Editor's Note: Thanks to everyone who shared their advice and adventures in traveling. All tips were submitted by LD readers.
One tip I can think of that has worked for me in my career: I always pack my shaving kit and at least a change of socks and underwear in my carry on bag, especially on international flights. There is nothing worse than having your luggage delayed and not having a change of clothes and your soap, shampoo, and razor. It's bad enough not to have your luggage, but it's even worse not having the ability to clean up and put on clean clothes after a long overseas flight.
Fill out a Declaration!
On a recent visit to the Ukraine, where I had been dating a girl for a while, I came into the country with about $2,000 in cash on me. I had just been in Russia, and while in the past, you had to list every single cent that you had on your person, they have recently relaxed the rules, and you don't need to fill out a declaration unless you have $10,000 or more.
Well, stupid me thought the same of the Ukraine. Boy, was I wrong. I had been in Odessa for about three weeks. I had about $1,500 left and put about $1,200 in my wallet, the rest in my computer bag. Upon leaving the country, I passed through customs, and the agent asked me how much money I had. I said about $1,200. “What?” he exclaimed. “Show it to me!” I took out my wallet, and he went through the cash and asked me for my declaration. I explained that I was told I didn't need a declaration upon my entry three weeks prior. “Oh, no,” he said. He pulled $800 out of the wad and said I could keep that. I asked him, “Well, what about the rest?!” He shrugged his shoulders, and said, “Do you have somebody here that you can leave it with?” I thought about it, and decided to call my girlfriend. “You need to come back NOW,” I told her over my cell phone.
They let me out of the customs area; I met her in the front. I thought it was odd that they let me out, so I took the cash and put it down my pants. I kissed her goodbye again, nervously reentered the customs area, and the agent asked me if I gave it to her, I said yes, and he let me go! Unbelievable, I know, but I was lucky he didn't check me again. So, lesson learned — always fill out a declaration!
Keep your passport in one place, and always put it back there.
I was on tour as LD with the Rolling Stones in 1990; we were doing stadiums throughout Europe. Sometimes, we flew from city to city, other times, we took our tour bus. On one occasion, we had traveled overnight on the bus from Barcelona to Madrid. Previously, we had flown from Frankfurt to Lisbon for a show and then from Lisbon to Barcelona for another show. We were to be in Madrid for several days. I had put my passport in the inside pocket of my denim Stones jacket, although I usually placed my passport back in its original envelope inside of my briefcase, in a regular spot I liked to keep it. We were told then the buses were going to drop us off at the hotel and to get everything off that we would need for the next several days, as we were flying to Marseilles. I quickly gathered what I would want, and since it was so hot in Madrid, I decided to leave my jacket. We spent a few days there, loaded in, and did a show.
Then the day we were scheduled to leave, I packed up and headed down to the lobby to catch the ride to the airport. We all loaded a passenger coach, and then our production manager asked us for our passports. I looked in my briefcase, and, oddly, it wasn't there. I thought for a minute and then remembered I had left it in my denim jacket pocket. I got off the bus and looked in my suitcase. Suddenly, it dawned on me: I had left it on the tour bus! I quickly pulled my PM aside and explained what had happened. After some thought and a couple of phone calls, it was decided that the tour bus driver, going to meet me at the airport, would simply give my passport to someone to bring to customs, and I would be cleared. Sounded simple enough.
We got on the bus and left for the airport. Once we arrived at the airport, the Spanish customs wanted to see my passport. We explained the situation, so they decided to call the French authorities to consult with them. It seems that the French authorities told the Spanish authorities that they would not let me in without a passport, and the Spanish authorities did not want to take the chance that I was making the story up. So, I was not allowed to leave Spain, and I had to go to the US Embassy in Madrid and get a new temporary passport and then take a flight the next day to Marseilles. It cost me about $200 for the trouble, not to mention the band had to buy me a ticket to Marseilles, as the previous flight was a charter.
Always carry some local currency.
It is not as important now, as Europe shares the same currency, but on one trip, we had been in England for a couple of weeks, and, after the show, we traveled to Poland. We woke up for lunch, and we were in Germany. We stopped at some German truck stop in the middle of nowhere. There was no way to change money. Only one crew member had any German marks, and he only had a few dollars worth, so, we all sat and watched him eat. He did share his fries with us, though. So, always change a small amount of money into the local currency of countries where you are planning to go. And remember to share your fries.
— Cosmo Wilson, lighting director/designer Deltona, Fl
Ask your question in a variety of ways, especially in non-English speaking countries. In Thailand, they will go to great lengths to make you comfortable and will avoid giving you any bad news. You almost have to trick the honest, but painful, answer out of them. While building a nightclub in Bangkok, it took a week to find out we had been requesting help from a fellow working with conduit, hoping to get the worklights installed first. He assured us by saying “right away,” “very next project,” and too many “yes, yes, yeses” to mention. Needless to say, he was the plumber. He didn't want to disappoint.
— Mark J. McKibben
Lightspeed Design Group
Don't forget your Blackberry phone!
— Jeff Washburn, director of special projects
High End Systems, Inc.
Trust your intuition and listen to it! I took a short trip to Paris this past New Year's. Upon entering the Metro, there were signs on every spare piece of wall warning of pocket-pickers. Naturally, I was very aware of where my bag was and kept a close eye on it. Even during the huge push of people after midnight on the trains (a la Times Square after the ball drop), there were no problems. The next morning was not so easy. We were waiting for the train to pull up on a quiet platform. Just as we were stepping through the open doors of the train, there was a push like a huge crowd was behind us rushing to get on. Once the doors closed and I turned around, there was barely anyone there! A lady was trying to tell me in French what had just happened. (Luckily “pickpocket” is the same in English as French!) I looked in my bag and, of course, my wallet was missing!
