Everything I’ve learnt being a freelance motorsport journalist: TRAVEL EDITION

THINGS IT IS WORTH SPENDING EXTRA MONEY ON

  • Luggage. This thing is going to be what you effectively live out of — and if you follow step #2 you need it to be convenient to hand luggage sizes worldwide. You don’t need to spend a tonne but get yourself a decent rucksack that games the luggage restrictions of even WizzAir. I got mine from CabinMax and for something under £20 it has been a stonkingly worthwhile investment that has gone literally around the world with me.
  • Your phone contract and/or phone. This is your backup if you can’t use your laptop for some reason — having a big data allowance, a generous international package and the ability to edit Google docs, use WordPress and take decent photos on the fly is something you will be really grateful for. Also having twenty trillion travel apps makes it much easier to get around.
  • Socialising. Networking is really important, make an impression on your peers, make sure they remember you. I have definitely not negotiated this in a way that I advise you to do (but I guess people do remember me…) but do leave a tiny bit of budget for a couple of beers.
  • Charge/power banks; these are really invaluable, you won’t regret buying a few decent quality small ones (1–2 smartphone charges) and one really hefty boy for when you know you might be power-starved for a few days. (eg: if you are camping)
  • Travel converters. God, just get like 10 of these — why do I never seem to have the right one? For heck’s sake.
  • TRAVEL INSURANCE — stuff can and will go wrong, like I had my handbag violently stolen in Berlin the week before last. Travel insurance might not solve the problem immediately but, especially if you get ill or are hurt, is essential. (also if you’re in an EU country get your EHIC card for free treatment anywhere in the EU)

THINGS IT IS NOT WORTH SPENDING EXTRA MONEY ON

  • Flights. No one knows how you got there — if you’re looking to cost-save, this is a really hidden way to do it. Don’t mug yourself off too much if you’re not that used to travel but sometimes there’s a weird route that will get you there — I took about £400 off the price of flights to Punta del Este by going via Amsterdam, for instance and managed to get to Berlin last weekend via Ireland, where other routes were well out of budget. Kayak.com is good for finding hacky flight routes but often extrapolation and booking direct with airlines can save you even more.
  • Nights in hotels. If you can do it on a skimpy agenda, do. If you can sleep in an airport for a night, do (more on this later) but hotels are a huge expense — actually just don’t stay in hotels, to be honest. Even successful motorsport journalists use hostels sometimes because a) there is 24h check-in usually which is extremely useful, b) there’s usually WiFi for free which a lot of hotels don’t have or only have in the lobby, c) again, no one sees where you sleep. You don’t have to tell everyone where you’re staying, if anyone asks just say ‘oh, over towards [neighbourhood/landmark]’ and this is really important because everything you spend on a hotel comes out of your ability to break even on a trip, let alone make money.
  • Your laptop. So long as it runs a browser and Google docs, unless you’re really serious about going into video editing, that’s pretty much all you need. (Also it’s going to take a beating, so go for lightweight and hardwearing; I have a MacBook and I absolutely don’t need one except that it’s quite light)

HOW TO DEAL WITH LUDICROUS TRANSPORT STRESS

  • Apps, apps are really useful — don’t rely on them totally but eg: the KLM app tells me which gate I need to aim for in Schipol when I’m steaming through on zero sleep on my fourth leg of a journey and I’ve got 31 minutes to make it to the next gate.
  • Also most airlines you can do check-in on the app which is essential given you are highly unlikely to have access to a printer.
  • People on planes are amazingly rude and it will utterly infuriate you and here is a thing: you can basically do fuck-all about it. Seats will be reclined onto you, people (especially men, if you’re a woman) will sleep literally on you and your personal space will be encroached. These are all stressful things. Go into it prepared for that to happen; yes, 13 hours seems like lots of time to get work done but you’re not going to have space to get your laptop out, don’t put undue pressure on yourself or it will heighten the stress of the situation. Try to sleep or watch movies or download something on a tablet or phone, eat the in-flight food if you’re on a long haul, try to stay hydrated
  • Lol I never, ever stay hydrated are you joking there’s free or at least available wine (do NOT do this, I am a god-tier traveller and it still routinely results in feeling really miserable but will it stop me? I strongly doubt it)
  • Do not expect to enjoy it. You are not here to enjoy it, you’re here to deal with it and hopefully be in a decent state by the time you get to the racetrack. If you approach it like this you will have a far less shitty time — basically assume the entire transport experience (planes/trains/airports/buses/etc) is a sort of side-scrolling computer game level where things constantly try to fuck you up and then feel satisfied you completed it, not that it was actually a rewarding experience.
  • That said some of it is amazingly beautiful even if you’re very tired. Don’t blank out the scenery or the distance, you might only get to do these things once.

SOME TRAVEL HACKS

  • One of those miniatures of travel mouthwash works really well for if you’ve had your trainers on for 48 hours and you can feel the skin crawling.
  • Relatedly; you’re gonna be wearing closed-toe footwear (pit lane, sprinting, etc.) for 18 hours a day in various sweaty conditions — if you put one thing in your hand luggage to save your life, make it athlete’s foot powder. It doesn’t count towards your liquid allowance and damn man, that stuff makes such a difference to the entire horror-filled process
  • I have big girly hair and I still manage with combined shampoo and conditioner
  • In favour of hairspray which is really useful
  • Airport food is really expensive, bring your own sammiches
  • If you don’t, most UK airports have a Wetherspoons (boo @ Luton) where you can charge things and also order stuff to your table via an app and the refillable coffee is very cheap
  • If you ARE in Luton then the cheapest place to get a glass of wine is the Frankie and Benny’s. Don’t say I don’t bring you good reportage.
  • If you think you might be in any way edging the luggage allowance, just make sure you can carry it whenever anyone’s looking at you and probably no one will ever check.
  • When exiting a country, find out if the currency is exchangeable outside of it BEFORE you leave (eg: Moroccan dhiram are not) or carry round a tonne of change for the rest of your life.
  • Take spares of things — two toothbrushes doesn’t take up any more room and will be important if you drop one in the toilet,
  • Baby wipes are your friend now. They remove make up, clean your body, clean your hands, etc and don’t count as a liquid, unlike alcohol gel.
  • You can book most buses online! You can even book buses in Georgia online so it is definitely worth having a look if you need to get eg: a ticket across Uruguay.
  • Learn ‘thank you’ in the language of wherever you are going to and you will have a far less awkward time.
  • GET AN AIRMILES ACCOUNT yes it makes you feel like your dad but that’s basically free money and let me tell you, there’s fuck all else of that.
  • There is a website called sleepinginairports.net and it is your new best friend. Sleeping in most airports is virtually normal — there are only a few that totally close overnight so make sure you’re not caught out. The method of sleeping in an airport is this: find somewhere relatively secluded, back against a wall, sleep on your bag(s) with the straps wrapped round you, if you can plug in a device somewhere then put it literally underneath your body while you’re sleeping. It’s surprisingly comfortable tbh and airports have toilets, coffee machines, etc.

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