Galvanized by
the Venice Biennale, I have just returned from a 23-day trip to Italy. This
every-other-year international art exhibition goes from May to November and
always recharges my creative juices.

Plus, I love
being in Italy. The people, the food, the art, the Renaissance buildings, all
speak to a deeper part of me.

After my last
Italian sojourn four years ago, I knew I needed to travel differently than I
had in my younger years. So, what have I learned to make a trip easier in my 70s
even though I’m fit and in good health?

Packing

Probably my
biggest issue now is the inability to carry as much weight as I used to. That
means, I have to invest in the lightest possible suitcase with four spinner
wheels that I can afford.

I need to be
able to lift it up and over some of the 403 bridges that connect the islands of
Venice as well as onto overhead luggage racks on trains. If I can do that, then
I can travel just about anywhere I want to go.

Packing took
me weeks this time, trying to figure out which lightweight clothes to take and
to still feel stylish. Italians respond more openly to well-dressed people, so
I wasn’t willing to compromise. I tried on outfits for days, mixing and
matching, trying to come up with the ideal wardrobe.

I ended up
with two pairs of pants, one of which I wore on planes and trains, two skirts,
and various tops that I could mix and match with the bottoms. This all weighed
almost nothing.

But even as
careful as I was, there were two tops I could have left at home. So, my advice
is, be ruthless in your packing and take out anything you are doubtful about.

For my next voyage
I will pack even lighter and buy a few things along the way. Not only will I
fill in my wardrobe, but I’ll have mementos from the trip.

More Weight

Next came the
shoes. I know from previous experiences that I need a couple of pairs of shoes,
so if one pair hurts my feet, I can change them out for the other. I do so much
walking that even with the most comfortable shoes, my feet need variety. Keep
in mind that all shoes need to be broken in before you leave.

I’m a skin
product junkie, but cosmetics take up room and add weight. Before I left, I
found a 7-centimeter tall cylinder of small plastic containers that screwed
together. Into these, I put day-cream SPF 30, hair goop, and body butter for
dry skin.

I also bought
a set of plastic travel containers for hairspray, face cleanser, and other
items. This came in a plastic zip bag that was the perfect size for getting
liquids through airport security. I had enough in the product department to
last the whole 23 days at a fraction of the weight.

As an artist,
photography is another creative outlet for me. I like my camera, but I found
it’s just too heavy to carry day-in and day-out. While most people are
satisfied with their phone for picture taking, my goal is to find a camera that
weighs very little but still does everything I want it to do.

Consider Where You Will Stay

One new thing
I learned on this trip is to book a room in close proximity to the places you
want to visit. My travel companion and I rented an Airbnb apartment in a
residential area to be away from the masses of tourists who pour into the city
every day.

This would
have been the perfect accommodation 10 years ago, but we found that the extra 20-minute
walk to start and end the day used up precious reserves we would have preferred
to use in other ways.

I have always
had a lot of energy, but I can see it declining as the years advance. This is
not something I easily accept!

Important Papers and Money

My friend and
I exchanged copies of our health insurance, passports, ATM and credit card
numbers, along with the number to call if a card is lost. Tell your card
company where you’ll be traveling and the dates to avoid embarrassing card
declines.

I find the
best way to exchange currencies is to use my ATM card rather than exchanging
cash. However, it’s a good idea to have some cash with you in case you lose
your card or decide to buy something from a street vendor. 

ATMs were
available everywhere we traveled, but we did learn the hard way to carefully
read any notices about exchange rates. The machines in the Milan airport didn’t
charge a fee but had such a bad exchange rate that I ended up losing about $35
on a $300 withdrawal.

My travel
companion, on the other hand, changed cash at an exchange window in Venice without
reading the fine print about the 20% commission. She lost $40 on a $200
exchange.

By far the
best ATMs are the ones that are physically part of a bank.

Language

On a rainy
day, my friend and I were cold when we walked into a canal-side café. In
Italian, I asked the waiter, “Do you have a table for two wet dogs?” He laughed
and treated us so well that he made our day.

I often find that,
wherever I travel, having a few words in the local language brings a smile to
people’s faces. With the Google Translate App at your fingertips, you can have
those words too.

Happy
Travels!

How often do
you travel? Have you recently vacationed in a foreign country? What lessons did
you learn on your trip? Please share in the comments below.

Let\’s Have a Conversation!

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