I recently returned from another amazing European trip where I met up with my boyfriend, who I hadn’t seen in 6 months, and a few other officers from his ship. It was a whirlwind week where we started in Milan, headed to Venice, then Cinque Terre, followed by Lugano and finally back to Milan. While running around different areas of Italy and Switzerland we learned A LOT about some of the speed bumps that you can encounter on the road to ultimate exploration. A lot, if not all, of these tips may seem straight forward but they’re mistakes a lot of travelers tend to make.
5. Do NOT take your eyes off your luggage.
Even for a second. While on a train from Milan to Venice we all put our bags up above us without a second thought. The three of us that were in one car completely passed out for the majority of the train ride, woke up, gathered our stuff and headed out. However, unfortunately for the other two, who were actually awake the entire trip, a backpack was snagged mid-ride. Luckily he had his phone, tablet and wallet on him, however his passport and clothes were in the snagged bad.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals questions.
This is something my boyfriend has definitely taught me. Me being a bit more introverted, I like to figure out things on my own and not bother others with any questions. I also don’t want to seem vulnerable and have “TOURIST” basically written across my forehead. Brian is amazing at talking with locals and gathering great pieces of information from them that has consistently helped make our trip ten times better that it would have originally been. Whether it be for directions, restaurant recommendations or to learn about the culture he isn’t afraid to ask. I don’t know why I’m always so nervous about it! Every single time we’ve stopped to ask someone a question he or she has been incredibly helpful, friendly and insightful.
3. Don’t prioritize how good you’ll look in those Instagram photos over your comfort.
In this lovely age of social media obsession I find a lot of people planning outfits for the potential photo ops, myself included. I made a HUGE mistake of that the last time I went to Italy with Brian and not bringing supportive shoes. I wore gladiator sandals while we walked around on cobble stone for 8 hours and my feet had never experienced so much pain… and I used to dance Pointe. It definitely pulled away from enjoying the experience to the fullest and we ended up having to buy a pair of boots so that I could walk like a normal human being again. This time around I brought closed-toed shoes, my leather Vans from Madewell, and made sure to buy Dr. Scholl’s Comfort Insoles. My feet were soooo happy and weren’t a concern at all throughout the trip.
2. Don’t bring U.S. dollars to exchange.
I thought I was smart by bringing over American dollars but it ended up being one of my biggest mistakes. This time around the exchange rate was great so withdrawing money from an ATM wasn’t bad besides the potential fee you get charged by some banks. With us being in so many touristy areas the only exchange places we found had an ENORMOUS fee for exchanging them. 25% to be exact. So I ended up losing a decent amount of what I brought with me once we tried a few different places. It’s definitely better to maybe bring a little as an emergency in case you run into any issues your first day, but otherwise I’d advise against it.
1. Don’t experience things through a camera lens.
While I definitely 110% fall victim to trying to snap as many pictures as possible to remember everything, one thing I’ve learned is how important it is to really take everything in. I think the moment I noticed this was when we were once on this amazing cliff/lighthouse in Portugal and I looked around at the crowd and everyone was trying to take all these photos and no one was just looking at it. Someone even spent over 10 minutes edging his way out to one of the furthest points and seemed to just be looking at the scene through his phone the ENTIRE TIME. It’s something that drove me insane and made me reevaluate how I experience new things… however I did have to remind myself of this recently when Brian and I were experiencing the row boats in Central Park and he almost bumped into a couple boats behind him because I was trying to get photos instead of focusing on directing him. So I by no means have perfected this yet! But anyways, my genuine hope for future generations of travelers is that people will just soak up whatever moment it is they’re in so that later in life when they say, “Remember that time when…” a memory of them at the place pops into their head versus that Facebook photo on their timeline.
Thanks for reading!!!!!