Have you ever had a dream that you wish you could achieve but you know that it is rather difficult to accomplish? That was me. I have always loved to travel. I had traveled all over the United States but never to another country. One day I applied to the study abroad program at Brigham Young University-Idaho. I was accepted! I never thought that I could travel to Europe. It was a dream but I never imagined that it would be a reality. I have the form of traveling in the states down but traveling in Europe was a whole different story. I looked up packing tutorials and top ten places to visit to see if I could learn as much as I could before going. Here are the top ten thing I wish I would have known before leaving for Europe.
BEFORE YOU GO
1) Plan your Outfits
Layer. Layer. Layer. This was probably the number one thing I read in all of the other top ten facts about Europe. I picked articles of clothing that would go with everything I had in my suitcase. Let me tell you. It was a life saver! I knew that no matter what I wore they would go together. You could wear layers which would help in case the weather tends to be unpredictable which brings me to my next point.
2) Be Prepared for Anything
The weather doesn’t answer to anyone. Here is a story. While in Venice I planned for some rain but what I didn’t judge was how much. The entire day I was in Venice the rain never stopped. It rained the entire day. I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. I had my raincoat but within an hour I broke down and bought an umbrella. The streets and squares were so flooded that they brought out risers for people to walk on. I loved it because I got to see Venice in a new way and that way was under two feet of water. I was soaked by the end of the day. Be prepared for anything.
3) Research Universal Adapters
I can never say this enough. RESEARCH GOOD ADAPTERS. I did some semi research when I was looking to buy an adapter for the plugs in Europe and I wish I would have done better research. When we got to London and into the place we were staying, I found out that the adapter I bought wasn’t the right one. I had no idea what to do. Gratefully someone in my tour group had an extra that she let me borrow. Seriously get a universal adapter no matter what the cost.
4) Tourist Bag
Please, please, please don’t bring a huge bag to pack all of your stuff in. A little backpack will do just fine. I had a bag that I carried with me everywhere. I thought I was going to need all of the stuff in my bag and I kept adding to it throughout the day. By the end of the day I wanted to chuck the bag off the side of a cliff. Bring a small bag with the necessities.
Always have your passport on you. This would be the second thing that I found in all the other travel top ten lists. There was a time when my group was on the bus and we were crossing the border from Germany to Switzerland when we were stopped and asked who was on the bus. (This was when the refugees were trying to cross the borders) Most of us were prepared by having out passports out, but one of the students left his in his passport under the bus. Thankfully the officer let us through without having us show our passports but could you imagine having to pull over and find the passport? Always have your passport. It is easier.
6) Take pictures
My number one advice would be to take pictures. Take so many pictures that you have thousands. My biggest regret is that I didn’t want to be like a typical tourist that I took only the pictures that I thought I would want later. Boy…was I wrong! I wish I would have taken double the pictures I did. I remember the places I visited because I journaled every day but I wish I had more pictures.
The food in Europe is phenomenal! I have never had such a good sandwich in my life. Find the little pastry shops or the random little sandwich shops right off the street. I had some of the best food from those places. I went to a nice sit down restaurant in Paris and honestly I wasn’t impressed. I loved the homemade soup that a lady from Austria cooked for my group. I really felt like I was getting the European experience. Go to the groceries stores instead of eating out all the time. I saved so much money and got to feel like a local by going to the store to buy meal for the next day or just snacks for the bus right. BUY CHOCOLATE. I blew $170 just on chocolate. I was very satisfied. If you have never had European chocolate something is definitely wrong in your life. You will never go back to American chocolate.
8) Try to Do Everything on Your List
I had a list of things that I wanted to do while in Europe and I did most of them but die to time and the group I was with I wasn’t able to do all of them. I wish I did. I didn’t ride a gondola because I thought it was too expensive. I never went to Oxford Street because my group and I decided to do something else and ran out of time. I didn’t hike to the top of the area of the Alps we were in because we thought we didn’t have enough time. I regret some of those moments. I wish I would have taken the time to do the things on my bucket list. Do everything that you want to do because you may never know when you will get this opportunity again. Don’t feel bad that you don’t get everything done. Pick your top two and visit those places before the others.
9) Meet People
Go to the park, the store, anywhere and meet people. In Amsterdam a group of us asked one of the locals about a good place to visit in Amsterdam and he told us that there was a hidden tree house/ jungle gym in the park. He pointed us in the right direction and we went searching. We found the tree house and explored the area for hours. It is one of my fondest memories of Amsterdam. We also had the opportunity to attend church with a YSA branch in Paris where we met some fantastic people who shared with us what it was like to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Paris. In turn we shared with them.
10) Embrace the Unknown
There are moments in Europe that you may seem confused (especially when navigating the tube) and a little anxious because of the unknown. Embrace it. Embrace that you don’t know the language or that you have no idea how to ride a bike like a true Amsterdamian.Embrace that you may not like the pasta in Italy but you ate an entire pizza yourself. Last of all, embrace that you have this incredible opportunity that you may never have again. Know that you will come home and face reality again so don’t regret one moment. Live in the moment and know that you when you come home you will be changed.