Every trip you will ever take in your life, you are bound to learn something new from it. Whether it be learning a piece of history from a city, a new culture from a country, or simply a valuable lesson from your overall trip; take notes- everything is useful.
During the summer of 2015, I went on my first trip throughout Europe for six weeks visiting a total of ten different countries with my friend, Marjorie. Reflecting on that trip now, I realize I’ve learned many different lessons which I know will prepare me for any future travels of mine- long or short. Sure, now I sometimes wish I had done things differently on my Euro trip, but I am more than excited for my next Euro trip because I will be prepared this time.
These are 23 lessons I came up with that taught me how to become a better traveller, a better person, and in helping discovering myself. Of course, it doesn’t mean I’m going to ace all of these lessons on my next trip, but it’s all a learning process. It takes time to form new habits. Hopefully, some or all of these tips will help you with your safe travels!
1. Do not overpack
This is something I’m still struggling to get right, since I’m one of those types of people who prefer to take extra clothing “just in case.” DO NOT DO THIS. If you’re one of those like me, fix this evil habit! I took a good amount of clothes and necessities in my luggage, but ‘naturally’ my luggage got heavier as I passed by each city buying souvenirs. Never did I hate my luggage so much, I was ready to dump clothing I did not care about anymore and leave them behind.
2. Do not buy everything
I love souvenir shops! They always lure me in with all of its pretty, overpriced cultural gifts waiting for you to buy buy buy! I enjoy souvenir shopping for family and friends, but not quite for myself. Having four siblings and a mama to please, I always got carried away and convinced myself to buy them this and that, but truly, one gift for each of them IS enough. Plus, now it seems as if they don’t really care about all the gifts I brought them anyways. They don’t know how much I suffered having to drag everything with me for six weeks.
3. Take good quality photos of everything
I truly believe that photos are a (or the) main part of all your travels. Why? Because photos are the essential items that will bring you back all of the memories you have forgotten about a particular thing. Looking back at all of my photos I took during my Euro trip, I am so upset with myself that I never took the time to take a nice photo of pretty much anything. Of course, I shared all my photos with family and friends, but they’re all crappy photos… and that’s quite embarrassing. Take the time to take nice photos of anything and everything (and be sure to take at least a few selfies too), so that it could be something you’ll be excited and proud to show the world and you’ll be happy whenever you look back at them.
4. Do not be shy
This is exactly another reason as to why I did not bother taking a lot of cute photos of myself posing in front of pretty, historical monuments and it was all because I was too shy to pose. Hmph!! I felt as if everyone was watching me whenever I did attempt to take one, and they probably were. Now I know not to care anymore if people watch because it’s a normal thing to do when you’re traveling and if you’re playing tourist!
5. Take the time to get ready
This also tied into with being shy and not wanting to take selfies! How? Because by not taking the proper time to get ready in the morning I did not have much confidence in myself. Everyone has their different ways in getting ready for the day, so make sure to properly do so in order to feel comfortable with yourself until the next time you have a ‘touch up.’
6. Talk to locals/Make friends
This was something I did not really bother doing much, but the times I did were fantastic! It’s always so nice meeting different kinds of people along your trip because if they’re locals then they can give you great tips on city highlights and must-do’s, and if they’re random strangers (who look safe to talk to) then it’s always a pleasure to share travel stories and enjoy random conversations with.
7. Be prepared. Do research ahead of time
Going on this trip, I honestly wasn’t so sure what to be expecting from it, as in would I be with my tour guide and group for most of the day, or would I have a lot of free time to go off exploring on my own with Marjorie. Well, Marjorie and I ended up constantly leaving the group anyways to go off adventure on our own, but the problem was that we did not always knew what to do, where to go, or what to see. About a week and a half to two weeks into the trip, I started searching for cool things to do and see on the upcoming city we would be visiting. Very, very useful! Do so as well, that way you won’t waste any precious travel time.
8. Get to know the culture/language
As a foreigner traveling to a, you guessed it- foreign country, it’s so important to take the time to learn or understand the culture and language. Needless to mean you must learn the whole language and every detail of their culture, but it’s polite if you at least learn how to say “Hello,” “Goodbye,” and “Thank you” in their language. Remember, you are the one visiting their country.
Being respectful is something everyone should be doing naturally on a day-to-day basis. It’s always important to remember to respect everyone around you, and to be aware of your actions and words. I remember feeling so bad for a shop owner in Toulouse because of a rude tourist who was with his two friends and were talking very loudly about God knows what, but literally all you could hear every couple of seconds were curse words. Other potential customers, as myself, walked out of that shop because we felt so uncomfortable from those three men. Just imagine how horrible the shop owner must have felt. Be humble.
10. Do not be afraid to get lost
A part of the adventures and making memories is by getting lost, right!? So, put away your electronic GPS and maps, and just start walking anywhere. Yet, of course, make sure you do have a safe plan for in which case you truly do get lost you’ll be able to find your way back to your destination. I always relied so heavily on my Google maps on my phone (free global coverage data), so I never really got to experience this, except when I was in Amsterdam. Oh boy, what an unforgettable night!
