Traveling Challenge: Surviving Mercury Retrograde
There are certain times of the year where the stars just wanna watch you burn. I'm not kidding. Mischief gets its share during those times of the year. You can actually blame fate for your setbacks, because it's fate's fault then. Around this time, you end up with lots of "what." Maybe you stopped at the wrong train station. Or you sent e-mails to employers without your CV. You started dating someone who turns out to be a douche. Screwing up has a fancy name: Mercury Retrograde.
I first encountered this term during my TV production course back in college. Our professor marked a range of dates in her calendars with that dreaded name. She simply explained to us that it's a very delicate time for production, because that's when the messing up starts. Since then, I kept this in mind since we now heavily rely on gadgets and tech.
Later on, I learned that this was an astrological concept. I know some of you think astrology, zodiac, and horoscopes are bull. Even I'm not sold on the stars telling my fate. But sometimes, you just can't help wonder why things just go haywire after an amount of time...
Mercury Retrograde: Explained
Simply put, Mercury Retrograde affects communication, travel, and technology. How so? Well, there's a science behind it. Three or four times a year, Mercury passes Earth in its little orbit. When it does, it rotates backward on its own axis. Astrology states that this is when how we connect with each other goes haywire.
Mercury in retrograde is your ex as a person. They rain check on your dates for reasons: some valid, others not so much. Even if it's going well between you two, they'd tell you "Hey, let's not put labels yet". Then when you do make it official, they turn into the exact opposite of who you saw at first.
So what should we avoid around this time? Huffington Post answers this: big decisions, major investments, and traveling. There's a Catch 22 when you find a partner or a job during retrograde. Your brand new car starts having engine problems. Just don't commit to something major during this time at all, FFS.
I got so excited for months. It was gonna be my first trip to Japan! I Googled everything I had to before leaving: what to bring, Nihonggo basics, and mirrorless cameras, to name a few. I was happy to tag along with my relatives to explore the Land of the Rising Sun. Not to mention it was my first trip without my family, so I was partially on my own.
Our trip went on from Christmas evening to New Year's Eve afternoon. Perfect timing because it's the season, right? Not exactly. It fell under the 2016 retrograde in Capricorn, from December 19 to January 8. But we can totally handle it, right?
Not really LOL.
First of all, we keep getting lost. Our Google maps conflicted. Then, the airlines kept adjusting boarding time. When we arrived Osaka, we sometimes couldn't get directions because 1) they don't our destination, or 2) wakarimasen* わかりません. (Some of them "don't understand" English.) My cousin's wife had to book two rooms for all of us when we arrived in Tokyo because they didn't approve her initial request. And there's me, the genius who didn't charge her two camera batteries.
Although I still had a good time in Japan, I felt like I learned a lot from this trip. Mercury retrograde wrecked my rect, big time.
Beating Retrograde: Winning Against The Odds
My main advice for retrograde: hide in a cave and live primal until it's over. Cancel all your plans. Just don't travel at all, as all the online articles suggested.
But then, you're gonna rebut me with the following:
- We already booked this months ago!
- This is the only time we'll get to relax!
- Are you outta your mind?
- It's not easy to cancel this flight!
Relax, I'm kidding. Even when the stars are literally against us, we can still travel during the retrograde. We just have to take precautions of ridiculous proportions. Let's prepare better than a night shift park ranger who camps in the middle of a winter storm.
So, what are my tips for the Mercury Retrograde Travel Challenge? I'm no astrologer. But based on my last trip, I have some helpful ideas I can share with you.
Watch the time.
Like, look at your wrist. Joking aside, time wasted during retrograde is worse. Scenarios include flight delays, staying at the wrong train station, missing the bus stop schedule... Just to name a few. Seta lotof time ahead to make room for errors. Adjust to waking up early and strictly follow your plan. (If you're part of a tour group then you really have to follow your itinerary.) Go to the airport hours before your flight. Know your bus / train schedules. Take heed of your hotel's check in time. You may have a big budget, but you can't get time back.
Don't rely on "your location".
Map apps all works the same. Search the place, get directions, follow the route. However, I noticed how my cousin's GPS kept changing direction. Like first it'll be North, then next it's South East. Then it hit me... When we move, the app changes to whatever direction it detects. "Your location" isn't always the one you face. So identify your nearest point and put it in the starting point field. Let's say you're at the train stop, looking for your hotel. The station name is the starting point that directs you to the exact route to your hotel. But what if you're out in the street and you're looking for a tourist spot? Input the name of the street, of course, But the street's too big... What do you do? Just look at the nearest building next to you. Start from there and you'll reach the spot in no time.
Go offline. Go paper.
Going old school is a great answer to retrograde. Smartphone apps will turn against you, but print won't. Get the brochures and maps at the train stations as much as possible... They're free! If not, then invest on a good guide book with maps. If you're in a place where English isn't a dominant language, always ask for an English version of the guide. And going traditional also applies to what keeps you busy during delays. Instead of gadgets, take a book / magazine / newspaper with you to read while waiting. Or if you're creative, bring a journal / sketchbook and some pens! (On the other hand, why did I not think of that beforehand? LOL)
No matter how shy you are, you still have to do this. Even if you're a distrustful cynic, don't be a dick and trust those who know the place better than you. Most locals are friendly to confused tourists. There are 3 / 5 chances they know your stop. In our trip, the Japanese were kind enough to lead us to our place! One woman even gave the exact train route from Osaka to Kyoto. (ありがとうございます, お姉さん！) But what if you're visiting a third-world country where you hear horror stories about getting shammed? (Why does it hit close to home?!) Simple: ask people working in retail or service. Ask a security guard, a salesclerk, or a custodian: it's part of their job. They can't exactly con you because their job will be on the line if they do. Also, they're some of the most approachable people you meet.
BEAT ENERGY GAP! (Charge, Back Up, Copy Paste)
My gadgets experienced energy gap and oh boy did I learn from it. I was recording clips and taking photos of the Osaka Castle. Then the battery warning sign flashed. I just loaded the extra battery... Turns out that it's empty too. Nothing's worse than a blogger stuck in a beautiful place without any proper gadget to immortalize it! Since then I made it a point to charge both batteries every day, because I'm a paranoid mofo. Lesson learned: charge your gadgets every day of the retrograde! And when you return home, back up your photos and clips ASAP. Make copies of copies. Back up everything! This also applies to your important documents. Take photos and photocopy your passport and papers. It'll save you in case the worst scenario happens.
As I Was Saying.
So at this point, you likely got hints of agoraphobia after reading all of what I shared. But you don't have to. Push through with your trips, it's your call. Beat the odds that try to stop you from your travel bug by getting ready when they're there. Always remember to travel smart, and party hard when you're there!
I hope my insights on my experience with retrograde has been of help. Welcome to the cult of paranoid/ready wanderers, and bon voyage!