Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Back in Ghana!!!

It’s official; all three trip leaders for OG's West Africa Discovery programs have arrived back in beautiful Ghana and it’s incredible to be here.

The sun is shinning, the music playing and we are getting everything ready for our first round of participants to join us next Wednesday! But like any international journey, all of us had some unexpected speed bumps to overcome. For any first time travellers, or returning travellers, sometimes these encounters can be worrisome but don’t worry - rule number one stay calm and all shall be well!

Here is a heads up on some of the regular travel problems we encountered on our journey to Ghana and how optional solutions. Remember, everyone deals with things differently and your own style will work best for you. This is just a note to remind you stuff happens, and its cool! Laugh, relax and enjoy the journey. It’s all part of the travel experience!

Oversized luggage: No matter how often I travel, I can’t help it… my items are always heavier than I think. Make certain you confirm with your airline the number of bags you are allowed and the weight. It should say on your ticket but if not, don’t be afraid to contact either your travel agent or airline directly. If you go over your allowed weight, you will either have to pay big bucks for it or take something out. Both options suck so just try to avoid it in general.

This leads to….

Pack well: Bring what you think you will need, but don’t panic about it. Best thing about travelling with a group is whatever you need and forget to bring, chances are there are 4-5 of them already on the trip. If not, we’ll make time to find it in Accra before we head north; and I assure you, you can find almost anything of everything in Accra!

Delayed Flights: Sometimes flights are delayed; it can be mechanical, weather, whatever! Long story short, there is nothing you or anyone else for that matter can do about it. Sometimes delayed flights can mean you miss your connecting flight (which is what happened with me). Don’t panic. The airline will make sure you and your luggage get to your final destination. Just make sure you know where you are to go next. If the flight attendant on board has not made this clear to you, ask and clarify. Confirmation always helps, such as, “Excuse me, which direction is boarding gate B26?” Or, “Please, my luggage will go all the way to Accra, right? I don’t have to pick it at the transfer flight?” If they know the answer, they will give it to you. If they don’t, request they find someone who does.

Hand luggage: For many reasons it is important to make sure all valuables are left in your hand luggage (being the bag you take on the plane with you and have constant access to).

Number one is lost luggage. You need to make sure things like medication, visas, debit cards, cash, computers, cameras and other irreplaceable and/or required documents are always on your body.
Remember, the airline will always do its best to get your luggage to you as soon as possible but as with all things in love and life, nothing is absolute. This means you could go a few hours to a few days without your luggage. This means it can also be useful to have a change of clothing and toiletries in your hand luggage.

A personal recommendation is to also pack items of comfort in your hand luggage. In case of things like delayed flights or long flights in general, having a travel pillow, blanket/warmer clothes (those planes can get coldddd, I tell ya!) and something to read/keep you occupied sure come in handy! En route I was delayed in Washington and had to spend approximately 20 hours in the airport that I did not plan on. I was overly thankful for my travel pillow, blanket and book. (Not to mention the 14 hour flight with pure AC blasting directly down on you. I was thankful I came prepared).

Note: With all that in mind, don’t over pack. I know its great to be prepared but we are backpacking, and we have to carry our everything with us nearly all the time. Bags get heavy and it sucks to miss out on an adventure because our bags are too heavy and we don’t want to carry them for the walk.

I know, sounds like a contradiction, right? “Bring everything you need, but pack light.” Believe me – balancing the art of packing can be difficult even for experienced travelers. So just do your best and have fun with it. In the end, it’s all going to be awesome!

And finally, my absolute travel tip would be to allow yourself to take your time. Get there early, have your tickets printed, know where your boarding passes are, find your gate before you shop, keep your passport in a safe place.

The unexpected can almost always be expected while travelling and having the additional stress of, “Oh my god, am I going to make it??!!” can drive you mad. So don’t put yourself through that.
Keep calm, be cool and enjoy the process. You’re already half way here!!

See you soon!!

Your OG West Africa Discovery Team Leaders,
Michelle, Jeremy and BB

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