The most important part of my college experience was easily all of the travel I was able to do. In 4 years, I participated in 3 study abroad programs, traveled to the London Olympics with the UF Marching Band, visited a friend in Europe over thanksgiving, went on an amazing week long hiking trip in Washington State, traveled to multiple cities in the US and even Canada with my Model UN team and visited family and friends throughout the country. Currently, I am living and studying in the United Kingdom and traveling extensively in my spare time, so I thought I should share some of my travel tips and tricks with all those who aspiring world travelers out there. Here are just a few of the lessons I learned from my travels.
1. Pack light, but still be prepared.
As a chronic over-packer, this one is always hard for me because I want to pack for all climates and be prepared for literally anything, but no one likes hauling massive suitcases on and off of planes and trains. How do I manage both? The key is really to find a balance of not too much, but just enough. Be sure to pack a small number of versatile items rather than a separate item for every possible occasion. Another trick I have found is to select a suitcase or backpack that is the exact size you need and refuse to go up in size. For instance, when I was packing to move the UK, I invested in a great lightweight luggage set
and refused to pack any more than would fit in the 2 larger bags. This forced me really think about what I could and could not bring with me and prevented me from bringing an excessive amount of unnecessary items.
2. Things will go awry
Whether its flight delays, rain on your beach day, or a riot closing down the Berlin TV Tower right when you get there, you cannot expect things to always go as planned. Be flexible with your plans, always have a backup plan, and don’t let the small issues frustrate you and ruin your trip.
3. Listen to the Locals
If a local tells you about an amazing beach spot, a cool museum, or a great restaurant: LISTEN. They live there and likely know a lot of great places to go and fun things to do, but at the same time, if you are traveling alone, don’t just wander off with a stranger.
4. Use Common Sense
Whether you are choosing a hotel, using public transportation, or trying to decide how to spend your afternoon, be logical about things. If its 100 degrees outside, its probably not the best day to be outside in the sun, so you might consider doing the museums instead. If its raining, you may consider using the metro rather than walking everywhere. Just be logical about your choices and it will make life easier.
5. Be spontaneous
Have the opportunity to spend your afternoon in Pisa? Do it. Once in a lifetime chance to be in Berlin when Germany is playing in the World Cup Final? Change your plane ticket. While logic is important in planning, it is also important to be open to amazing chances. While changes in plans may end up costing a little extra, the spontaneous changes you make can also be the best experiences.
6. Try New Things
From trying some really obscure foods(thank you Russia) to sampling new beers in Berlin and trying Vietnamese food in Paris, food is just one way to experiment while traveling. Whether its choosing to go on a hiking trip when you aren’t really outdoorsy or choosing to wander through a modern art museum that you would normally skip, sometimes trying new things can lead you to discover things you didn’t know about yourself.
7. You can plan the trip yourself
I planned the majority of a 3 week trip through Europe with my Grandmother on my own, with the exception of a few hotels that she booked. You don’t need to pay for an expensive tour service, you likely don’t need a tour guide in most places, and you can save a lot of money by planning on your own. Planning things yourself also allows you more wiggle room if you decide to change your plans or if things you didn’t plan for arise.
8. Travel as much as you can as often as you can
You can make a million excuses for why you can’t go somewhere, but travel is one of the most rewarding experiences, especially when you are young. While you shouldn’t go into extreme debt just for the sake of a vacation, there are very cost effective ways to travel that most people don’t think about. If you are still in school, study abroad! You can usually find a large number of scholarships and grants to help pay for your trip. If you are a recent grad, consider teaching abroad for a year or two. Or simply set aside money each month to help pay for a trip, but make sure you set a specific goal so that once you reach that goal you can make less excuses for why you should or shouldn’t go.
9. Fall in love with places, people, and experiences
Whether its the view of the Eiffel Tower on Bastille Day, the Gorgeous Italian police officers, or the chance to do research in the Cambridge University Library, its okay to fall in love while traveling. Its also okay to fall in love WITH traveling. You need to open your heart to your travels and while you may get a little heartbroken when you leave, its 100% worth it.
10. Enjoy every minute of it
Your travels will end far sooner than you want so be sure to enjoy yourself. Whether you are on a week long trip in the mountains or spending 3 months in Europe, the time will fly by and you will miss it once its gone so try to maintain a positive attitude and enjoy your travels. Traveling is like finding out exactly who you are in a million different places and million different situations.
From one misguided millennial to the world, this has been my thoughts of the day.