Things I’ve Learned While Traveling Europe
1. Always have a backup plan. Things will go wrong. That’s just bound to happen and there isn’t much you can do to prepare for that. Just try to go with the flow and mend your plans. When you know a possibility exists where something could go wrong, have a backup plan in case of emergency. Have a contingency plan with an extra place to sleep, the extra toothbrush, or the extra bag of chips. Anything could go wrong, and when it does, it is your job to have a backup to fix it.
2. There are scumbags everywhere. Some people in this world just plain suck. They are horrible humans who want to use and abuse you for all you have. When these people cross your path, be the bigger person. Don’t let them get to you or your personal belongings. Tell them to shove off and move on with your life. In the end, it will be them that suffers.
3. Try the local food. Haggis in Scotland, Bangers and Mash in Ireland, Fondu in Switzerland, and Chocolate in Belgium. Try it all because it may just be delicious! If you never try it, you never know. My biggest regrets sometimes is not trying more of the local food. I get going too hard and fast on the road and live for Chippys or Kebabs. Remember the local stuff!
4. There are some truly amazing people in this world. For every butthead exists seven God sent people! I have been so blessed to have met some of the most amazing people in my adventures abroad. There was a time in Norway when my friend and I were homeless, but amazing people welcomed us into their homes and took care of us. One couple even made cupcakes!
5. Buses and trains will NOT wait for you. They have a timetable and will stick to it. If you know you will be running late, google the next bus or train. We have all been that guy running down the street screaming at a bus to stop for us. It happens. Gather your dignity and catch the right one next time.
6. Real chocolate comes from Europe. I am a chocoholic and always have been, but my sweet tooth has never been more satisfied than my trips to Europe. Swiss chocolate, Belgian chocolate, Cadbury, etc. call to me. They want to be eaten; they need to be eaten, and I am very happy to do this for them. American chocolate simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Sorry homeland, Europe’s got you on this one!
7. Do what makes you happy. It doesn’t matter what you love to do in life, do it. Some people love to make art and others love to write. I know people who are actors and people who are teachers. Whatever makes you happy, do it. Don’t think about what other people say. They will be more jealous of you for following your dreams. Do what makes YOU happy.
8. Now is a good time to conquer your fears. Afraid of heights? Go canyoning! Afraid of spiders? Go to Australia! Afraid of the dark? Go to a place that only sees four hours of sunlight during winter. Conquer those fears! When else are you going to have the chance to look fear right in the eye and tell it to shove off? One day, I will wake up with a husband and kids, and I know I will be nothing but a worry wort. I won’t have the time or privilege to fight and conquer my fears. But now, I can.
9. Work to live not live to work. So many people have become obsessed with the idea of having to have X amount of money to survive; X amount of money to be happy. Stop that. Work yes, but to LIVE. Earn your money and spend it on your life. Don’t let your job consume you. If I cared more about my work than my life, I would be so unhappy. I work to live the live I want to; I don’t live to work everyday.
10. It is possible to fall in love with a place. I am in love with places I have seen, touched, smelt, and tasted. I am even in love with places I haven’t been to yet. The world was created for us to live in an enjoy. The world was created for us to love, and I love it. I am in love with Dublin, Ireland. I am in love with Murren, Switzerland. I am in love with Auckland, New Zealand, Cape Town, South Africa, and Austin, Texas, but I haven’t been to those places yet. These places on earth overcome me with a sense of desire. I must enclose myself in their cultures.
11. Nothing is more exciting that getting on a random bus/train and figuring it out. This is scary as everything, but so worth it! Some of the best places were random stops on a bus or train. I have seen castle ruins in Ireland, the Swiss Alps, and a snowy forest in Norway doing this. Just be careful because this can be quite dangerous as well!
12. Have a tentative plan. I like to have a place to stay and a general idea of what the place I’m visiting has to offer, but what I do once I am there is up in the air. I never know and never really plan anything. I go about my adventures with a tentative plan that changes every hour. I may see an art gallery that I want to go to or maybe I’ll miss the train I need to catch. That tentative plan gives me ideas of how to spend my time.
13. Respect the locals. Just because you are a tourist in town, does not in any way mean you own the place. You are very important to the economic success to the town/country, but that does not mean that you should abuse your power or privileges. While you walk around in wonder at the beauty surrounding you, the locals are trying to continue everyday life. They need to get to work, or catch the bus, or buy their groceries. Please be respectful of their home and lives.
14. Go off the beaten path. Base yourself in a big city, but get out of that place every now and again. Everyone goes to London, but try Bath or Canterbury. Everyone goes to Dublin, but people forget about Belfast and Cork. Some of the best places I have seen have been off the beaten path. They’ve been places on the road less traveled and I am so thankful for those memories.