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pacing the void

By Dorothy Parvaz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 18, 1997

Roam, if you want to

The holidays aren't quite here yet, but if you want to travel this summer, now is the time to get your act together and plan ahead. No, we're not talking about visiting your cousin in Ohio or spending a week in Vegas with your friends.

This is the real thing.

Maybe you've been saving up all your dosh for a year, or maybe you're a trust-fund baby and mummy and daddy are funding your little adventure. Either way, forget about studying for exams for a few hours and dream of international fun.

Here's a little teaser to some student-friendly destinations around the world.

The airfare indicated is what I found after calling various airlines, travel agencies and discount ticket vendors. You may or may not be able to do better. Remember, if you book in advance, you can get a better fare ( I gave May 30 as my date of departure and August 15 as my return date).

Destination: Bombay, India

Estimated ticket price: $1260

Visa: Required (non-immigrant)

Currency exchange: 35.8 Indian rupees per dollar

Stuff to do: Oh man, where to start. This country is full of wonder. Beautiful beaches and mountains, and more culture than most of us would know what to do with (history and mysticism galore).

If you're into big-city nutiness, there's always Bombay and Delhi. If partying is your prime agenda, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go directly to Goa. About five years ago, this was the place to go for Euro-raver kids. They say that the scene is dead now, but it ain't. You can live on the beach in a hut - no luxuries here - for about $15 a week and travel the country-side on motorcycles all day.

There's the usual stuff to check out in northern India - the Taj Mahal, the Golden Temple and yoga on the banks of the Ganges river.

If you're in that neck of the woods, check out Fatehpur Sikri, a ghost city made of red sandstone in 1571. It's perfectly preserved and a great example of Mughal architecture.

Finally, the food is incredible (and cheap, like everything else). And no, it's not just curry (every region has it's own specialty).

Destination: Bangkok, Thailand

Estimated ticket price: $771

Visa: Required.

Currency exchange: 26.05 Thai bhats per dollar

Stuff to do:There is basically one thing to do here: relax. Sure, you could be one of those crazy people who goes rock-climbing and deep-sea diving here, but if you're not, rest assured. Slacking is a way of life here. The weather is hot and humid, which means that you probably won't feel like walking around much during the day. Oh no. You'll just venture from one culinary adventure to the next (Thai curries are a thing of beauty).

You'll have a blast in Bangkok, there are bars and restaurants at every corner, and Thai locals are among the friendliest people you'll ever meet.

Don't take much with you in the way of fancy clothes. You won't wear them, and the more casual stuff, you can buy most of what you need there. Really. The basic uniform of the young traveler is a T-shirt paired with fishermen's pants, which are baggy cotton pants without a waistband (you tie the top in a knot around your waist). Fishermen there wear them because they're cool, and they can roll the pant-legs up when they're wading into the surf. They cost about $1.50, and they're damn comfortable to wear as you stroll through shops and Buddhist temples.

Again, this place is party-central. Two of Thailand's islands, Ko Pangan and Koh Samui are famous for their "full-moon" parties - raves that last two nights and start with the first night of the full moon.

Destination: London, England

Estimated ticket price: $1358

Visa: Required.

Currency exchange: 0.61 British pound per dollar

Stuff to do: OK, so there's more rats than people on this little island, but dirt, pollution and over-crowding aside, London is the place to be for the young and crazy.

It's expensive as hell, no matter where you stay (hey, maybe you're mom's friend from high school still lives there), so better check around in advance for the best deals. Look for bed and breakfast places near a central subway station.

This is the place to shop, party and cavort with all kinds of hep folks. And while it's a great city, London's not the safest place, so don't take any unnecessary risks (no walking down dark streets late at night.) Oh, and see about taking a quick trip to France - you're so close, it would be a crime not to go to Paris and eat a real croissant.

Destination: Istanbul, Turkey

Estimated ticket price: $875

Visa: Required (in advance or at port of entry).

Currency exchange: 133,009.52 Turkish lira per dollar

Stuff to do: If you have any soul whatsoever, you'll fall in love with Istanbul. You'll feel like a richer person (culturally speaking) even if all you come away with is a taste for feta cheese and novice backgammon skills.

Actually, if you're going to go there for the summer, better pick some of those "sish-besh" (Turkish slang for backgammon meaning "six-five") skills right now, because drinking rich tea or rich Turkish coffee (so thick you can chew on it) and playing backgammon is a favorite pastime over there.

Mediterranean food is divine, and you'll probably eat more than you ought to while stumbling around, checking out ruins and exotic bazaars.

Word of advice: Turkish men are friendlier than most. This is part of their culture. If the attention is unwanted, smile and walk away.

Destination: Sydney, Australia

Estimated ticket price: $930.64

Visa: Required.

Currency exchange: 1.28 Australian dollars per U.S. dollar

Stuff to do: Forget "Crocodile Dundee" and Foster's commercials (no Australian worth his or her salt drinks that trash). This is the real deal. Australia isn't exactly a cultural vortex of any sort (at least it tries not to be). But there's lots happening in Sydney - a huge, mixed Asian community and a killer music scene (forget Silverchair ... we're talking hardcore punk and thrash) make for more than adequate distractions.

Again, youth hostels are your best bet, not only for affordability, but for fun. You'll meet all kinds of whacky travelers like yourself from all over the place (OK, mostly Germany and Canada), and if you're traveling alone, this is something you'll most likely come to appreciate.

Stay away from local cuisine (mutton ... yuck), and go for some of the readily available Vietnamese cuisine. You'll thank me for it.

Destination: Vancouver, Canada

Estimated ticket price: $532

Visa: Not required.

Currency exchange: 1.39 Canadian dollars per U.S. dollar

Stuff to do: Yes, Canada is just yonder north, and yes, Canadians speak the same language as Americans (well, technically anyway), but trust me, it's just not the same. This is my hometown, so I know what I'm talking about.

First off, pack an umbrella. Although Vancouver summers aren't particularly rainy, flash showers happen now and again.

If you like doing out-doorsy stuff, this city is the place for you. With heaps of beaches, mountains and parks, you'll never be at a loss for places to hike and bike.

Vancouver also has one hell of a nightlife (the drinking age is 19, folks) - all kinds of clubs, concerts and plays. And the seafood ... yum.

You're bettter off staying at the youth hostel at Jehricho Beach ($17 a night) and taking the bus into town.

To save even more money, try flying out to Seattle ($150 return) and taking a shuttle into Vancouver for about $25.

Okay, here's some basic advice. You almost don't need to hear this. Almost:

  • Health Insurance - don't even think of traveling without it. The last place you want to find yourself is on the beach in Thailand with a sad case of food poisoning and nowhere to go. You might need to get some shots (like for yellow fever in India). Ask about this when you inquire about a visa.

  • Shop around for the lowest fare. Be shamelsess and pester travel agents. They like it.

  • Learn the laws - and obey them, dammit. What would in all likihood earn you little more than a glare from local law enforcement could get you a caning elsewhere. Same goes for cultural differences. Respect them. Remember, you're a guest there.

  • Pack light, pack smart - don't take all kinds of expensive stuff with you (take a cheap walkman, not your DAT, for example).

  • Have your passport with you at all times, in one of those security poutches. They have a high blackmarket value.

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