One of the most important realities that I have learned while studying abroad in London the past month is that traveling to different places is an art that can take time to perfect. While traveling locally on public transportation or on foot can be a feat in and of itself, traveling to a different city or country takes careful consideration. Here are some basics that you need to keep in mind to make the latter experience enjoyable and productive.
- Travel with someone – Whether you’re traveling with a group of friends or just one other person, it is important to travel with someone and to trust that person. In addition to giving your family back home some peace of mind, traveling with someone makes the experience all the more exciting. All of those exceptional sights that you capture will be remembered with that much more fondness if you have someone by your side to remind you about the small details that you may have forgotten.
- Plan in advance – Don’t be the person who waits until the 11th hour to finalize your plans. You will hate yourself for it. Especially if you are going to be traveling via airplane, make sure that you buy your tickets as soon as possible to try and get the best deal (you can thank me later). Where you will stay will also be a factor in how early you make reservations because hostels in particular fill up quickly and you do not want to be pressed for time a couple of days before or worse yet, arrive there and discover that there is no available space for you and your friends. Along with being more cost effective to plan early, the actual things that you will do on your trip should also be planned in advance. When you get there, you will want to simply wake up and get going to try and beat the early birds who get in line before tourist spots open. Alternatively, you will want to avoid the mid-afternoon crowd that is trying to squeeze in before the sites close for the day.
- Be aware – Context matters more and more as we hear constant news stories about serious threats in major European cities. That being said, where you choose to stay while traveling can be crucial. I recently traveled to Paris for a long weekend and we chose to stay in a hostel outside of the city. Although it was inconvenient at times due to the seemingly unending metro rides, we ultimately felt safer, since France continues to be on high alert for terrorist threats.
- Pack lightly – Only pack what you know you will absolutely need, and then maybe one extra of each item in case something happens where you will need a change of clothes. In terms of shoes, depending on where you are going, you will only need one pair of comfortable shoes for walking and maybe one for if you choose to go out at night. Otherwise, limit what you bring to the absolute essentials so that you will not risk forgetting something valuable or having to carry a heavy load while walking through the airport.
- Make sure you have the essentials – I cannot stress that enough. Perhaps the most important items to ensure that you have when traveling are the proper adapter for your phone charger, and your shower shoes. Different countries have different electrical units, so you want to make sure that your adapter is as “universal” as possible. Likewise, especially if you are staying in a hostel, shower shoes are something that you do not want to find yourself forgetting. (Am I starting to sound like my mother yet?)
6. Inform your programs where you’ll be – People may view me as a mouthpiece for saying the following, but Fairfield and any other program that you may be studying under need to know where you will be staying when you travel, as well as how you are planning on getting there and when you plan on returning. In addition to knowing where you are in the event that a national crisis occurs, your program abroad can inform you if they know of any protests happening where you will be traveling. Prior to leaving for Paris, CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange), the program that I am studying through, sent everyone in the program an email about peaceful demonstrations against police violence being held at the Place de la République in Paris. Regardless of intentions, we have seen countless times that peaceful demonstrations can turn violent, so if you end up staying in the middle of a fray, your program will at least have an idea of where to contact you if they need to locate you.