Before we begin, what gives me that right to be a know it all? Well for starters, my mother is a flight attendant for the largest airline company in the world; I’ve grown up in the travel industry. Second, I’ve been all across continental United States, lived in Europe for five months, traveled to 8 countries and over twice the amount of cities. I’ve traveled in/on nearly every mode of transportation (except camel). Is this still not enough for you? Well, I’ll just have to put my money where my mouth is then.
Patty Planner vs. Last Minute Lilly
We all function at different speeds. The “Patty Planners” of the world find comfort in routines and schedules. For those “Last Minute Lillys,” it would not be surprising to find them chaotically running around packing the day of. Regardless of these personality differences the few things you should have in common are these:
- Valid passport
Sensibly packed carry-on
You may gawk at this now, but, a sense of humor
So simple and yet, I have indeed found myself crossing the boarders from one country to the next and found certain individuals losing and forgetting their passports entirely. That’s one way to put a damper on your travel plans.
Secondly, a sensibly packed carry-on is nearly as important as a valid passport. Admittedly, I am in fact an over packer but there are ways around this. The error of my ways and I’m sure I can speak on behalf of other women, are the scenarios for “necessary outfits” I conjure up in my impulsive little head. Packing for weather adversities is another issue. Ways around this are by coordinating outfits that are versatile. Keyword: versatile, very important. Pants, shorts, and shoes are the death of suitcase space so pick accordingly, it’s all about the switching up the shirts anyways. On a side note, keep your jacket unpacked and carry it if taking one is unavoidable that way it gives you a little extra space in your bag to pack whatever else your heart desires. Check with your airline to make sure your bag meets weight and width requirements. I found in other countries many airlines abided by strict baggage rules always resulting in an ungodly priced punishment fee (this goes for printing tickets as well). For heavens sake, at all costs avoid being that girl who can’t lift her own bag into the overhead bin!
Lastly, drum roll please….A SENSE OF HUMOR!!! Trust me a little goes a long way. Traveling as exciting as it is can be stressful. Everyone’s been through something and at the end of the day we get a pretty good story out of it.
Take it from me I‘ve slept on the stone cold floors of four different airports over one of my travel benders and this was in the midst of a very cold European Spring. On my return to Madrid from Rome I may or may not have worn, two pairs of pants, four sweaters, a coat, scarf, and hat to accommodate Ryanair’s absurd baggage regulations. Luckily, I was traveling with one of my best friends where we could take turns wallowing in our misery. Scouts honor though we kept each other sane and light hearted making the best of was potentially a bitter situation. Still waiting for the humorous part? Well, we laugh about it now.
Before You Jet Set Get Your Feet Wet
In plain English, get acquainted with the area(s) you’re traveling to. Google is a brilliant tool for matters such as these. Old school? Barnes and Noble has your back too. Information worth obtaining before you jet set can range from knowing whether or not to tip at a restaurant, the must sees, to knowing whether or not to drink the water. Personally, I went old school and bought guide books for the places I stayed for an extensive amount of time.
Other valuable odds and ends worth knowing:
Paper or Plastic It’s Safer To Ask It
This is extremely important so listen up. Always ask if credit or cash is accepted. Make sure to always carry a reasonable amount of cash of the appropriate currency on you at hand on the off chance your credit card gets turned down. Europe is not the biggest fan of the credit card as much as we are. To spare yourself the humiliation of having to walk away at the cash register food in hand, just ask before hand.
On Wednesday’s We Wear Pink
Dress code, it’s not just for high school. This goes hand in hand in brushing up on cultural differences. Freedom of expression is something we are all too familiar with in the States especially in the way we dress. Now I’m not going to play mom and tell you how to dress like you’re a toddler but depending upon your location sometimes modesty is the best option. Blend as best as possible because no matter how hard you try eventually that North American accent is going to give you away.
We Speak No Americano
Here’s a worth-while tip: the louder you talk at someone the more likely they are going to understand your language. Actually, if you’re dim witted enough to buy that I highly advise you to not travel anywhere English is not their native tongue, but really. Now I’m not saying just because you don’t speak a country’s language not to go I simply mean have a little respect and a lot of patience. Better yet, learn a few key phrases, please and thank you is a start.
Uncle Sam Is The Man!
Don’t take this the wrong way I love the USA but growing up in the United States we are raised with an ever-growing sense of pride for our nationality. Here is a reality check – no one really cares about us. Wait what? I was honestly as shocked to find this out as you are now.
Let’s look at it this way: The United States is like the excessively egotistical popular kid in high school, every country that has our back is part of our clique, and then everyone else are the nerds, completely invisible on our radar of cool. That is the picture that I had painted myself before my world was rocked with a little worldly perspective. Afterwards, I learned unless you were that stereotypical, stupid, overly loud and proud American everything just sort of went on without a hinge. Granted, at times you do run into special individuals that want to pick on you because of your nationality but you can’t win ‘em all, that’s reality.
With that being said, help yourself out by laying off the American logos such as university names, sports teams, and the obvious, United States flag. Not that it’s a bad thing to be proud of where you come from but by default with these distinctive logos it sets you up to be an easy target for petty theft.
It would seem I’m directing this at those seeking to travel over seas and for the most part yes, I am but, if you happen to be staying within the States the take away is this: respect and knowledge. Being a tourist in any new place the odds will be more so in your favor if you respect a different way of life other than the one you are used to. Knowledge of your surroundings will always be seen as a benefit. That’s a lot to take in in one sitting! With all that information I hope I didn’t scare you. Traveling can be stressful at times but as the cliché goes, it’s about the journey not the destination. I mentioned earlier the take away in a nutshell is this, respect and knowledge, don’t forget it, and most definitely don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s not rocket science it’s just traveling! Now go on, I think I see a plane ticket with your name on it.
All photographs by: Kathryn Hessenauer