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Traveling tips, Thailand and baby elephants too


I write this on hour No. 4 of a 13-hour trans-Pacific flight after a five-hour flight from Bangkok to Beijing. Exhausting? Yes! Circadian rhythm completely busted? Yes! But I won’t trade it.

The opportunity to explore the world, adventure through lands unknown with the family is a gift I crave. For me (and I dare say for the entire family) we would rather live in the moment of a new place with different tastes, sights and smells than own another item.

As the kids have gotten older, they participate more actively in the planning process. This time we wanted culture (who am I kidding? I wanted culture!), nature (I’m thinking lovely stroll through meadows, they’re thinking zip lining and abseiling, where you rock climb without gear and just FALL into water) and beaches.

With so many places to explore, I try to visit a new country or city at least yearly, so we considered Galapagos, Dubai, Patagonia (the boy wants to step foot in Antarctica), of course, Dominican Republic and Bali (the girl wants glorious crystalline waters). We settled on Thailand, where we visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai in the north and ended in the south, chilling in the island of Phuket.

People are often surprised (almost shocked) that we travel as we do, often asking how we can afford it, or wondering how they could possible tolerate such long flights. They often comment about the language and the logistical nightmare of traveling anywhere other than Ocean City or the Carolinas.

Let me share some tips:

Travelzoo. I didn’t know just how affordable traveling was or else we would’ve been much more active earlier on. Subscribe to  (they are not paying me for this endorsement!), which sorts through the internet and selects the best 20 deals each week.

We’ve traveled to Australia, Mexico, Halifax, Rome and Paris, to name a few, so I know it is totally legitimate, and never have I been disappointed. Travelzoo is my starting-off point, my muse, inspiring me. Sometimes the flights offered are inconvenient with longer layovers, but then we opt to stretch that time on the layover and explore that particular destination — in essence a win-win situation.

Passports. Get your passport. Period.  Be ready to set off on an adventure when the opportunity surfaces.

Safety and comfort. There are no guarantees, at home or abroad, so take precautions, be prepared and observant when traveling. Most places we visit depend on tourism to fuel their economy. They want us there, eager to serve and engage with us.

Thailand is known as the land of smiles, with accommodating and patient people even when language is a barrier. Side note: The United States is an industrialized and developed nation with an established system of law, systems and processes. For instance, when potholes on the roads are reported, they get  fixed … eventually. Everyone (mostly everyone) respects stop signs and traffic lanes. We have certain standards and expectations for housing, food and cleanliness.

These may not be “standards“ in other lands. Remember this distinction when you travel.

Thais drive tuk-tuks and motor scooters through any perceived space, lane or no lane. They are different, not wrong or broken, just different. No knives are offered when dining out, just spoons and forks. Toilets may have toilet paper, but always a small water hose.

Just different. Not wrong or broken. Expect different, be tolerant of “different” and the experience will be much more enjoyable.

Language and being able to communicate. Here are couple of tips. When we facilitate trainings, especially cross-cultural communication, we remind people that 93% of all communication occurs nonverbally through tone and body language, not just words.

A smile goes a long way. Genuine curiosity and openness have facilitated many a situation. And Google Translate offers a feature where two parties  can communicate conversationally, not precisely or perfectly, but certainly so that points get across.

Although English is the second language of the world, learning a couple of key phrases like “thank you” and “hello” in the home language of where you’re visiting always facilitates engagement. Even though we butchered most of what we attempted to say, our efforts were very welcomed and appreciated.

This column is not the usual business advice column, but how else would you get to play with baby elephants, dine on delicious pad thai and mango sticky rice, be blessed by a monk and enjoy a $6 Thai massage if not to travel 20-plus hours to Southeast Asia?

Amigos, go forth, be daring and open, fearless of the unknown. Explore the world and be tolerant of the wonderful differences that enrich our world, abroad and at home.

Veronica Cool is founder of Cool & Associates LLC, a business management firm specializing in financial wellness and diverse segment marketing. Her column appears each month in The Daily Record and online. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter at @verocool.

Veronica Cool is founder of Cool & Associates LLC, a business management firm specializing in financial wellness and diverse segment marketing. Her column appears each month in The Daily Record and online. Contact her at Follow her on Twitter at @verocool.