Hello from the other side! You may have noted a drop in posts recently – and that’s because we’ve finally been doing some traveling. I can’t speak for my cohort, but for me it was definitely overdue.
Long story short, I just spent the last week in Copenhagen, Denmark and Berlin, Germany. Two amazing cities whose charms could not be missed, even as the temperatures plummeted and the snow and rain pummeled down on us.
It’s been four years since I last went abroad, and I’m pretty proud to say there was little I wanted for as my two friends and I toured around. However, there were a few key things I thought would be helpful to pass on, for any of you traveling in the near future.
- Mind your P’s and Q’s – You don’t necessarily need to be fluent in the language of the country you’re visiting, but a little can go a long way. Luckily my friend had learned some key phrases in German that were indispensable in helping us get around, such as: please, thank you, I don’t speak German, do you speak English, excuse me, etc. I always worry people will be insulted by my terrible pronunciations, but I think they appreciate the gesture of you trying.
- Be self sustaining – Like a Swiss Army knife, it’s better when you travel to be self sustaining. No matter where you travel, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and not assume you can always “just buy it there”. I happened to bring my mini-towel along just in case, and wouldn’t you know – the second hostel didn’t provide any. Don’t interpret this as needing to overpack; I made do with a carry-on hiking bag and small personal bag for a week. Rather, try to think ahead and be as prepared as possible.
- Research what you’d like to do ahead of time – Nothing is worse than showing up in a beautiful city and thinking, now what? Wandering and exploring is always an option, but I always find it a more rewarding experience if I know a little about
where I’m wandering, historical events that happened there, etc. If you’re afraid of having a strict schedule for your vacation, just write up a list of attractions you’d be interested in seeing. That way, if some free time appears, you’re not sitting around twiddling your thumbs.
- Don’t be afraid to split up – This is crucial if you’re traveling with a group. Of course, always take the necessary safety precautions (do you have a meeting place? Is everyone clear on the plan?), but don’t think you have to be together constantly. When you only have a week to see a new city, there can be differing opinions on what will be interesting and what’s ok to pass over. If you want to do one thing, and your travel buddies want another, see if there isn’t a way to compromise or split up for a bit.
- You’re ok without your phone – Blasphemy, I know, in 2016, but know that you can survive a week on just wifi alone. SIM cards can be expensive, while many restaurants, hostels, and hotels offer free wifi to patrons. It was refreshing to have to rely on a map to get around. And you know what? We rarely, if ever, got lost.
- 6. Dressing for the weather doesn’t have to be unfashionable – If you are like me and decide that visiting a cold destination in the dead of winter sounds fun, then this is especially true. Understandably we all want to look good on vacay: those photos will be up on Facebook forever. But that doesn’t mean passing over the snow boots for cute flats. Dressing comfortably for the weather doesn’t mean you have to look frumpy. What I noticed most while traveling was how functional and stylish everyone was walking around through the snow. It might sound crazy, but there’s a compromise to be found.
- Bring a selfie stick – You laugh, but there isn’t always someone to capture a photo of you in front of the German Parliament building. Sure, it’s pretty on its own, but your loved ones want photos of you, and a small and inexpensive selfie stick can mean the difference between pictures of empty snow, empty buildings, empty sites – and photos of you at 23 and the longest remaining piece of the Berlin Wall.
- Lastly, remember: this is YOUR vacation! If you travel with a buddy or a group, it’s easy to sometimes feel left out of the planning process. To this I say take charge! Grab the reins and make sure that you’re getting everything out of your trip that you want to. Nobody is responsible for your happiness except you.
Where will 2016 be taking you?
P.S. If you’re curious as to how I chose Copenhagen, this article will explain all. Beware, it’s addicting.