Yesterday, I was determined to go the post office and mail a few thank you notes to friends and colleagues who helped me throughout my recent travels. I mailed four postcards and two handwritten letters, with a few more on the way. Thanks to my colleagues and friends, I was able to save over $800 in lodging! I got some home-cooked meals as well.
Aside from using my network, I learned a handful of valuable lessons while "on the road":
1. Pack lightly. I traveled with two pieces of carry-on luggage. I rarely pay for a checked bag because my carry-on luggage is pretty sizable and has additional pockets and zippers for smaller items. It's much easier to maneuver with two pieces of luggage that I can carry myself. Besides, I saved fifty dollars round-trip.
2. Cash and credit are king and queen. I carried cash and had credits cards in case of emergencies. When you check-in at a hotel, you need a credit card to cover incidentals. Better to be safe with both cash and credit on hand.
3. Make time for exercise. I tend not to travel with exercise clothes, but I think I won't make that mistake next time. I stayed in three hotels throughout my trip and would have benefited from using their exercise equipment and swimming pool. When I was in Milwaukee, I scored a pair of Adidas sneaks for five bucks at the nearby Goodwill. They came in handy.
4. Talk is cheap. I left my personal cell phone at home and when the minutes on my Blackberry were low, I quickly found an affordable solution. Google Voice is a free web-based tool to make phone calls. The only problem I had with Google Voice was an echo in the background on the receiver's end. Other than that, I really like Google Voice and have continued to use it post-travels.
5. Follow up. I met some interesting folks along the way and reconnected with others. I collected contact information from those new faces I met and sent emails when necessary. Most of my follow up involves handwritten notes. Though it takes more time, it is worth it in the end.
To end this post, I found a quote from an unknown author that sums up everything succinctly.
"What a wonderful thing is the mail, capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp."