How To Travel And Be Positive

Indeed, travelling hopefully has always struck me as mostly unjustified optimism, falling way behind arriving in the enjoyment stakes, so here are my tips to ensure a good experience.

First comes the choice of destination. My two most recent trips have been to Costa Rica and Iceland, in search of sloths and snow respectively, and these have emphasised to me the importance of going to places where people smile.

Smiling is rare in the EU and was even rarer in Eastern Europe during the Cold War years, but the sloths in Costa Rica are always smiling and the people follow their example.

Icelanders too, having to cope with an inhospitable climate, volcanic eruptions and occasional economic meltdown, have learnt to ignore troubles and keep smiling too.

Checking in at the airport hours and hours before the flight comes next as a potential source of misery but I have just discovered the Plaza Premium Group lounges at Heathrow which offer two hours of unlimited drinks, buffet food, Wi-Fi and comfort for £40.

This sounds expensive, but compared with the amount one can waste at the restaurants and duty-free (but price-exorbitant) shops in the terminal while waiting for one’s flight to be called, it can be a good investment.

My next tip concerns holiday finances. Having to worry about exchanges rates and translating prices into sterling before paying for anything is a common cause of distress, but this can be easily avoided by adopting the following procedure: travel only with British currency and a debit card.

Shortly after arrival, insert the debit card into an ATM, press a random button and withdraw some of the local banknotes.

Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to find out their value but spend them freely much as one would dole out Monopoly money.

Price then ceases to matter and you only find out how much you have spent when you receive your next bank statement long after you have returned from the trip.

Finally, I must mention the business of jet lag for which I think I have found the perfect solution.

Iceland, naturally, was no problem as they very sensibly set their clocks to the same time as we do, but there was a seven hours time difference between here and Costa Rica when I visited in the summer.

The prospect of adjusting my body clock twice in that time, on arrival and return, was most unappealing, but I found an ideal compromise.

I rose at 6 o’clock each morning, reminding myself it was 1pm in the UK, which I’ve always held to be a very civilised time to get up if there is no urgent business to attend to; or, come to think about it, even when there is urgent business to attend to.

In Costa Rica, however, rising at six in the morning carried the added benefit of being able to saunter down to the beach and have a leisurely dip in the Pacific before breakfast. It’s enough to keep any sloth smiling.