Guys! I’ve made it Germany and finally have enough wifi to publish this post! Germany is beautiful and I can’t wait to spend it with my wonderful friend, Britta, who is nice enough to let me stay at her apartment for a couple of days. I typed up this post a few weeks ago and I feel it’s appropriate now to publish since these are the mistakes I don’t want to make again!
So for those of you who have read Natalie’s Nook you know I have been to Europe once before. It was a wonderful experience and I don’t regret going one bit! But…. There are a few things I wish I would’ve done differently. Now some of these were within my control, some were not. Like I said in my “about me,” this trip is my chance to “do it my way.”
1. Had more pictures with me in them. Sounds like I’m full of myself, right? Ok that’s not entirely what I meant. But 5 years after my first trip to Europe, I don’t even bother looking at a majority of my old pictures because they don’t mean anything to me. They were all pictures of “things.” The picture below, I remember that day exactly. See what I’m getting at? Better memories come from these kind of pictures.
First day in Switzerland, heading to dinner
2. Bought fewer souvenirs. The first day we were in Rome, I went a little crazy buying souvenirs and I wish I hadn’t because I was basically broke by the end of the trip. Just because you go abroad doesn’t mean you have to buy every single one of your friends a miniature figure of the statue of David or Eiffel Tower keychains. 5 years later, I believe in collecting memories, not things.*
3. Not gone to Mcdonalds in Vienna. Being a relatively sheltered child from a small town, you could honestly not understand how happy I was to be able to go to McDonalds. I know, it was so dumb of me, I was in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and we were about to go see an opera. We were given an hour to do whatever before the opera started and a couple of fellow students and myself sprinted to the McDonalds we had seen down the street. Pathetic, but it was a source of comfort in a way, we were all homesick and McDonalds was like a small slice of home. On the same note, I wish we hadn’t gone to Hooters in Switzerland (it was disgusting and my credit card quit working).
4.Been able to go out at night more. This was one of those things we didn’t have much control over. The program I went with us had us back in our hotel rooms and in bed by 10, granted we were exhausted by the end of the day so we didn’t mind too much. But on the last night of my homestay in Switzerland, my house mother took my roommates and I to the Trucker and Country Festival in Interlaken. Probably the most fun I had the entire trip, I was so tired the next day but it was worth it. But while we were in Paris, I never got to see the Eiffel Tower light up at midnight. All the same, I went with a group of 40 students and 4 adults, you do the math.
My 3 other roommates at the Trucker and Country Festival in Interlaken
5. I should’ve chosen history and exploring over shopping. There were so many opportunities where I could’ve immersed myself in the Italian and French culture, but what did I do instead? I shopped. Most of those things I bought there I don’t give a shit about now. For example, one of the first days in Rome we visited the Catacombs and it was unbelievably fascinating but as soon as the tour was over, I was in the gift shop. Same goes for the day we spent in Venice. When we were inParis, we went to Montmartre for a day. Considering I love the movie Moulin Rouge and the painter Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, I was so excited! But when we were given the option to visit the Sacré-Cœur Basilica (the Basilica of the Sacred Heart) or shopping, I chose to shop. Not proud of myself, to say the least, but now I know. And to be fair, at that point I was pretty church-ed out.
6. To add to #5, seen fewer churches and museums. This sounds a bit contradictory but bear with me. This is another thing that wasn’t in my control, our days were planned out from morning to night. Some days we would get a few hours to run around but those days didn’t happen as often. Don’t get me wrong, they were beautiful and fascinating and was something I would never see in the states, but it got old after about a week. The Louvre was amazing but it was absolutely huge and to be honest, the Mona Lisa was a bit anti-climatic. All the churches were beautiful as well but damn, there are A LOT of churches to see and by the end of it you can’t remember which ones which.
7. Stayed away from the tourist traps. The Coliseum, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, etc. I know some people really love these places, and I did I love them but having to be on our guard for gypsies and scammers was exhausting. But naturally, being an American in a foreign country, you have to be on your guard. These places had their moments but I enjoyed myself so much more admiring them from afar. These places were constantly crowded and, to my surprise, really took away from the experience. One of the best times I had was taking pictures with my friends a couple of blocks away from the Eiffel Tower. No scammers, no crowds, just an open space to sit there and take in the magnificent structure that is the Eiffel Tower.
8. Not been in such a rush all the damn time. Like I mentioned before, everyday was scheduled from morning to night. This was not within my control, unfortunately. It is really hard to enjoy yourself when you’re always on the move, and that’s how that trip was for me. Always moving, always walking to the next church, always rushing to the next museum. I couldn’t even enjoy Saint Peter’s Basilica because we were rushing, I walked in, had a moment where the Basilica completely blew my mind, and I basically had to walk back out because we just didn’t have time. When we went to Versailles, my friend and I had to sprint to get to Marie Antoinette’s bedroom which was infuriating because we had such little time until we had to meet back up with the group. See what I mean? I wish I could’ve been able to really enjoy those places.
9.Lastly, I wish I had been more open-minded. Along with the whole Mcdonalds thing, I wish I had been more open to the different culture. When I was 16, this trip was nothing more than a chance to get to go to Europe. It means so much more to me 5 years later and I didn’t realize the effect it would have on me now. It is a privilege to be able to travel abroad and should not be taken for granted. Not many people get to have this chance and that’s why I feel like I have to go back. I want to truly appreciate it this time.
That’s all from me and I hope you can learn from my mistakes!
*I am happy I bought a ton of tshirts because my wonderful mother gave me a tshirt blanket for Christmas and it had all them in there. Since I wasn’t wearing them anymore at least they were put to good use and this way I can see them everyday and relive those memories.