11. Don’t let the weather get in the way
Yes I know, having a nice hot cup of tea all snuggled up in the hotel’s bed during the winter sounds so comfy and pleasant, but then what’s the point of the trip you booked!? If you booked a trip during the cold season then confront the weather like no tomorrow. The weather in Greece and Italy during the summer killed me. And unfortunately, I totally let the weather get in my way. So a good chunk of most afternoons were spent in my hotel rooms with Marjorie. Back then I did not mind, but now… well, you can imagine.
12. Go out/Don’t be lazy
Sometimes you’ll wake up and you’ll just want to sleep in, ok fine. Sometimes through out the day you’ll just want to take a quick nap to re-energize yourself, ok fine. Should you be doing this everyday? Hopefully not, unless you need to. Remember to make the most out of your time while you’re there. Save the sleeping ins and naps for bed time.
13. Do not be afraid of splurging a little extra money on something you’re set on
Long title, I know. But it literally sums everything up in a nutshell! If there’s something you’ve been wanting to try, but it’s a bit pricey then do it (as long as you can afford it and won’t be broke afterwards) because it will be an amazing experience in the end. As for me, it was always the food. There were multiple instances where there were specific restaurants I wanted to go to, but I knew they’d be a bit pricey anyways. However, I still went and I left happily satisfied.
14. Finance your own money
It’s always so important to be constantly checking your bank or cash on how much money you still have left. There were a couple of times where I believed I had more money when I didn’t and turned out I was almost running out of money. Bless my mother, she always had my back.
15. Eat breakfast
As they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and so it is. I’m not a breakfast person and this truly did affect me almost everyday through the trip. Why? Because before it would even be noon I’d be starving.
16. Drink lots of water
Always. Always drink lots of water throughout the whole day. It’s so important to keep hydrated because you’re doing a lot of physical movements (walking, biking, etc) more than you probably would on your average day back at home.
17. How to cure a hangover
It’s never too late to properly learn how to cure a hangover. Having been an inexperienced drinker during my trip, I made a lot of wrong choices. I’d probably regret them all if I’d remember them all. However, I did learn my lesson the hard way on my first or second night in Prague. My whole tour group and I had decided to partake in a pub crawl. First time in doing so. You visit three bars (with a complimentary shot upon each entrance), and then make your way into the biggest club of Western Europe, the absolute lovely and crazy Karlovy Lazne. Long story short: I mixed drinks, instantly got drunk, got lost inside the club, refused to be taken back to the hotel from my lovely friend, got separated from Marjorie, and woke up the next morning- drunk. Well, that’s a first and hopefully last.
18. Take care of yourself if you get ill
It is so important to always remember to put your health first. You can’t be out and about exploring the old cities if you’re feeling ill. A few days before our trip, I got ill. London was first of our ten countries and out of the whole 5 days we spent there, we didn’t accomplish much because of me. Thankfully, Marjorie was always so caring and supporting I didn’t feel too bad about ruining her London days, since we still had a great time chatting the hours away in the hotel and in the lawns of Westminster Abbey.
19. Do not be afraid to try new food
Food is another main part about traveling. Try their local dishes and immerse yourself into their culture! However, I am a very picky person when it comes to trying new food, so I barely did this anyways. I like to be safe with what I eat, but if you’re not afraid of trying new and different kinds of foods then do so!
20. How to do laundry
Okay, you’re probably judging by now, but doing laundry was something I was always lazy in doing back home. In Venice, Marjorie and I had decided it was laundry day, and Marjorie like I, did not expect to struggle so much in figuring out how to do laundry for the first time by ourselves. Trust me, we felt so accomplished. Always take pride in the new things you learn, right!
21. Do not be afraid of going through customs
I don’t know why I always panic whenever I’m about to go through customs at the airports. I haven’t hidden anything illegal, yet I always panic. I wonder if it’s a normal thing. When Marjorie and I were going through customs coming back home, we were both worried about different things. Marjorie was worried about having to explain to the security officers why she had spent so much money on a couple of LV bags. And I was worried if they would find the cheese I bought from Holland, which was perfectly legal and okay to do so, but at that time, I did not knew that…
22. Say yes
There’s no other way in experiencing different things if you don’t say yes. It’s impossible to know beforehand if you’ll enjoy yourself at a certain activity or club, so say yes. You won’t get much out of anything if you keep saying no to potentially great memories. On my third to last night in Barcelona while visiting the Magic Fountain, which was my final city before returning home, I randomly found on Google while searching for things to do in the city the following day that a famous DJ, Benny Benassi, would be playing the following night. Without even thinking it twice, Marjorie and I headed straight back to the hostel to buy our tickets online. ‘Twas the greatest thing ever! We had an amazing night, met some nice guys, and danced the night away.
23. Have fun
The most important lesson of them all; have fun! Sometimes you might not always be sure when you’ll be back at a particular city/country again, or when you’ll ever have the opportunity to take a grand Euro trip again, so it’s crucial that you make yourself enjoy each and every second of it all. Have fun, and be happy.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve ever learned from traveling?