Four Truths about Traveling
It has been way too long since I last posted on this blog, and I apologize to any of my friends or family who follow it; I have just been having too much fun! Time definitely does fly when you are having fun, and I am in complete denial that I have only a little over one month left abroad. At this point I am well adjusted and in the midst of my courses, and I’ve realized the style of education here is much more laid back and independent. Because of this I do find I have a lot more down time, so I have been trying to see and do as much as I possibly can.
I spent the past two weekends traveling with a fellow student from the States; Edinburgh, Scotland was our first stop and then Paris, France a week later. Two places I have always wanted to visit, and I still can’t quite believe I actually did! Though I could go on for hours about how amazing the trips were, our travels were not as perfect as the photos I posted on Facebook make it seem. I have learned that more often then not, things do not go exactly as planned when traveling, especially when you are as inexperienced as I am.
Growing up I had gone on only two big trips with my family, one to Portugal and one to Disney World. But when you’re a kid your parents take care of all the planning (and paying) and packing, all you have to do is enjoy yourself. While traveling still is enjoyable, it can be a lot of work and planning. This has definitely been a great learning experience for me, and I wanted to share with you the four truths I have discovered through my travels.
- Things don’t always go according to plan.
It was 11p.m. in the Edinburgh coach (bus) station; we were wiped out from the two days we spent adventuring, and were ready to sleep on an 8-hour bus ride back to London. Everything had gone without a hitch, until we went to show the coach driver our tickets… Somehow we had managed to book our bus home for a whole 24-hours later, on the following night. Luckily there was a bus at 5 a.m. with available room, but because we had already checked out of our hostile that morning we had nowhere to sleep. Unfortunately, the security guards at the coach station said we couldn’t crash there, so we had no choice but to wander the streets of Scotland until they reopened at 4:30.
If you didn’t know, Scotland is pretty cold. Our mission that night was to stay warm, so we hopped from place to place to avoid the chilly night air. First it was a McDonalds that was open until 2 a.m., and then a tiny pizza place; and when that closed we finally found the 24-hour McDonalds. We waited there until it was time to head back to the station and successfully made it on a bus; but it was a long ride, and we didn’t make it back to our flat in London until 5 p.m. that night.
All of this could have been avoided if we just double-checked the dates on our bus tickets. It seems like something so obvious, but this one small mistake turned into a big set back. When traveling you have to be on your feet and ready to adapt to whatever situation you find yourself in. In Paris the very next weekend, my friend got her cell phone stolen by a pickpocket. We weren’t able to get it back in the end, so we only had my phone for directions, contact with our families, and emails containing our hostel/bus tickets. It was yet another unexpected set back, but we made it work and still had an incredible time on our trip!
- Traveling often is completely exhausting.
This was something that never occurred to me, I have no idea why. If you are traveling every weekend, it will most definitely take a toll on you and your body. By the time I was home from Paris, I was completely drained and ready to sleep for three days straight. Two weekends straight I had gotten little to no sleep, and sleep I managed to get on the bus rides was so awful it didn’t count. Not to mention I do have actual classes to attend and work to do during the weekdays.
Ultimately, I felt a bit overwhelmed and just plain tired. My friend and I had plans to book a trip to Amsterdam this weekend, but we decided to give ourselves a break and spend it in London. And it turned out to be a much needed, relaxing weekend with our friends, and we went out to brunch and explored Covent Garden. I was initially feeling guilty for skipping out on Amsterdam, because I felt as though I wasn’t seizing the chance to travel. But I’ve learned its okay to take a breather and allow your self to recoup; I loved spending quality time in central London, and now I feel refreshed and ready to travel again this weekend!
- Yes it’s expensive, but there are ways to save money.
Traveling costs money, and it can often be expensive. Unfortunately there is no way around that, but there are small ways to minimize your spending. First, do your research when you are booking a trip, and make sure you are checking out all of your options. There are usually different ways of getting to your destination – you can travel by train, bus, or plane – and there are different companies offering different prices. It is also better if you book your trip early; generally, the longer you wait the more expensive your ticket will be.
Then there is the beauty of hostels, which are pretty inexpensive and make surprisingly comfortable lodgings. HostelWorld is a great place to search for a place to stay, and the hostels I have found through them have been awesome and less than 20 pounds per night. The next tip may be an obvious one, but watch where you spend your money. It may not seem like a big deal to buy a water bottle when you’re out and about or get that extra side at dinner, but it truly does all add up in the end. Trust me a girl needs to eat, but I try to be conscious of what I am spending money on, it's really necessary. Especially when you have more important things like transportation and touristy activities to pay for, and you’d be surprised how many places charge you just to use the bathroom.
- It is all worth it when you have "that moment".
My intention with this post is not to make traveling sound awful or take for granted the amazing opportunity I have been blessed with. I am so thankful that I am abroad and able to see these new places; it honestly still feels like a dream, but every so often I experience moments where the realness sinks in.
This happened when I stepped out of the coach station at 12 in the morning and saw the gothic streets of Edinburgh for the first time. And again when I saw the Eiffel Tower with my own two eyes (they aren’t kidding when they say it’s breathtaking) and then visited the lovely Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Even as I am typing this, it seems so crazy to me that I actually did all of those things! Seeing new places and becoming familiar with new cultures is such a valuable experience, and it is these “moments” that make the stresses of traveling fade into oblivion.