I panicked.

Where was I going to go? What would I do? Who would go with me?

Nobody in my family had time for a trip. Work, school, blah, blah, blah. Sitting on a beach somewhere by myself and spending money seemed to land somewhere between sad and pitiful on my register. Plus, the weather was finally getting nice in Minnesota.

I offered the college that I could photograph and write profiles on a graduate or two who were doing interesting things in the world.

But there was another wrinkle.

My new ticket had to meet or exceed the Ghana ticket cost, so many places were just too cheap to qualify. (Why couldn’t I just surrender the extra value, Delta?)

Ticket prices, availability, visa requirements, my schedule, interesting alumni, willing subjects, their availability…it was a sea of moving pieces. But finally…all of a sudden…(and possibly fueled by beer)…the puzzle fit together.

So tomorrow at 6 am I aim for San Juan, Puerto Rico to photograph Coast Guard operations, and then on to Panama to hang out in the rain forest with bat researchers.

How much do I know about either of these things?

Almost nothing. And that’s the joy of it. I will enter Wide Eyed, and ready to learn.

Which leads me to my next tip…Visit your friendly, local travel clinic.

Once my flight was booked, I called my wife, my client, and my travel clinic…in that order.

The travel clinic knows things like which diseases you don’t want to catch, and how to avoid them. They keep better track of my shots than I do. They can tell you whether you should be more scared of the daytime mosquitoes or the nighttime mosquitoes in the part of the world you’ll be visiting. They will tell you about the disgusting incubation and departure of a Botfly larvae, and then shrug and tell you that it really won’t harm you.

Just before going to India, the travel clinic advised that if my cab were to ever hit and harm a cow, that I should flee the scene immediately. You don’t get that from the tourism bureau.

Surround yourself with smart people, follow their advice, and go see what’s out there.

Stay tuned…I’ll let you know how it goes.

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