Over the years I have been on various types of vacations, ranging from road trips to Texas to cruises in Alaska to study abroad programs. Yet, one thing I have noticed is that no matter how often you travel or how much experience you gain on your trips, you can never fully master the art of travel. I have been both fortunate and unlucky when it comes to traveling (upgrades in plane seating to missing flights), but my misadventures have made me wiser and have given me some memorable stories to share.
That being said, I wanted to share with you some funny stories and weird experiences I’ve had throughout my adventures in hopes that my fellow travelers can learn from my mistakes and maybe even have a laugh or two. Regardless, here’s my list of “lessons” I’ve learned from traveling over the years:
Why get to the airport early?
- Baggage check-in, security lines, bathroom stops, and snack breaks are just a few of the things that take up precious time when you are at the airport. I always arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before my flight so I won’t feel rushed. Giving yourself “cushion time” allows you to not be set back by traffic delays or extremely long check-in and security lines. Getting to the airport early can also ease the stress of travel by giving you down time to relax before your flight, which is always nice.
How did I learn this?
- I have missed two flights in my life, which resulted in two very different outcomes.
- The first time I missed a flight was on my trip to Italy in 2012 when our tour company took us to the wrong airport terminal and we missed our plane. Since it wasn’t our fault we were booked on the next flight to NYC with no extra charges, but there was a twist….it wasn’t until the next day! Needless to say, we got an extra night in Rome and we were able to walk around the Coliseum at night. Plus, our hotel and dinner were paid for by our tour company so we basically got a free extra night in Rome!
- The second time wasn’t as fun as the first time I missed a flight because it was my family’s fault we missed our flight. Miscommunication between my parents led to us leaving late and arriving at the airport 10 minutes before our flight departed. Unfortunately the plane didn’t wait for us and we had to buy new tickets to a flight that left 7 hours later. Let’s just say it was a long, long, long day at the Indy Airport.
Why try the local cuisine ?
- Everywhere you visit will have its own unique culture with special traditions and the best way to embrace the culture is to try authentic food from the area. This idea may be intimidating if you aren’t extremely adventurous with your food choices (like me), but I can’t stress it enough to at least try it. Worse case scenario you order a meal and don’t like it. No harm, no foul. Then you can proceed to order something else, maybe a more familiar, homey dish. I’ve never encountered a menu abroad that didn’t have a couple American “comfort” foods, like hamburgers or pizzas (but beware that many of these classic dishes could have a regional twist).
How did I learn this?
- I used to be one of the pickiest eaters in the world, so I would never explore the menu options when my family would go on vacations. That all changed this past summer when I studied abroad in London and got the opportunity to travel around Europe. I decided to be more open about the foods I ate because I kept hearing everyone say the best way to get to know a place is by eating the foods it is known for. I’m proud to say I expanded my palate and I’ve eaten a wide array of cultural known foods, like shepard’s pie in Dublin (with a Guinness of course), fish & chips in London, schnitzel in Munich, and escargot in Paris. Each dish I have tried has been interesting to say the least, especially the snails, but I’m so glad that I gave each and every food a chance. Its always fun to tell friends about the strange foods you’ve eaten and it honestly broadens your taste buds and your character.
- Pictured above is the meal I had on my first night in Madrid, which included a spanish omelet, salmorejo, and a platter with croquettes and various types of tapas. As you can see some of the tapas included raw foods, which I typically steer clear of at all costs, but my friend encouraged me to try them. To my surprise, I ended up loving the raw salmon with cream cheese filling! The raw beef on the hand I didn’t enjoy as much (it was awful), but by trying them I learned of new foods that I like and dislike!
Why take lots of pictures?
- I always hated taking pictures on family vacations when I was younger and would try my hardest every time the camera came out to hide, but looking back I wish I wouldn’t have been like that. Pictures are a priceless way to capture memories and remember all of the sights that you have seen. Traveling can be hectic and having photos to look back at is always a nice way to relive your experiences. YOU CAN NEVER TAKE TOO MANY PICTURES!! It’s perfectly fine to take loads of pictures because you can always go back and delete them if you don’t want them, but you can’t delete pictures you never took. Plus, some of the best photos you take on trips are the goofy, silly pictures you didn’t plan on taking! (Like the picture above!)
