Oh the places you’ll go…

If you are an avid traveler, you too probably have your fair share of airport pics. I think I must have over 100 photos at the Omaha airport. Travel is very important to me, it always has been. I’ve been traveling since I was a little girl and my parents were divorced and I went to visit my Dad all the time, between Texas, Louisiana, Nebraska and California. As I got older my travel itch never subsided… I did a summer school program at Georgetown, studied abroad during college in Bilbao & Barcelona, and now have lived in Barcelona since 2013. I’ve been to 14 countries so far and feel at home on airplanes. I love the essence of being in motion, seeing a new place, and expanding your horizons.

So whether you are preparing to study abroad, take a backpacking excursion, move abroad or just enjoy a vacation, I have accumulated a random sampling of helpful hints derived from personal experience…

Pack light, but more importantly pack smart. Skimp on what you can, especially items that you most likely won’t wear often (depending on the type of trip: heels, really nice dresses, hard to match pieces, etc.). If you know you’ll be spending time on a beach, definitely pack a beach towel (or be prepared to buy one at your destination). Though a bulkier item, a beach towel can prove to be quite a multipurpose item doubling as a bath towel or a blanket when necessary. Or be even smarter and get a quick drying, travel towel to take with you!

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Summer 2013 Southern Europe backpacking crew

As far as clothing and footwear are concerned, only pack things that you love to wear. There are few worse feelings than the eventual regret of having packed clothing articles that you actually don’t frequently wear, rather you just had thought to yourself: “well I might want to wear this there someday…” If you don’t like wearing it at home, you probably won’t wear it in wherever you’re traveling to either. If you know you’re going to be visiting a Cathedral, bring a jacket and wear long-enough shorts/skirt/dress, etc., otherwise you will not be allowed inside! Or you’ll have to sport improv outfits such as…

Once you get to where you’re going, take time to actually get a feel for the place in which you’ve found yourself. By this I simply mean, attempt to see the place from a local’s perspective. Take the metro, or whatever other kind of public transportation system that exists there. If you get lost, try to enjoy the thrilling ambiguity of an unfamiliar area instead of automatically freaking out.

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Feels like stating the obvious here, but be smart about your phone, money, purse, wallet, etc. In general, you do not need to wear those tourist pouches under your clothes to store your money and passport – no one does that, and if you do, you’ll probably stand out more than you would by wearing a normal purse when you have to lift your shirt to grab your cash… common sense. That being said, be alert in crowed places, keep zippers closed; ladies keep your purse in front of you, nothing important stored in outer pockets, and keep your eyes open. iPhones are a lot more expensive for consumers outside of the U.S. so they are a real hot commodity – aka don’t expect to find it in the Lost & Found Office should you lose your phone or have it stolen.

Other more general tips are just to try new things and don’t be shy! If you’re in another country where English is not the main language, don’t feel embarrassed to give the native tongue your best effort! Politely ask for directions when lost. Ask for recommendations at restaurants. Try to make friends with locals… you’ll feel less like you’re on vacation and more like you belong there. Most importantly, keep an open mind and embrace new experiences and the unexpected – that’s where the most fun usually happens! Oh and needless to say, be respectful. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you should act like a buffoon.

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