This summer VCFS went abroad – Mel, one of the charity directors, and myself, one third of the marketing directors carpe diem’d and booked a trip to Europe with some of our best galpals. We roamed around from Barcelona to Valencia, Madrid to Paris, making new memories and new friends along the way. I’ve been lucky enough to travel before but this experience of backpacking, hostel-going and Euro-ing with friends was a new one. Here are some of my hard-earned lessons from my time abroad.
1.) Pack earplugs and an eye mask. Trust. They will save your life when you are put into an 8-person hostel room in Barcelona with Australian boys who love to party until the late a.m. They are also the only way you will catch some z’s on your flight across the pond.
2.) Bring a disposable camera. There is something special and nostalgic about taking photos and not knowing how they will turn out.
3.) To add to point number two – take lots of photos but be sure to soak in your experience in real time as well, not through a lens. Take in every moment in the fullest way possible – watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle as the clock strikes ten but also taste the brie on your baguette, listen to the accordion player busking and see the couples holding hands as they watch as well. Pay attention to the little things.
4.) Have an open mind and do as the Romans do. This might mean trying out a nude beach, or eating beef tartar and l’escargots (check and check!). I once read a quote by Mark Twain after ho-humming on whether I would try barbequed eel in Japan. It has stuck with me ever since: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Ensure that this quote proves to be true or else you are not truly opening your mind to a new place and new people.
5.) Eat like a king (or as close as you can, anyways). There is nothing that will help you realize “I’m in freakin’ Spain!” quite like sitting down to a meal at 10 p.m. and eating tapa after tapa while enjoying a glass (or pitcher) of ice-cold sangria. It might just be because I am Italian and a hardcore foodie but I believe wholeheartedly that food is an essential part of the travel experience. Some of your best memories will be made sitting around a table talking with your friends into the night and eating until you are sleepy. I guarantee you this.
6.) Put on (and reapply) sunscreen. Your mom will be proud and your skin will thank you.
7.) Find the best view in every city. This one is a fun bucket list item and will lead to some interesting exploration around the city. It also means a great photo backdrop when you find it!
8.) Save on souvenirs, spend on experiences. If you have a limited budget to last you for your trip, make sure that you aren’t spending your short supply of cash on things that you can get at home. In my experience, you should always choose to spend on experiences. Also – if you are in a city with a UNESCO World Heritage site – go see it. Every single one that I’ve been lucky enough to visit has been absolutely incredible.
Travelling is one of the greatest luxuries that money can afford. It grants you insights into new cultures, provides opportunity to explore new cuisines and perhaps the greatest gift of all is its ability to stretch your limits and even your time. If you are lucky enough to travel, I hope that you soak up the experiences, the culture and the people and learn a few of your own lessons along the way.
-All the Vogue love, Maddie