By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Running a media operation is stressful. To recharge myself, I took a trip recently to California and Mexico.
It’s not just all the good food to eat and wonderful places to see, I learn something new in every journey. Travel is a test of wisdom and resourcefulness. You have to know how to deal with unforeseen circumstances. This time, it is finding a formula to heal my foot pain after a cycling fall and more.
Picture this … a wave of cyclists riding on the boardwalk of Santa Monica Beach with the Pacific Ocean in the background and palm trees swaying in the breeze … how could I resist not riding a bike myself? The temptation triumphed over my senses. I forgot that I had not ridden in more than three decades.
A big bike wouldn’t be safe, I thought. I was stupid to get a kid’s bike. I had a fall during the 3-mile adventure. My husband had two falls when the bike accidentally rode into the sandy side of the boardwalk. The fall didn’t kill me, even though I had a couple of minor bruises. It didn’t have enough room to stretch my legs, thus causing intense pain after I got off the bike. It’s wasn’t such a disaster that I needed to see a doctor, but it was painful enough to leave me limping.
What will be some quick solutions? My husband found a spa that offered foot massages. What’s interesting was not the massage, which lessened my pain — it’s the spa’s hot tub. I felt so much better after soaking my feet in the tub.
The next day, sunlight was my savior. Did you know that sunlight can disinfect and heal wounds? So I limped on the beach, while exposing my feet to the sun for half an hour. Next, I soaked my feet in the hot tub next to the hotel’s swimming pool for 20 minutes. Ironically, I have never used any hotel’s pool service during my travels. This time, it came in handy. Now, the pain on my left foot has recovered 90 percent.
Effective sleep aids
A couple told some friends of mine that they like to travel with their pillows, so they can sleep easier in unfamiliar hotels. That’s so impractical. One pillow takes up a lot of luggage space.
A strange environment with new pillows and beds, and different time zones, can cause insomnia. Some tourists take sleeping pills like melatonin and even prescription drugs with them. Many of those drugs have side effects. But there are other natural alternatives.
Jane Brody, a New York Times health columnist, wrote about eating a banana before bedtime. So I tried it and it worked four out of five times. What I did was:
- Eat dinner three hours before going to bed. I can’t sleep when my stomach is full.
- Eat a banana an hour and a half before bedtime.
- Take 500mg of magnesium 40 minutes before bedtime.
- Massage your ears. An acupuncturist taught me to massage my ears right before bedtime. It instantly makes me yawn.
I hope the banana will work for you. It also helps me to relieve constipation.
A view vs. a kitchen
“Do you want a room with a view of the mountains or a room with a kitchen?” a motel clerk in Palm Springs asked.
It’s the same price.
My husband looked at me for an answer.
“Kitchen,” I replied. It turned out I made the right choice. When you travel, you are confined to a hotel room for more than a third of your day. It’s hard to travel with a partner. I felt like I was being squeezed in at times. The extra kitchen space gave us more room and amenities, such as making coffee in the morning, storing the fruits we bought in the fridge, an extra table to eat or write on. One can go to bed early while the other can stay up late.
How to pack light
When I travel, my suitcase is often much smaller than my husband’s. But I carry a lot more. How do I make it all fit?
I’ve written in the past that traveling is a good time to get rid of old clothes and clothes you hate. Wear them, then throw them away. The space created in your luggage can be used for souvenirs.
I traveled with more than 10 different makeup products. The original sizes of these products are big with fancy bottles. How did I make them tiny for my travel? Every time I buy cosmetics, I ask for samples. It’s not because I am greedy, the tiny containers are best for travel. Don’t throw them away after you use the makeup. Some can be recycled after you clean them. If they don’t have sample sizes, I buy little boxes at Daiso to use for travel.
Some people sleep naked. It makes them light travelers. I need clothes on when going to bed. Whatever items you put in the luggage, make sure it serves more than one purpose. For instance, my t-shirts are also my pajamas. My short pants, which I can wear outdoors, works as well as pajamas. My fanny pack can be a purse for evening wear. A belt can be used interchangeably as a purse chain, too. My sandals can be used outdoors,
as well as indoors. And my puffer jacket can keep me warm and protect me from wet weather. It is also light and can be rolled up into a small plastic bag.
Shoes vs. socks
A writer wrote about his trip to Costa Rica in the March issue of the Alaska Airlines magazine. His advice for travelers is to bring a lot of socks. For women, it’s shoes, not socks. Can’t help it, we women like shoes.
My husband packed two pairs of shoes, but tons of socks. For me, I took four pairs of shoes — heels, shiny beaded walking shoes, sandals and Kung fu shoes (for biking), and only two pairs of socks. Although I never wore the heels, I packed them just in case I visited an elegant restaurant. I don’t want to be seen wearing flats.
Some travelers bring a yoga mat with them. That’s cumbersome. I use the hotel’s towel to practice my yoga. It’s not the best. But I was able to do my yoga for 10 days out of my 12-day trip. Or you can do other kinds of stretching exercises. I did sneak in a couple of sequined vests just in case. Vests take up little space and they can transform a woman’s look. Plus, it gives the impression that she has a different outfit every day. If you don’t have vests, bring a big shawl, which can also cover your unattractive dress underneath.
Small souvenirs vs. large
On our way back from Mexico, I saw a passenger juggling an oversized box that was four feet long.
What was inside? Lights. Apparently, it was such a good deal, it was worth it for him to carry. Once, my brother bought a big elephant statue, and carried it all the way from the Mexico border to Texas. It broke days later.
Now, I would think twice about getting big gifts no matter how good a deal it is. I don’t want to bother with packing and possibly shipping them. Oh, I bought some souvenirs, too — 20 different small lovely tortoises with bobbleheads for my employees. Tortoises symbolize longevity. It’s a lot of fun for me to choose souvenirs, and I bet it would be fun for them to fight over which one they want.
Leftovers on the plane
An economy flight doesn’t provide food. When I travel, I mostly eat before I fly or dine at the airport.
We end up throwing away food most of the time, especially the day before we fly back to Seattle. This time, we asked for a doggy bag. Our leftovers included chicken quesadilla, turkey wraps, and fennel bread, which was so much better than what the other passengers were consuming.
It’s time to plan my next trip. I feel alive again — just dreaming about it.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.