1. Pack light.
I’m notorious for being that one person who packs ten outfits for a four day trip (hey, I need options!) and ends up dragging her massive suitcase across cobblestone streets or bridges or stairs, often tripping on herself and bumping into innocent bystanders. While I love feeling like I have more than everything I could possibly need with me, I regretted not investing in one of those big hiking/camping/travel backpacks. It’s so much easier to have your hands free and have everything compartmentalized in one safe place. Also, the people on EasyJet only let you take exactly ONE bag. No handbag plus carry-on. Just. One. Bag.
2. Plan ahead
Get to know your city beforehand so you know what you want to do there, instead of wasting time figuring stuff out when you arrive.
3. Travel with Art History majors
Especially when you’re going to cities that are rich in art (i.e. EVERY European country) - it’s great to feel like you’re learning something and getting a deeper connection to the culture you’re experiencing.
4. Finish your meals
I don’t care how big it is or how full you are. My friends, there are few things that bring greater discomfort than when an Italian waiter looks at the sad remains of the very delicious pizza you did not finish and asks, with very sad eyes, “What happened?” Unless, you know, it’s genuinely terrible. Which brings me to...
5. There is such thing as bad food
And it will always be served at the tourist traps. Avoid. Avoid. AVOID! It’s a sick feeling to be screwed over by one of those. Ugh.
6. Be assertive and be flexible.
When you’re traveling with a group, you shouldn’t feel like you have to do things you don’t necessarily want to do. It’s better to express yourself rather than be angry and ruin the experience for everyone, including yourself. At the same time, don’t be an asshole about it. You should also be considerate and make some sacrifices or compromises for other people.
7. Spend some time alone
A couple of times on our trip, I decided to wander off on my own and just stare at the sunset or walk through alleyways or find the local scene. Quite often when I’m with a group of people for many days at a time in a completely foreign environment, I sort of lose my sense of self. So I find it really refreshing to just be quietly on my own.
8. Seek the obscure
If a restaurant has an English translation of its menu, you know it’s going to be touristy. But if it’s buzzing with locals, you know you’re in the right place.
9. Befriend strangers
Especially the ones who are living at your hostel - you’ll meet all kinds of people from all walks of life who will definitely have that common love for travel and some very interesting stories to tell.
10. Eat your heart out
Try things you won’t find anywhere else, like Pumpkin Ravioli with some sort of cheese sauce, or real and fresh Italian gelato. Holy Fuck.
11. Put the camera away
Take it in! Some things just can’t be captured or shared with anyone else. Focus on where you are, and don’t think about what you’re going to show other people or what they are going to think. This is your moment to experience.
12. Keep a journal
You learn a lot about yourself and others while traveling, especially when it’s with people other than your family members. It’s great to write about your experiences so you can document it all. Also, it’s great to write down all of the things you saw/did/ate.
13. Spend more than 24 hours in every city you visit
Submerge yourself as much as you can.
14. Have goals, but no expectations
Remember that not everything is going to go to plan, so don’t feel disappointed if you can’t do or see everything you wanted to. Plus, it’ll only give you a reason to come back!
15. Savor the sights
Stare at the beautiful sights until you get that warm feeling in your chest when you suddenly realize that OMG you are staring at the butt of Michelangelo’s David and it is SO LARGE and MAGNIFICENT.