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February 7, 2013 / A Mindful Traveler

The Mindfulness of Arrival (Some Advice)

A good friend of mine is moving to Argentina later this month.  Notwithstanding that country’s worsening economic crisis, he’s enthusiastic about the opportunity.  I’ve visited Argentina twice and our last conversation naturally turned to his imminent arrival there.  Upon reflection, much of what we discussed applies not just to moving, but to arriving anywhere, especially by air.

I’ve noticed two things consistently on my travels.  First, the most nerve-wracking journey I face has always been from the airport to my ho(s)tel.  Second, I’ve found that every scam I’ve fallen for has been within 24 hours of arriving in a new country.   Considering initial impressions often (although not always) determine the tenor of an experience, these are important considerations.

Even if you’re not afraid of flying (or security lines), airports are confusing and stressful places.  Where possible, a little advance research, into options for getting to your ho(s)tel and acquiring local currency, is useful.  When you arrive, you’ll almost certainly be besieged by touts offering transportation and other services.  They thrive on your confusion and therefore will most likely seek to increase it.

Transportation: By researching your transportation options ahead of time, you’ll find it easier to ignore touts because you’ll be aware of what you’re looking for.  In countries where security is an issue, drivers associated with your ho(s)tel are usually worth paying a small premium for, although not a large one.  I’ve also had a number of experiences where drivers failed to show up, so it’s worth having a backup plan.

Local Currency: It’s crucial to arrive with either local currency in hand or a plan for acquiring some.  In general, ATMs are the best option (check to see if the airport you’re arriving at has one) and airport money exchanges are the worst.  Like touts, they prey upon the desperate and the unwary and as a result charge extortionate rates.  You’re usually better off changing money in your home country.  If you have no choice but to use an airport money exchange, be sure to check the prices at all of the locations in the airport since they typically vary.  Watch out for commissions!

Mindfulness:  Don’t rush.  Unless you’re  an airport architecture aficionado, you’ll probably be tempted to get out as quickly as possible.  I find it’s better to sit down for a few minutes to get your thoughts (and possessions) together.  It’s also not a bad idea to use the bathroom if you can.  Once you’ve arrived at your hos(t)el, do the same thing.  Arriving someplace new undoubtedly gets your adrenaline flowing, so you may be more tired than you realize.  You’re also more likely to make impulsive choices.  Consequently, I always take five to ten minutes in my new room to relax, and you may wish to take longer.  Every scam I’ve suffered from occurred on a day that I didn’t…

These are just my own opinions and experiences of course.  But remember, life’s too short to hurry!

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3 Comments

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  1. losethemeditator / Feb 8 2013 11:13 pm

    Good advice! – also I need to get on the road / plane to Argentina very soon – certainly on my to do list – wish your friend safe travels!

    • A Mindful Traveler / Feb 8 2013 11:17 pm

      Thank you for your kind words! I certainly will pass along your thoughtful wishes. By the way, if you’re American, Australian, or Canadian, you’ll need to pay your visa reciprocity fee online in advance. This article has some helpful tips on how to do so. Of course these could easily change in the interim – as things in that country tend to do, even more than elsewhere.

  2. museconfuse / Feb 21 2013 11:09 am

    Totally agree! I always research these especially before I travel to such countries.

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