Travel Though Thursday: Travel Destinations

How do you decide your next travel destination??

Recent vacation photos from someone seen on your Facebook feed? An ad seen on TV or magazine or billboard? Conversations with friends or colleagues? An overhead conversation while commuting?

I have done all the above. Travel inspiration can come easily but how to do it affordably as well?

When there’s a will, there’s a way.

How to Find the Deals? – you ask.

I receive newsletters and emails from various airlines and from companies of other mode of transportation. I also subscribe to a few Facebook pages which consolidate sales from airlines and various operators. This has minimized the amount of daily newsletters which served the same purpose. Some of my favourites are Fly4free, Secret Flying and Next Departure. [Disclaimer: I am mentioning these pages because I simply want to spread the love and pay it forward. Each of these sites have helped me save money one way or another.]

There are countless of travel interests groups on the interweb or Facebook which caters to finding and sharing travel discounts. I’m sure you’ll find some suitable for your closest point of departure.

My Recent Choice

Since living in Germany, my travel destinations are determined by sales offered by airline or bus companies. When I saw Ryanair advertise about flights starting from 9.99 euros, I jumped. They don’t offer many routes from Hamburg but there are many cities I have yet to visit. I ended up paying 19.98 euros for a weekend round trip flight to Porto, Portugal!! Mind-blown!

Sunset view of Praca da Liberdade in Porto, Portugal

Sunset view of Praca da Liberdade in Porto, Portugal

No one believed that. I didn’t believe it either but in the end, I didn’t have to pay anything extra. Ryanair happily flew me and my backpack to Porto for less than 10 euros, each way. I know many people who despise discount airlines for lack of comfort and plenty of limitations. However, nothing is hidden, I know I paid very little, so it’s okay and am fully aware I won’t be served caviar in flight.

How to mentally brace yourself when flying with a discount airline? Just be realistic. Packing light – it is an art form that I have yet to fully comprehend but I am in the process.

Another crazy example, I paid a whopping 2.50 euros for a return bus ride from Hamburg to Munich with Megabus. Normally, it would cost 20 euros, each way. I chose the overnight time slot since sleeping for 12 hours on the bus is better than sitting and watching the world go by. I’ll tell you about Munich another day.

The Surprise

Porto is truly a stunning historical port city, very affordable and I found out that I have had a past life experience there during my stay. On top of that, on my inbound flight, the French air traffic controllers went on strike. As a result my flight from Porto to Hamburg was cancelled. Gracefully, Ryanair stepped up, notified me in advance. They paid for my extra night of hotel stay, along with the extra meals and transportation costs, until the next available flight – I just had to submit copies of my receipts online. I researched a bit and found a flight from Lisbon to Hamburg on the next day. So I ended up spending a few hours sightseeing in Lisbon, thanks to the cancellation of my flight.

View of Oriente train station in Lisbon, Portugal from train window - designed by Santiago Calatrava

View of Oriente train station in Lisbon, Portugal from train window – designed by Santiago Calatrava

Sure the flight cancellation was a hassle, plans in Hamburg had to be cancelled. Some may call it bad luck, a hassle, the dramatic people would probably throw a fit or have a meltdown. Sure I had to go to the Porto airport, stand in line and wait for their sub-contracted crew to help with my re-routing.  However, there is always a silver-lining, it just takes a bit of shifting of my perspective to find it.

I spent the extra day in Porto exploring places I didn’t have time to visit and luckily it included the warmest, sunniest hours of my entire stay.

Basking in the warm sun at Muralha Fernandina, old city wall of Porto, Portugal

Basking in the warm sun at Muralha Fernandina, old city wall of Porto, Portugal

Then I saw the 3 hours train ride, the next day, from Porto to Lisbon as an unexpected adventure. Maximized my time in Lisbon by visiting 2 of their most important sights, ate a delicious local meal and caught my flight back to Hamburg.

I cannot emphasize enough, everything that happens in life leads to at least one life lesson. This time, it was to test to see how flexible am I with my thoughts and responses to an unfortunate event. It was completely no fault of Ryanair but they did their best with the situation. I also tried to handle it the best way possible.

Very often, the events that are completely out of our control beholds the most important lessons.

Choices

At the end of the day, this is a very big, fascinating world. There’s always a place that’s worth your while to explore. Be it a metropolis, tiny town, mountain top or at a remote beach – give it a try, you may learn something new about yourself.

p.s. More photos and stories from Porto, Lisbon and Munich will be posted in the near future – stay tuned!

 

 

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