Since June 21st, I’ve been traveling around Europe. My time gallivanting is coming to a close, and in just a few days I will be in Amsterdam to study for a month. It’s been an intense few weeks, admittedly with a few mishaps (most notable—six stitches in my knee), but I can honestly say I’ve had the time of my life! I began the trip with a traveling buddy, but we split ways about half way through and since then I’ve been on my own. I actually much prefer traveling solo, because you can do everything on your agenda. I’ve compiled a list of ‘Traveling Tips’ that have aided me on my journeys and will hopefully provide a glimpse into some of the adventures I’ve had.
First and foremost—try something new.
Too many people are scared of venturing the slightest bit outside of their comfort zone. Be willing to try something you normally wouldn’t, live life on the edge, and I guarantee you will have some crazy experiences. Not all of them will be great, but trust me, they will give you some great stories to tell! By saying no to saying no, I somehow ended up in a monkey costume in Zurich being chased by Swiss girl and boy scouts. I would never take that wild experience back, and it only happened because I do my best to always keep an open mind.
Second—Keep a journal!
This will give you a tangible record to look back on years later. I have journals from every trip I’ve taken, and they are some of my most valued possessions. Do your best to write every day, because things start blurring together very quickly. Write down the good, the bad, the sights, the smells, the people, the places. If you don’t really like journaling, at least bullet-point the highlights from your day.
Third tip—pack light!
Trust me, you do NOT need your hair straightener. Pack the bare minimum, then cut out half of what you’ve packed. When you are running to catch your train, or hiking to your hostel after hours of traveling, you will be grateful you packed light. This brings me to the subject of what to pack your things in… this year my sister was kind enough to lend me her backpacking pack, which I can 100% recommend. Having traveled with suitcases on previous trips, I truly appreciate being so mobile.
I have had my best experiences traveling when surfing couches. Of course, if you can’t find an available couch, hostels are always an option (although I recommend surfing over hostels). If you haven’t heard of this organization yet, look it up: www.couchsurfing.org. Couchsurfing is literally surfing someones couch—you look up hosts in locations you will be going to, and they offer you a place to stay. I have surfed solo and never had a single problem. Couchsurfing uses a verification and reference system to provide you with safe hosts, and every host I have stayed with has been gracious, kind, generous, and just all around wonderful. If they have time, most hosts will play tour guide to you, and show you the local places you never would have found in your tourist guidebook.
Lastly—Avoid being the ‘Typical Tourist’.
The Typical Tourist is the bane of a good tourist’s existence, because they give us a bad name. Typical Tourists are easily spotted–they are: LOUD. They drink and then get even louder. They stay glued to their maps and make little attempt to actually immerse themselves in the culture they are in. They eat at McDonalds or Starbucks because these are familiar and safe. Don’t be this person. Try something new, be respectful of your surroundings, try to actually learn something about where you are, and get out of your comfort zone.
Hope these tips have given you some insight and inspired you to travel, they’ve served me well and resulted in amazing and incomparable experiences!