Travel Tips Travel tips from the Ancients: "You mean I CAN'T take my 14 oz. bottle of ketchup on the plane?"

Published on June 16th, 2013


Travel Tips From the Ancients

Uh, SOME of us (neanderthals) can well remember the challenges of traveling back in the dark ages (we’re talkin’ the late ’70s and 80’s here).  Ah yes, the good ol’ (or bad ol’, depending on your perspective) days of traveling without a smartphone, a laptop, a Kindle, a camcorder, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, et al.

Yes, waaay back in ancient times when we didn’t need to dump the remaining contents of our water bottles into the airport drinking fountain as we headed to security, blithely tucked our super-sized bottle of shampoo into our carry-on bag all the way to Paris, – oh and… inhaled 2nd hand smoke billowing from the “Smoking Section” of the plane (of the AIRPLANE people!) for the entire Pan Am flight (yes, Pan Am – remember them?) to Heathrow.  Never bothered with baggage weight ‘cuz it was pretty much anything goes, no extra cash.  Drank ourselves silly on free-flowing booze (gratis, even on domestic flights), and never heard of no silly “No-fly List” (what? I never once saw a single fly buzzin’ ’round my food tray).  And “TSA” hassles?  No way.  Probably stands for “Travel Sure is Awesome”?Fly121x111

So for those gap-year youngsters out there (presently slumped in a hostel armchair, texting “u board? me 2” – misspell intended – on your smartphones) I thought it might be fun to fill you in on a handful of archaic travel gadgets we dodderin’ travelers once earnestly depended on whilst skipping ’round the globe:

FILM, n. a narrow strip of rolled celluloid with bitty holes along each side, that must be laboriously submitted to a p-h-o-t-o p-r-o-c-e-s-s-i-n-g joint for overnight development, so you can see that you uh, did NOT after all, get the shot of that orangutan you glimpsed last month in far-off Sumatra.

BOOK, n. a bulky, heavy, paper brick – the bitter-sweet bane of traveling bibliophiles.  Guidebooks especially, must be necessarily ripped apart and the “Florence” section discarded after gawking at “David”.

TELEPHONE, n. a public booth at the local post office in Paris, where you stand in line 2 hours to spend a small fortune to talk amid static to your mother on the other side of the globe.

SMARTPHONE, n. I dunno – perhaps a telephone booth within a post office that happens to be next to a library?

ATM, n.  uh, All ouT of Money?  See “TELEPHONE” above – whilst at the post office, beseech your folks to wire you a few bucks via Western Union (it’s either that, or sell your jeans) ‘cuz there most certainly weren’t no machines that vomited money on demand nowhere, nohow.

Which nicely segues to…

MONEY, uncountable n. Actual physical paper and metal coins.  And each European nation proudly proffered their own.  Indeed, crossing borders often involved noodling out how many thousand drachmas equaled how many million lire.  Travelers checks were the only means of averting a financial disaster when your money belt was lifted.  And plastic was pretty useless to backpackers (see no “ATM”s above).

Email/Facebook/Twitter: That’s easy, we ancients had these:


Don’t get me wrong – I ADORE my Kindle, my Casio iFridge (iPhone), and most certainly my trusty little netbook (that I’m pecking on right now!) And I wouldn’t DREAM of going back to the days of standing in line at a French post office simply to make a “très cher” phone call.  But the question izzz…

Do any of YOU remember what traveling was like
before DSLRs, universal ATMs, wifi, and G5?

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About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

14 Responses to Travel Tips From the Ancients

  1. Ted says:

    But we did have Twitter though. It was a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood, painted some undefinable faded color. You wrote a little note on a piece of paper and stuck it on with a thumbtack. They’d say things like:
    Danny, meet you in Rome on the 15th of July.
    – I was there. Where were you?

    Has anybody seen Brad?
    – Who the hell is Brad?

    Steve, if you read this, we’re on our way to Tangiers to get stoned. Come and join us.