Keep your passport in your hotel safe (which I had); keep as little important papers, credit cards, money, etc. in your bag, so you don't have to fill out a million forms and such when you report it; learn the language so that you can explain these situations to local police and authorities. But, most important, to me, was to listen to my gut and trust my intuition. Twice, before I left the hotel, I almost changed the bag I was carrying and how I was carrying it. Twice, I shrugged off the thought, thinking I was fine after all the years I had lived in cities without a problem. Trust your gut about strangers, both positive and negative. Trust your intuition on what gear to carry with you or how to dress appropriately for something. Our intuition is our strongest tool, but it does not really work if you don't listen to it.
— Melissa L. Wilreker, project manager
PRG - Integrated Solutions
JASON'S TOP 10 THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN TRAVELING ABROAD:
10 Keep your passport in a safe place.
9 Always have some Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate in your pack.
8 Go to the doctor before you leave, and ask for a prescription for Ambien. This little sleep aid will reset your body clock on a long flight to Europe or Australia.
7 Never carry anything illegal into another country!
6 Try to eat local food, not McDonald's, for example (When in Rome, do as Romans do…).
5 Keep your PD's and some separate ID broken up into different bags in your pack, so if you do get robbed or loose a bag, there is some back up.
4 When in a small town in the middle of Australia, or any other country besides India, don't eat the curry!
3 When going to the airport, always check for all tickets and ID before you get there, and don't wear any metal!
2 If you're an American, play it down. People in the rest of the world do not like us much at the moment. If really necessary, pretend you're a Canadian and say stuff like, “How about that Bush? What a hoser, eh?”
1 In general, treat other cultures with respect, and try to appreciate them for being different, because the world would be a pretty dull place if we were all loud, obnoxious Americans.
(signed, One Loud Obnoxious American)
— Jason Boyd (a.k.a. “Boydy the Sepo”)
JULES' MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN TRAVELING OUTSIDE YOUR HOME COUNTRY:
Keep your passport on you at all times, with color photocopies of the photo ID and bar code pages tucked safely away, both in your hotel room and back at your office.
The local laws are different, and the officials can lock you up for major crimes that may be minor offenses in your own country (example: small amounts of cannabis can get you the equivalent of a jaywalking ticket in Oregon, ten years in Kenya, and death in Singapore).
A little web research on the locale, history, and local customs goes a long way toward common courtesies (example: offering cash payment hand-to-hand in Japan is a crass no-no; it goes in the tray, and the cashier picks it up from there).
Almost without fail, any effort to use the local language is respected and appreciated, especially “please,” “thank you,” and “hello.”
Even if you don't know the language, you can generate tons of good will and cooperation with a genuine smile and a “hi.”
The pocket book, New Theatre Words, can save a lot of time and angst during load-in.
A little effort spent learning the currency pays off big in quickening small transactions and eliminating accidentally overpaying, sometimes by orders of magnitude.
Handing a taxi driver directions from the hotel to the venue, written in the local language by the hotel clerk, can make the difference between getting to the gig on time and an unscheduled tour of the countryside.
Drinking the tap water, using ice cubes, brushing your teeth with tap instead of bottled water, and failing to keep your mouth shut in the shower often lead to extended, frequent visits to either the doctor or the facilities.
You are a guest in another country that, by human nature, will be a gracious host if you remember to be a gracious visitor.
— Jules Lauve, senior consultant
Theatre Projects Consultants, Inc.
The most important thing to remember when traveling outside your home country is that you're outside your home country! It may seem obvious, but despite many similarities of technology and venue, cultural differences are important and hold potential for great pitfalls. Find out something about the culture and work habits of the country your going to be working in. For example, the stagehands in Italy aren't “out to screw you” when they leave to take a siesta in the afternoon — it's part of their culture. Plan on it happening, schedule accordingly, and even enjoy one yourself!
Likewise, Japanese staff aren't “lying to you” when they reply “yes” to questions even if they don't mean it. It's just considered extremely rude in their culture to say “no,” so phrase your questions to account for this. Try learning even a few words of the local language, and ask the locals to show you around. Most people are proud to show their cities off to visitors. You'll make friends with the local crew you depend on and have a much better time!
— John Featherstone, partner and senior designer
Always carry a digital image (or two) of your checked luggage on your laptop — a big help in describing color, size, and form to non-English speaking airline personnel. A digital copy of your passport can't hurt either (though I have never had to use mine).
— Rob Schoenbohm, senior associate
Fisher Marantz Stone, Inc.
Your names for the tools of the trade are very different when you're in other countries. When speaking with a colleague, it may not compute. I learned these differences working with many British techs on ships.
|(PBG) “Edison”||F***ing American Plug|
In other countries, some things loosely translate (I learned this calling followspots for a Filipino crew).
|Blackout||Patay (Death, Kill It)|
|Fade Out||Dahan Dahan Patay (Slow Death)|
|GO||Abante (Let's Go!)|
While on tour, the most important phrase in any country…
“Another beer, please.”
“Ein bier, bitte.” (German)
“Une bière, s'il vous plaît.” (French)
“Una birra, per favore.” (Italian)
“Una cerveza, por favor.” (Spanish)
(All other languages)
— Joseph “Joe Mac” McGinley, programmer/lighting designer