Tag Archives: Travel tips

How Jury Duty Made Me a Better Traveler

A while back I was seated on a jury.  Anyone who knows me in real life is well aware that I’ve been jealous of potential jurors for most of my life.  Weird, I know.  I still loved my experience and learned a lot, but my particular case was incredibly emotionally draining, as it was of the Law and Order: SVU variety.  But, reflecting back, aside from the stress there is a lot I learned about decision making and being fair. 

  1. Use all of your senses.  When viewing a witness and hearing testimony, you are not only permitted but encouraged to obersevre their posture, body language, the tenor of their voice and facial expressions.  It isn’t just what they say, but how.  In a case with no physical evidence, it was the star witness’s physical demeanor that really sold me, and others on the jury. 
  2. Consider the source.  A big sticking point for us was that two of the witnesses were not getting any benefit from testifying against the defendant, one even moreso than the other.  Their was certainly nothing in it for them other than the truth, as their lives had moved on and the players no longer mattered to them.  Likewise, consider who you get travel tips from.  A friend or blogger who had a great time and wants you to do the same is likely to be your best resource, moreso than a tour company or sponsored blogger with certain allegiances. 
  3. Be prepared.  Court rooms are cold, lunch breaks are flexible, and you may not even be selected to be on the final jury (there are two alternates).  So every day I brought a sweater, a good book, a silly magazine and some snacks.  While you can’t prepare for everything (like randomly being let out 2 hours early one day for unknown-to-us court reasons), you should prepare for everything you know of.  Similarly, there’s no good reason not to have comfy shoes, emergency funds and a good towel.  In fact, I would say treat it like a cold, unreliable courthouse: bring a snack, reading material and sweater and you’ll be fine in most situations. 
  4. Work with what you’ve got.  We were only given certain information, and the pertinent legal knoweledge.  We all knew Massachusetts had statutory rape laws, but for whatever reason they were considered irrelevent to the case, so we had to decide based on the facts we actually had in front of us.  When you’re traveling, don’t lament  the guide book you forgot, the local knowledge you don’t have, the clothing you can’t find.  Just take what you have in front of you and make it work. 
  5. Find a Way to Clear Your Mind.  Traveling can be stressful, and even mroeso depending on your companions and where in the world you are.  It’s extremely iomportant to have a reliable way to restore your sanity.  During the trial, I would lay on the couch eating cheese and crackers, talking to no one, watching tv and movies nonstop onDemand.  If I didn’t, I would get too freaked out.  Like traveling, I had limited resources available to me–I couldn’t discuss the trial with anyone, especially not my deposition-filming brother, and I wasn’t supposed to read the news.  When abroad, I prefer to write, go for a solo walk, do some yogo, or listen to great live music while in some form of transportation.  Find something that works, and apply as necessary. 

Planning a Trip

Lately I’ve gotten some questions about how to choose a destination and prepare for a trip.  I’m wicked flattered that I’ve achieved status as the friend to ask for some of you, and this is my attempt to share what I’ve figured out so far.  They’re not hard and fast rules, it’s just trial and error from my own experience.

One thing I’d love to emphasize, though, is domestic travel.  These rules work even if you’re traveling within your own state, and don’t feel that you shouldn’t be contributing or proud of your resume, even if your passport is blank.  We’re lucky enough to live in such a culturally and geographically diverse country.  So often domestic travel is ignored or looked down upon, but you should be proud of learning about your home more thoroughly than most. So please, join in with the comments and advice, no matter how far or close your destinations are!

First, I recommend checking out your potential destinations on a few key places online.  You should be looking at climate, financial situation within the country, personal safety, language skills needed and the type of experience you want.  There are really only so many places where you can, but if all you want to do is lie on a beach all day at a resort you can go just about anywhere.

The following are a collection of my favorite travel websites:

Lonely Planet

One of the best things about Lonely Planet is that you can download portions of many of their guides for free, giving you a great starting point as well an idea of what their guide will contain.  You’re then better equipped to comparison shop.  If you do go with their guide, you can also buy it in digital, which is preferable for some travellers. They also feature a great interactive trip planner, if you’re into that sort of thing.

US State Department travel warnings

Here’s my gigantic caveat: never forget that this is made by a government. Yes, it is our government so you want to believe it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  This is an avenue for propaganda like any other, and should not be your only source.  I also urge you to be mindful of the level of crime we actually are living in when we’re at home.  Everyone was worried about me going to Cairo, but I was much safer in the affluent neighborhood of Zamalek than in my dorm in the projects.


I like this site because the content is all user-generated.  You can read blog entries, how-to guides and tips.  They have a strict word count max on all of these, so you can get a lot of concise, first-hand data quickly.  (Full disclosure: I have a profile on glimpse)

Students Abroad

This one comes courtesy of mi madre and the State Department.  The point is to make a hip, relatable travel website, and they actually succeed.  I know, I’m floored.  This some dumb stuff, but it’s mostly user-friendly and surprisingly laid back.  There’s even a  fanny pack joke!


Depending on where you go and when, you might need some shots.  If you stick to western Europe (or New England) this won’t be a problem, but some more hardcore traveling should warrant a gander at this site and a trip to your local infectious diseases/travel clinic.  I like Lahey.

Before you go, the best thing you can do for yourself is to talk to other people who have been there.  I like to keep a running list of questions as I do my preparation so I’m sure not to miss anything.

On the fun side of preparation, I like to go into a country with a pretty good historical and cultural background.  I know this is unusual for most tourists, and I’m also admittedly a nut about history and research.  One of the most accessible things you can do for yourself is to watch a few films.  You could go with ones made in or by people of that country to get an idea of the culture, or something with a bit of historical accuracy for some research that even a normal human being would enjoy.

One of my favorite pre-trip activities is to read some books about or from the country that are neither academic nor travel guides.  Memoirs and fiction are a great way to feel connected to your destination without feeling like you’ve been assigned homework.

How about you guys?  Was there anything you disagree with?  What are your tips for travel preparation?  Do you have a preference for a certain brand of guides?  Is there a great travel site to add to the list?

Help your fellow travellers out and leave a comment!

Also, don’t forget to leave a comment here with your Cuba questions!