As I’m packing for my latest Euro excursion, I’m having mini flashbacks to previous trips when I was embarrassingly unprepared. As I’m crossing off my packing check-list, I’m writing it all down for you, my readers, because I care about your wellbeing. For if your demise were to come upon you, who would be left to read my mediocre blog posts?
Pack sturdy shoes
Ladies, I know the struggle of wanting to be fashion forward but also wanting to be practical; let’s face it, there really is no happy medium. Here is where you make a tough decision: look cute and be in pain for the following weeks, or dress smart and be able to look at your pictures without regretting those strappy sandals. For my first journey to Rome, I chose to wear jeans, a long sleeve shirt and cheap brown “riding boots.” It was a simple enough outfit for a spur of the moment trip that I am still regretting to this day. See, if you’re doing it right when frolicking around Europe, you walk a lot. Walking in bad shoes is really bad for your joints, posture, muscles and mood. By the end of my Roman night I was limping, and it didn’t get better for a long time. Do yourself a favor and buy some cute-ish hiking boots or invest in a really nice pair of trainers. It will make all the difference.
Leave your giant purses at home
This goes for flashy jewelry as well. Nothing sends up a flashing neon sign saying “Inexperienced American! Rob me!” quite like a large designer purse and a gold planted watch or enormous engagement ring. A fanny pack isn’t necessary, but it would be entirely better. I stick with a small cross body satchel that zips shut. Keep it positioned in front of you and keep a copy of important numbers stashed in your pants/jacket pocket, just in case. As for jewelry, keep it simple. Opt out of large stone rings and stick with your band.
Talk to locals
In my personal opinion, the worst thing you could do while visiting another country is get sucked into a tourist trap for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Trip Advisor is usually good at sending you some authentic restaurant choices, but the locals will know the best places to get the whole package. If you’re the kind of person who wants to go to France and order a ribeye steak well done, do the rest of us a favor and stay in the states where your nonsense is somewhat tolerated. Embrace the culture! That’s why you’re traveling in the first place, right?
Credit cards aren’t as big of a thing in most European countries as they are in the states, and some venues only take cards with chips in them. Because of this, make sure you always have a moderate cash flow stashed on your person. Not only will it make your life easier, but you also won’t be continually raped by your bank with International transaction fees every time you swipe. Oh—and triple check that you’ve talked to your bank prior to traveling abroad about being abroad. Nothing ruins and a good time faster than a frozen bank account.
Embrace the culture shock
It will happen to you. You won’t know where or when, but eventually culture shock will find you. When it does, reach out and hug it. The smallest American traditions will go unappreciated by you until you don’t have them readily available; things will seem inconvenient to you in that moment, and you will get frustrated. Let it go. Adapt, move on and persevere. Being flexible is probably one of the most important parts of traveling. The more flexible you are to plans changing, itineraries getting off track or expectations not being on point, the less disappointed you’ll be, and, in most cases, the more fun you will have on your trip.
Mental pictures are better than selfies
This last point is one I’m guilty of—I constantly have my phone in hand, ready for the next photo op. How can I not? I’ve seen a thousand beautiful things while being in Europe that most people will never get to see. Ironically though, the only times I’ve ever looked at the pictures I’ve taken have been when up-loading them to Facebook. I’m sure I’ll be glad I have them ten years from now, but I can’t help but feel I’ve missed out on a lot of being present while taking pictures. I encourage you to stop, look at the amazing sights around you, take it in, and smile—then you may take your picture. Oh, and drink up! You’re on vacation bitches.