I kind of feel like a cheater posting old material but I wanted to provide some semblance of a background for my upcoming trip. The following post comes from my old blog, Mytransistorsister, and was written after my first visit to Europe back in April. Although the trip lasted only a fortnight, I knew then, as I know now, that I returned to the States a different man. It served as a great impetus of change in my life, propelling me towards roads less traveled. The post has some tips for first time travelers(apparently two weeks in Europe made me an expert ha!) and even cooler pictures. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for some new stuff coming your way- Aaron
As I sit in my living room back in the States, I am surrounded by crumbled up piles of Kleenex, jet-lagged and sick as a dog. But the cold I caught overseas and 36 hours of grueling traveling back home could only distract me from my post-vacation blues for so long. The trip of a lifetime is over and it’s finally sinking in. My insides ache to be back in Barcelona eating paella and lisping my c’s. I close my eyes and think of the people I met, the food I tasted, the languages I butchered and I can’t help but smile.
In January, I went on a rant about New Year’s Resolutions but ended up making one anyway. My 2015 resolution was to travel and as I wipe the snot from my leaky nose and stare at this luggage that I don’t want to unpack, I can smile and say ‘mission accomplished.’
As I reflect on my travels, there are a few things I would have done differently and other preparations I am thankful I made.
1. First things first: Just go man. Travel. Save your pennies and do it.
I shouldn’t have to sell you on this but it took this guy 28 years to leave North America so… ya never know. Something special happens to you as soon as you’re on that plane. As I looked out of my window and gazed upon the Atlantic beneath me, anything seemed possible. Exposure to new people and their rich cultures throughout my trip cemented this new perspective. Back at home, it’s so easy to fall into the rut of monotonous routine. Creativity is hampered and options seem limited. Sometimes you just need to rise above it all and look at life from a new angle, and 30,000 feet seems to be the perfect height.
2. Do your research.
After flooding social media with posts about my upcoming trip (sorry guys), I got a message from an old friend who had recently returned from a European adventure of his own. My pal recommended that I go and buy Rick Steves travel books and I’m glad I heeded his advice. Well, I kind of listened. I hit my local library and rented a Rick Steves book from every country I would be visiting. What can I say? I’m cheap. Apparently you can rent up to fifty books at a time from the library, who knew?
Not only did the books offer great general information regarding the cities I would be visiting, Mr. Steves books guided me through popular and lesser known sites with ease. The books even offered advice regarding special deals and discounts, saving me both time and money.
3. Pack light: Less is more
I get it, it’s Europe, you want to look good and to some extent you’re right. Nothing screams American tourist like a baseball cap and shorts. Leave the yoga pants and hoodies at home and bring some collared shirts. But I definitely didn’t need the three pair of shoes I brought in my backpack. The more shit you bring the more stress you’ll have when you’re moving from hostel to hostel or going through airport security. The most important things you need to bring don’t even take up any space in your bag… a smile and an open mind. Plans will get fucked up, you will miss connection flights, and you’ll lose things. We somehow managed to lose our friend for twelve hours in England. Stay loose, it’s all part of the adventure. In the end, I did pretty well in this department. I lost a grand total of one sock, a pair of flip flops, and my six-pack (thanks Italy).
4. Enhance your experience: Stay in hostels
I must admit, I was a bit skeptical when I heard that my friends wanted to stay in hostels throughout our trip. Looking back, it is the best thing we could have done. Sure, sharing a bathroom with strangers is never fun and you get the occasional weirdo in your room. But the juice is definitely worth the squeeze. Not only are they cheap, but hostels offer you the opportunity to meet some really awesome people and have shared experiences that you never could have planned back at home. On a whim, I threw on my finest, caught a night bus to Monaco and gambled in the Casino Monte Carlo with two American girls studying abroad (shout out to my Seminoles)! We lost all of our money, but it is an experience I’ll never forget. In Rome, I danced the night away at a toga party with a bunch of German tourists. My German was limited to ‘hello’ and a couple of swear words so I didn’t bother to tell them that toga parties are actually Greek.
5. Embrace the local culture
Before leaving for my trip, I heard a lot of chatter about European’s and their disdain for Americans, especially in France. Fortunately, I never experienced anything of the sort. Perhaps it was dumb luck, or maybe it was my willingness to ‘do as the Romans do.’ In Barcelona, I studied up on the history of Catalunya and did my best to lisp my c’s. My thank you’s in Spanish quickly went from “gracias” to “grathias.” You might feel like a total dork, and even though most Europeans speak some English, they seemed to appreciate the effort. If all else fails, just tell them you’re from California. It never failed, whether I was in Italy or Scotland, Monaco or France. Everyone loves the Golden State.
But it’s all over now. Back to reality. It hurts to be back, but that new perspective I alluded to also left with me a sense of gratitude. I am so fortunate to hail from the United States of America. I am lucky to call California home. I will never take my coffee maker for granted again (a dude can only drink so many espressos). God bless Chipotle.
Cheers mates. Here’s to getting those passports stamped.