PW Travels

Putney Westerfield's Trip Reports

Asked about how he plans his trips, Putney provided a few insights:

Apart from reports from countries of residence, my trips were generally of three-weeks max. I never have dealt with a travel agent. And travel agents would not like to deal with me, because there would be no money for them beyond airline ticketing. And since I’m generally using mileage earned in the USA, there would be no commission for an agent.

Hence, I am always my own “agent”, drawing upon several valuable sources.

(1) Half of a four-drawer file cabinet is willed with individual files for each country of interest. These files, maintained for upwards of 40 years, are filled with newspaper and magazine clippings by travel writers describing off-the-beaten-path experiences that aroused my interest.

(2) Lonely Planet is another useful source. It lists interesting inns and hotels not used by tourists (I differentiate between “tourist” and “traveler”. Likewise, restaurants and cultural attractions and other opportunities to mingle with the locals.

(3) When my Anne gave up adventure travel in her 60s, a recently widowed & retired friend (Frank, who wanted to “learn how to travel”) joined me on a trip all over Burma. We have now enjoyed 14 trips together.

(4) Early on, when traveling with our sons, I learned the value of Frisbees and Dominos as a way to meet people instantly. Say you arrive in a new city/town/village. Quickly check into an inn, rush out to a public park and start throwing a Frisbee. The more primitive the country, the more likely they have never held a Frisbee. All ages are interested. Kids, of course, but grown ups and elderly also, will catch and throw -- and then will want to engage in conversation, which can likely lead to an interesting evening of conversation, music and song.

(5) Frank and I also learned how to engaged the attention of diners in a restaurant or café. Not only diners, but waiters, chefs, hotel staff. Play dominos (my leather pouch full of dominos fit easily into my belt pack where anything of value is always kept). Make friends instantly. And they will help assure that your next day in that town is meaningful. You may have thought you KNEW exactly what to do, but your new friends will add even more meaningful opportunities. Time is precious; no hours should be wasted.

(6) Read each country’s history – and culture. Read each city’s history and culture. Your demonstrated knowledge of their country wins their respect instantly. Local libraries have always been good sources. Nowadays, Google and Wikipedia make it much easier. Also Lonely Planet.

(7) Travel on local buses and trains. Or, when renting a car, pick up passengers whenever possible. We all should be good Ambassadors for America. Good deeds are good indeed! And provide more fun!

(8) Obtain in advance street maps of cities. Study them. Plan (tentatively, at least) to walk everywhere you can. One can see and experience so much more by walking – and stopping – than by zooming by in a car. Study these maps on the plane as you head toward your destination.

(9) English-speaking guides are of great benefit. However, through you own study, establish your own itinerary and instruct the guide as to your wishes. So much of what a city offers is better done on one’s own; however, a guide can lead you to much more off-the-beaten path.
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