    Ted kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Sometimes it gets boringMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Good one, Ted! Yes indeed, who can forget the ubiquitous “message boards” at most every stop along the backpacker trail. Surely the world’s first “tweets”! And furthermore, what’s truly amazing, is that more often than not – those scrawled messages actually WORKED!

  2. aurght says:

    This is probably a zombie post on this old thread.
    We plane builders had to learn how to seal the planes for pressurization after the smoking ban.
    Before that, the tars quickly sealed any air leaks in the planes.

    • Dyanne says:

      Seriously aurght? That’s incredible! But not surprising. (speaking of “Ancient”) as an ancient smoker (quit more than 20 years ago – best.thing.I.ever.did) I well remember the ugly yellow tar build up around the pics on my walls when I took them down to move. Ugh!

  3. Yes, thank goodness things like travellers cheques (and my personal fave smoking while on the airplane) are gone!
    Michele Peterson kindly contributed to world literature by posting…A day pass to luxury in Panajachel, GuatemalaMy Profile

  4. Jackie Smith says:

    I loved getting off the plane and having the person(s) waiting for your greet you within seconds of stepping into the terminal, instead of conducting searches for them ‘somewhere’ in baggage claim or calling their cell phone to alert them it is time to leave the short-term parking lot and pick you up! (And yes, wasn’t Polaroid the original Instagram?) Great post!
    Jackie Smith kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Traveling the Road Not. . ., well. . ., less Taken in 2013My Profile

  5. Jan Ross says:

    Oh, the joy of digital photography! My husband took tons of photos of our newborn son in the hospital and oops! they didn’t turn out. We broke down and got the first iPad after we had to repack our too heavy suitcase which had several hardback books in it and we were going to have to pay an extra $100 to get it on the plane. Yes, today is better in so many ways.
    Jan Ross kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Eating Our Way Through St. LouisMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      OMGoodness – that’s TRAGIC! (the lost pics) ;(

      And yes too, I honestly don’t know what I’d do w/o my beloved Kindle. Especially as an expat – not exactly as if there’s a public library (w/ English books) down the street here in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

  6. Ah. Perfect. I share all those memories and these:

    Remember traveling in Europe when not everyone under 40 spoke English? Remember when British food really actually was that bad — and you bought it with pounds, shillings and pence? Remember when Spain and Portugal had fascist dictators? Remember when it was still “too soon” to want to visit Germany—half of which you couldn’t really visit anyway? Remember when Eastern Europe was some dark place behind the Iron Curtain that you mostly only knew about from Voice of America public service announcements?

    Remember aerograms? Remember when Vietnam (and southeast Asia in general) was not voluntarily on your itinerary, especially if you were an American young man of draft age? Remember when it was unlikely that you booked accommodations ahead–because what a pain that was if you weren’t in the country, didn’t speak the language and didn’t have a travel agent?

    Remember when your parents could walk you to your airport gate when you were flying to Bogota, Colombia for a college semester — Bogo-where — and you were the only person you knew from your small New England college who was studying in a foreign country? Remember when it took a lot of dedication to stay in touch with people you met “abroad”?

    Remember when you were 21, a recent college grad and the world was your oyster—kind of?
    Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Handel’s Messiah – Philadelphia Orchestra StyleMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Goodness Suzanne – yes, yes, quite the list! How-EVER did we manage to travel the globe in those ancient days?

      And btw, as far as I’m concerned – the world still IS my “oyster”! 😉

  7. Christoffer Moen says:

    This is wonderful. I’m still old enough to have grown up and remember to have these as a staple on family trips. Also Polaroids! Still love ’em 🙂
    Christoffer Moen kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Any Traveler Should Love Timelapse, We Know We Do!My Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Yep Christoffer, love those Polaroids. I’ve even been tempted to buy one (they now have them in pocket-size) – they’re great for taking pics of locals out in the boondocks. The local folk treasure getting a family portrait to keep.

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