The Magic Hat

Before I left for the trek in October 2012, I bought myself a wide-brimmed hat. It was cheap, maybe $20 at a local Mark’s Work Wearhouse (where I was working at the time).

That hat has become to be known as my Magic Hat.

Why, you ask? (Yes, please ask. Work with me here, people.) I never pulled rabbits or any other rodent out of it.

I lost the thing three times and each time I got it back.

The first time I lost it was in a coffee shop in a Christchurch, New Zealand mall. I had stopped in to buy a new pair of shoes, then had a coffee. I put the hat down, finished my coffee and headed back to the hotel.

About halfway back, I realized, “Crap! Lost my hat!”

I went back to yonder coffee shop the next day. Against odds, lo and behold, someone had turned it in!

Second time was also in a mall, this time in Cape Town, South Africa. I had gone into the mall to mail a box home and obviously at some point I left my hat behind. Well, I turned around as quick as I remembered and started re-tracing my steps. Turns out that a woman at a mall store had seen me leave it behind and took it with her for safe keeping. When she saw me she gave me my hat back, saying, “I thought you weren’t coming back!”

Well, I did and I got it back.

Third time was in a church in Buenos Aires. My guide, Sandra, and I had gone into the church to have a look at the artwork and architecture. When we came out of the church, our driver said, “Hey, he’s missing his hat!” With that Sandra and I wheeled about back into the church and spotted it on a church pew.

Now, this kind of stuff never happens to me. But for some reason, I was supremely lucky during the trip. Lost/found my hat three times, got an international flight after showing at the airport less than 30 minutes before take-off time… There were other instances of basic good luck that I’ve never been known to expect.

As I sit here, the Magic Hat is hanging on my TV in the living room. It’s scruffy and dirty. It’s starting to fall apart. But I still have it.

So whenever you have a run of bad luck, remember the Magic Hat. If I can have a run of good luck, then surely you can too!

My  Magic Hat

My Magic Hat on it’s current resting place.

My Panamanian guide Franko and I and my Magic Hat

My Panamanian guide Franko and I and my Magic Hat

In Peru with my Magic Hat.

In Peru with my Magic Hat.

At Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa, and my Magic Hat.

At Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa, and my Magic Hat.

My Argentine guide Jorge and I, and my Magic Hat

My Argentine guide Jorge and I, and my Magic Hat

What’s The Difference Between a Canadian and a Canoe?

Q. What’s the difference between a Canadian and a canoe?

A. A canoe tips

Yessiree, my fellow Canajuns. We of the Great White North, home of hockey, basketball (yep, go look it up), the best military pilots in the world and dried potatoes in a box, have a reputation as miserly tipping travellers.

I have heard anecdotes – don’t know if they’re true or not – that if Canadians enter a restaurant, the greeter will put them at a table that will be served by someone they don’t like very much.

Again, I don’t actually know it’s true or not, but it could be.

I think some of the reason is because many of us Canadian travellers simply don’t know if or how much is appropriate.

In some countries such as Japan, tipping may even be interpreted as an insult.

So how is a traveller to know?

Firstly, do your research. Spend some time with a Frommer’s or Lonely Planet, or talk to someone who has been to your destination.

There are some modern-day Neanderthals insist that 10% on the pretax total is enough. “They’re already being paid. Besides, they’re lucky to have my business.”

Fortunately, those troglodytes can safely be ignored.

Generally speaking, 15% to 20% on the pre-tax total of your restaurant bill is about right.

“But what if the food stinks or the service sucks?”

The tip isn’t the place to reflect that. Call the restaurant manager and tell her there’s a problem. It’s not fair to not tip the server if the food’s not good. She didn’t cook it. Same if the service is lousy. Why refrain from tipping the kitchen staff if the service sucks?

Let the manager know, and tip the proper people directly through the manager. “See that the kitchen staff gets all of this tip,” then give the manager the tip amount.

Same if you’re paying by credit or debit card. Tell the manager that the tip belongs to whichever party didn’t screw up things.

“But there’s already a 10% or 15% gratuity built into the bill. Now what’s appropriate?”

Crap, I hate it when places do that.

But anyway, that amount is usually split between service staff. Ask if you’re not sure. Then it’s appropriate for a 10% to 15% tip. And remember, that tip amount goes directly to the service provider, not in the general shared amout. If it’s at all possible, give the server’s tip in cash.

