Since I have touched down in Europe, I have been fortunate enough to see six different countries throughout the continent. The cities that I have already had the chance to visit (outside of Florence, Italy) include:
- London, England
- Rome, Italy
- Budapest, Hungary
- Vienna, Austria
- Salzburg, Austria
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Paris, France
- Venice, Italy
Each of these cities was incredibly unique and all of them had their own sort of beauty, and I am grateful for every moment I was able to spend in each of these different places.
In order to prepare for each of these trips, it was necessary to complete at least a small amount of research. Being knowledgeable about the currency used, official language, proper social and restaurant etiquette, and popular modes of transportation seemed to be very important when traveling to different nations. Even though they are all located on the same continent, the customs and traditions vary greatly between each of these cities, so it is crucial to at least have some knowledge of what to expect upon setting foot in these places. I also checked the weather before departing for each location – you would be surprised how different the climates in different places can be throughout one individual continent. Having copies of my passport and visa on hand was also something I made sure not to forget; authorities in Europe have the right to stop and check the IDs and permits of stay for all foreigners.
While I truly enjoyed my visits to all of these locations, I have to admit that my trips didn’t also go smoothly. It seems that many Americans take the fact that most people around the world speak English in addition to their native language, but this obviously isn’t the case with every living person. Many times throughout my trips I found myself struggling to overcome the language barrier, whether it was Hungarian, German, French, or Italian. In some cases, it was nearly impossible for me to even read street signs, or the signs posted in train stations and airports in different nations. However, through hand motions and simple phrases (and the assistance of kind locals) I always seemed to be able to get my message across in the end.
Also, having become so accustomed to the small, friendly, local city that in Florence, I couldn’t help but feel like a bit of an outsider in these other cities. It seemed like everyone else around me was confident and knew exactly what he/she was doing, and here I was – just staring blankly at my surroundings. While it sounds daunting, I knew that was an unavoidable aspect of international travel, and I have learned to take my confusion in stride. In the end, it came down to quietly observing the actions of those around me, taking a deep breath, and continuing on with my trip.
One of the biggest annoyances (obstacle isn’t quite the right word) of constantly traveling is the travel itself. Of course one is aware of the amount of time her flights will take and her expected departure and arrival times, but in reality, a lot more is involved. Catching a taxi or a train to the nearest airport adds on at least 30 minutes, not to mention the three-hour window one should block out to spend in any given airport for an international flight. Sometimes, my three-day trips really ended up being only two full days, with the last being almost entirely spent on getting from one country to another. Even though it sounds like a burden, I promise you every minute spent getting from one place to another is made up in the beautiful memories and sights you will have in each city.
When thinking about advice I have for others, two things immediately come to mind – be prepared, and go with the flow. While these two concepts may sound contradictory, they are both necessary to truly get the most out of short weekend trips to entirely new cities and countries.
- Be Prepared: Doing your research on the currency, political/economic state, typical climate, traditional foods, sites to see, and social customs will undoubtedly come in handy during your trips to various cities. Taking 30 minutes the night before a departure to look at information about a particular city can mean the difference between seeing and missing one of the most famous landmarks of that location, or even just having brought the right clothing for the weather conditions that weekend.
- Go With the Flow: Not everything will go seamlessly, and you will run into a few bumps into the road every time you travel, but nothing that will be too difficult to overcome. Being flexible and understanding that the world does not revolve around you and your travel plans are valuable traits, and will save both you and those around you from angry outbursts. Part of the fun of traveling is having to enlist a Plan B (or even a Plan C or D), and creating spontaneous and incredible memories from your unexpected experiences.
Ciao for now!