How did I learn this?
- I’m either the annoying person who takes way too many pictures on a trip or I come home with a grand total of 5 photos. There has never been an in between for me and over the past couple of years I have been trying to change that. It’s disappointing looking back and realizing I can’t remember everything clearly from a trip mainly because I took so few pictures. I am now proudly the obnoxious traveler that takes photos of almost everything. I literally took over 3,000 pictures this past summer. No shame. I am also an avid selfie taker with the people I travel with. I have a whole album on my laptop that is dedicated to all the selfies I took over the summer when I was in Europe, ranging from selfies in the catacombs of Paris to face-swaps I did with sculptures at the British Museum. Although these pictures are goofy and downright silly, I cherish all of them with fondness because they remind me of all the funny memories I had with my travel companions. Plus, its always fun to snag some pretty embarrassing pictures of your friends along the way!
Why stop and smell the roses?
- Going on vacation is usually for rest and relaxation, but sometimes it can get rushed and hectic when you are trying to cram a lot of things into a little amount of time. Constantly being on the go can be beneficial if you are wanting to hit up all the top tourist spots and get the most out of your trip, however it can leave you a bit exhausted – mentally and physically. It’s always important to remember vacations are about getting away and enjoying yourself, not coming home more drained than you were before. Just keep in mind that it’s okay to “stop and smell the roses”, whether that be having a lazy day on the beach or taking a leisurely stroll down the street to a local café to people watch.
How did I learned this?
- Some of my favorite days from my travels have been the slow days, where I’ve been able to relax and recuperate my energy.
- When I was in the Bahamas on a cruise 2 years ago, I remember one of our sea days (when you don’t go into port) where I literally just sat on the top deck reading a book by the pool with my mom. It was so relaxing and a great way to let my feet rest after walking around Freeport the prior day. Sadly, I should’ve worn more sunscreen because I had an embarrassingly red sunburn in most of the pictures after that!
- Over the summer, in between flights and school projects, some of my fondest memories of London were the days that I just walked around with my friends. We stumbled upon many neat finds by just wandering about and enjoying the city. One day in particular I went to Kews Royal Botanic Gardens and explored with a couple friends. The skies were overcast, but the large gardens were still beautiful and diverse. It misted for a while and then rained for a bit, but that didn’t damper my mood because it made the gardens empty of visitors. I also got to literally smell the roses and it made me realize how sometimes special memories are made by walking in the rain and enjoying the views.
Why leave your comfort zone?
- It’s so easy to get set into daily routines where we don’t wander far from our comfort zone. Whether it be going out with a new group of people or moving to a new city, there are endless ways that you can leave your “bubble” and push yourself.It can be a little scary sometimes stepping outside of your normal routine, but usually the best experiences make you a bit uncomfortable and nervous at first! Plus, stepping outside your comfort zone can be fun and rewarding!
How did I learn this?
- I’ve learned to get out of my comfort zone ever since I have come to college. Actually, my favorite memories from my travels or just my life in general have been the ones that made me super nervous. The first time I was forced out of bubble of comfort was when I moved to college, which made me almost cry because I was so scared but now looking back, it was one of the best decisions of my life!
- Over the summer I got the opportunity to study abroad, which meant I had to travel solo to a foreign country and live with people I had never met before. I was a ball of nerves boarding the plane to England, but by the time I landed in Chicago 2 months later I was laughing at myself for being so nervous. I made friends quickly and had the summer of a lifetime even though the entire time I was not in my comfort zone.
- The picture above is from when I went cliff jumping in Spain and let’s just say I was so afraid. In all honesty, I am a chicken when it comes to heights and this experience literally made me jump outside of my comfort zone. It was the most thrilling experience throwing myself off the edge into the water and I am so happy I decided to do it. I now have fun stories to tell, including how I jumped into a little bunch of jellyfish that stung me!