During this blog, I’m going to talk about the parts of traveling that no one really talks about. We all have that friend, or maybe we are that friend, who is constantly on social media posting aesthetically pleasing photos from their latest travel ventures. Sometimes we live through them, and sometimes we allow FOMO (fear of missing out) to hit. Sometimes we feel inspired and others it sparks a nasty emotion called envy to rise up without warning. Personally, I use to assume that those people were either brought up financially privileged, made an unnatural amount of money, or just had to have a great deal of luck.
It’s easy to let those emotions in, it’s even easier to assume.
As I’ve said before, I’ve fallen in love with traveling. The first time I went to Greece, I was 11 or 12, and it was most definitely luck that brought me there (or God, if you will). However, since then I have fully funded every trip that I have been on, both stateside and nationwide. Among a plethora of things I have learned, some of which have to do with the simple fact that there is a whole side to traveling that you don’t hear about. Much of that side is bad and it’s ugly… at first. I’ve learned the hard way how to handle it in the best way I can, and I want to share it with you.
Let’s get right into it.
1. You need to have a plan. It doesn’t need to be elaborate; you don’t need to plan out every day in great detail, but you need to make a general plan of what area you will explore on what day, what sights are on your must-visit list, and a map that outlines the area. If you’re going to use public transit, research that particular city’s transit system and have a vague understanding of whether or not you will be able to navigate your way without a rental car. If you want a rental, research where you want to purchase one from and what additional fees or downpayment’s are required. In Greece, we were surprised to find out that most companies recently began requiring an international drivers license to rent vehicles (I believe that takes 6 months or so, don’t quote me). Find out if Uber or Lyft is available. Without a plan, you will end up missing things and you’ll leave without the satisfaction of knowing you accomplished all you set out to.
2. Commutes… suck. When Juan and I went to France, England, Scotland and Ireland, we had 11 days. 4 countries, 12 cities, and 1,024 landmarks I was set on seeing. When we went to Greece, we visited 4 islands, 1 major city, and 1 smaller city, in 10 days. While I was uploading beautiful pictures, I was also feeling exhausted, drained, hot, impatient and irritated at times. Shorter flights aren’t so bad, but you spend a lot of time at airports just waiting, and I’ll elaborate on flights later. We had 4-5 hour ferry rides, 7-8 hour bus rides, 5-7 hour train rides, occasionally uncomfortable cab rides and MILES of walking. Now, this is ALL apart of the process and if you learn to expect it, it’s not bad at all. My advice is to ensure you are with people who are easy going, adaptive and fun. I know if you are traveling with family, you don’t have much choice in the matter, but if you remain in high spirits then others around you will most likely be less prone to negativity, too. Take in the sights, read a book, play games with your company, or just relax and take in your surroundings. Positivity, adaptability and an attitude of gratitude will be major keys.
3. Expect the worst from budget airlines (Volotea, RyanAir, etc). We flew with Volotea to one of the Greek islands… they charged us 30 euros for checking in in-person and not 2 hours prior on our phones, then 80 euros for each 40kg bag, and they were 3 hours delayed without giving so much as a clue as to why or an expected arrival time. Just make sure to research the airlines beforehand. On the bright side, the tickets are very affordable and it’s usually the quickest way to get from one country to another. We might fly with them again in the future, but now we know.
4. Financially prepare. If you book your lodging and flights well in advance, that takes a huge load off of your back, but just because you do that, don’t think you can get by with nothing. Most historical landmarks and popular museums are pricey. Ensure that you are gauging the cost based on what the dollar equates to in a foreign country. In the US, it’s not that big of a deal. And my biggest piece of advice: always bring an emergency credit card. Preferably, get a travel credit card that offers rewards. My recommendation is the Capital One Venture Card (I love it!). If you spend more than you intended, don’t let it ruin your trip. You only live once, and there’s a high chance you might never relive the experience. Enjoy every moment and soak it all up.
5. DON’T get your money exchanged in the airport!!! Don’t do it. Please. I learned this the painfully devastating way. The exchange rate is usually disgusting and you will probably get ripped off. Wait, and use an ATM instead.
6. If you’re leaving the good of US of A, ask your cellphone carrier about international plans. T-Mobile offers free text and unlimited data; we didn’t have it for a few countries and we did for others. It made suuuuch a difference. The reality is that while it’s important to stay off of social media for the most part, your internet, maps, yelp and other apps (translator) come in very handy. While in Scotland, Juan and I were going in random cafe’s every time we needed to call an Uber, sometimes it was a pain. We had fun with it, but having it later was much more efficient.
7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. If Juan is reading this, he can attest that I have truly come a VERY long way when it comes to this. I used to sweat all the small stuff, all the microscopic stuff, and it was terrible. I’ve shared a little about my anxiety, and even for those without deep-rooted anxiety, being in an unknown place can be intimidating. I’ve gained a whole lot of patience, resiliency, and adaptability (that word keeps coming up for a reason) and therefore have allowed myself to fully be present and enjoy so many moments that I otherwise would have missed, and so many lessons I’ve learned and conversations I’ve had that would have been neglected.
For anyone reading this, wishing they could travel more… I hope you know that you CAN. It might not be your time right now because of work, school or family, but as with anything, you have to make the time and channel effort into making it happen, even if it’s 1-2 years out. Lay your nerves, fear and hesitation down. We live in an amazing country and a world that demands your presence. Traveling truly is the one thing that can buy happiness.
For my fellow travel addicts, I’m sure I’ve missed things, so let’s chat and share stories.
Thank you for reading,