Indiana University Overseas Study

Elizabeth King

We live in a world that is interconnected more than ever before. We can write, text, call, and FaceTime across the globe in a matter of minutes and with a limited cost. Travel almost, and I stress the word almost, seems unnecessary in a world where “Googling” can potentially satisfy inquiries. I, however, am firmly against this concept, especially while studying abroad. I want to see what I can of the world in the short time I have. Being in Italy, I have access to an amazing amount of desirable travel destinations that are cost-effective and convenient.

Prior to arriving in Italy, I had planned on traveling within Italy over the free weekends. I thought I wanted to go to the big places: Rome, Venice, and Naples. My original thoughts changed once I actually arrived and spoke to both locals and people in my program. Why go to the classic, tourist pit if I could go somewhere else just as beautiful? Instead, I ended up traveling to Rome, Cinque Terre, and the Amalfi Coast. I learned quite a bit from my time spent traveling abroad.

There are several decisions that go into planning weekend trips. I wish I had been more aware and conscious of these factors before I was planning my trips abroad. Here are some things, in no particular order, to be aware of when you are planning a weekend get-away.

Where You Want To Go

This is obviously important. Picking the right place to go is important because you need to pick a place that has enough to do and is ultimately worth the money. Earlier, I hinted that the typical tourist pits can be replaced with less well-known destinations, yet I still went to Rome. To me, Rome is worth the crowds and aggressive vendors and has so many landmarks that I had to see. The decision to go to Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast was made after we investigated the Bus2Alps website. Bus2Alps is a company that plans trips specifically for students and takes the stressful decision-making out of the equation. I had a very positive experience with Bus2Alps and thoroughly enjoyed my trips. The only negative is the expense; having someone plan your weekend getaway can get costly. Overall, I found that the added expense was worth not having to stress and plan my trip.

roman colosseum

A panoramic view of the Roman Colosseum

Who You Want To Go With

This decision has the power to make or break your experience. Be very careful with who you decide to travel with because these are the people you are spending every moment with. During my travels, I went with the same group of friends each time and it worked out well. Like any trip, there are frustrating moments but all is forgotten when you reach your desired landmarks. Overall, make sure the people you travel with are people you can trust because you’re going to have to trust them more than you’d think.

my traveling group

My traveling group on one of our weekend adventures.

How Much You Want To Spend

Traveling on a budget is extremely difficult, especially in Italy. It seems like you never stop spending money and you easily lose track of how much you have actually spent. What I found during my travels was that I would spend the most money on food and it added up quickly. I would recommend buying snacks at the local grocery store before to help offset more expensive meals and treats when you reach your destination.

What You Want To Do Once You Arrive

It is extremely important to already have figured out where you and your group wants to visit and what you want to do. You’re only visiting these places for a limited amount of time and you want to maximize that time with enough activities. When my friends and I arrived in Rome, we proceeded to get lost for two hours looking for our hostel and this set us up poorly for the rest of the day. We did have places we knew we wanted to see, though, so when we finally got un-lost, we made sure to take advantage of the remaining time. Make sure you look up the attractions before hand to make sure you know whether or not they’re open, where they are, the cost, and whether you need a reservation.

 

Traveling while abroad, in my opinion, is a must. You grow so much by being responsible for purchasing train tickets, hostels, and museum passes, all things I never once did when I was back in the States.  I can easily say that I learned a lot more by traveling on my own. By making good decisions and making good use of your time and money, you can make memories that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

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