But like it or not, tipping doesn’t stop at the restaurant. Bartenders, hotel housekeeping staff, concierge staff, etc etc… Certainly, tipping isn’t required but giving them a tip – even before they haven’t actually served you yet – will go a long way in getting you good service. Something as small as a crisp $5 bill can make the difference.

So, fellow Canadians, let’s put that old joke to rest. Tipping properly to the right people is a good courtesy that simply makes sense.

Got a tip about tipping? Agree or disagree? Let me know through the comments portion of this post or send me an email: morgansglobaltrek@mail.com. I look forward to hearing from you!

Welcome to the Traveller’s World

For those who have been asking, yes I’m still working with the busticated tablet. It’s a laborious process, having to turn it in 90° angles to use the a, q and w keys.

And yesterday my camera decided to expire. So another line item in the budget I didn’t expect.

Landing in an unknown destination, especially when it’s a place whose primary language isn’t English, poses a whole array of hurdles to jump.

Even getting on the proper aircraft in the first place can pose particular challenges.

You hear over the airport address system, “Rmmm skwarr freen lay teo hat Virjeeeen Atlahhnteeec freen lingtahoo. Craney hut voor wak butter ses porta clarm let.”

And when the announcements are in, say, Spanish, the intrepid traveller may as well just curl up on the floor and weep.

But let’s assume, by no small miracle, that the traveller actually makes it on the right flight and the proper seat.

Hours later, dishevelled and staggering, comes baggage return. Always – every single time – comes the worry if one’s checked luggage arrives.

Don’t tell me that you’ve got all confidence that your bags aren’t going to end up in some distant land. I know you don’t.

Next, Passport Control. Again, not in English. You present your passport. A fast series of vowels and consonants fired in your direction. They kinda sound like words, but you can’t really be sure.

She fans through your passport and looks at the photo. Then you. Then the photo. Then you again.

More fast noises that might be words. She may be speaking in Martian for all you know.

Then the exasperated look from the passport officer, as if to say, “You really have no idea what you’re doing, do you?” And you nod yes, even though you have no clue what’s been said.

She shoos you away. “Go. Gwan. Get lost. Loser.”

That’s what it sounds like, anyway.

Then customs. A line for Nothing To Declare and one for Items To Declare. Pick the Nothing To Declare line. And you never can really be sure if you’re nonchalant enough. What if they pull me out of line? I’ve got nothing, will they make me empty my entire luggage to prove it? And what if there’s something I’ve forgotten about? Is my upper lip sweating?

Your tired smile is met with a stone glare. “Your CD 34 please.”

“My what?”

Rolling of the eyes. “Your CD34. For customs. You did fill one out, didn’t you? No? Fill one out, then back of the line. Idiot.”

Sounds like that anyway.

Finally, you’re officially in your destination.

If you have a pre-arranged pick up, fall to your knees in thanks. She will drive you to your hotel and walk you through the check-in process as if she’s managing a toddler.

But if you’re on your own upon arrival, just hang the words “Easy pickings!!” around your neck. A cabbie will gladly take you to your hotel. For 76 American dollars. Normally it’s about $12.

Finally, you’re in your room. At last. A comfy bed for your aching, exhausted body. Unpack, put things in their proper place so everything’s organised and easy to find.

Then, naturally, you jolt awake at about 3 in the morning, because you can’t remember where your passport is. A short, frantic search. Found it. But your body is on some distant clock, and besides, you’re too wired to sleep anymore.

And so your day begins in your new destination. Your travel agent has arranged a city tour. Pick-up is set for 5:30. In the morning.

Welcome to the traveller’s world.

Hello and welcome!

Hello and welcome to Morgan’s Global Trek blog. I’ll be keeping you up to date on my travels so stop by often to see where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to.

My trip starts October 17, 2012, with a week in Hawaii. After that, I’ll be in:

  • New Zealand beginning October 26
  • Australia beginning November 20
  • Singapore beginning December 13
  • Vietnam and Cambodia beginning December 23
  • South Africa beginning January 7
  • Argentina beginning beginning January 13
  • Central America beginning January 23
  • Dominican Republic February 8
  • Barbados beginning February 21
  • Florida beginning February 28

… and then back home sometime in March.

So come along for the ride!