I’ve been home from Greece for 2 weeks today & I can honestly say that I’m still stuck somewhere in between home and Europe. Spending three weeks so far away from home (for the VERY FIRST TIME) was not only an amazing experience; it was eye opening. I learned a lot of things about traveling abroad that I can’t wait to use next time I travel to a far away land. I thought I might share some of my lessons in case you were planning on vacationing soon too! So here we go, the top 5 things I learned while in Europe.
1) Do not travel with a suitcase!
This is by far the most important lesson. While packing my 50 pound suitcase I had a little debate with myself: do I want more clothes or more hassle? At the time, I decided I wanted more clothes.
DO NOT BRING MORE CLOTHES.
If you can, invest in a really good backpack (made for travel of course). Out of the four of us, two of us had suitcases and the other two had backpacks. The backpacks won in every situation. When you’re island hopping or taking a lot of buses/planes etc from one place to the next, you do not want to be stuck lugging around a ton of weight. I got caught in MORE than one situation where I would have preferred to throw my bag overboard than to carry it up one more flight of stairs.
Also, I didn’t even wear everything I brought. I’ve learned this lesson a few times, but after Greece I’m never ever ever making that mistake again. I often re-wore the same things, especially for the beach.
My recommendation for backpacks is Osprey. They not only have a lifetime warranty on their packs, but you can buy ones that unzip just like a suitcase so you’re not stuck taking everything out to get something you packed at the bottom. I will 100% be investing in one of these next summer, where ever I end up going.
2) Pack a small first aid kit.
Complete with motion sickness medication, pepto bismol, allergy medicine, decongestants & bandaids. Carry these things when you go out.
These are all items that we used REGULARLY. Luckily, between the four of us, we managed to have enough to share, but if you plan on traveling alone to a foreign country do NOT assume that you’ll adjust to the food and smells immediately. I’m a pretty flexible person and even I had my share of days where I wished I had brought something with me that I didn’t. More often than not it was something I had been thinking of packing and ended up putting back because I assumed I’d be okay. I wasn’t.
3) Learn some important words from the native language & carry a phrase book with you.
Luckily my friend Kate brought hers- I forgot mine on my bookshelf at home! Also one of my friends is Greek which helped us a LOT, but had I been alone I would have been completely lost. Some places that we visited did not speak a WORD of English. Also, I noticed that if you make the effort to learn words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in their language, people are much more accommodating to you. It’s also lots of fun to try and learn a new language while you’re there, we definitely had a really good time learning ridiculous words for a good laugh!
4) Bring a really good pair of walking shoes, a pair of beach shoes, and a pair of nice dressier shoes. That’s it.
I mean yeah, you could pack like 5 different pairs of shoes for any possible season, but there just isn’t any point. I lived in my converse, my flip flops & my black flats. I sometimes wished that I had a favorite pair of sandals for a go-out night, but looking back I’m so happy I didn’t pack the extra weight. Just bring shoes that match anything you wear (everything I brought was black or brown). Plus, girls, if you want to buy a cute pair of shoes in a different country you’ll be able to afford the space! That’s exactly what I did, anyway, and I got to wear those in my last week.
5) If you’re traveling to a warm country, do not underestimate the amount of sunscreen you’re going to need. If you’re traveling to a cooler country, make sure you pack enough of the right clothing.
I’m really happy someone told me this BEFORE I left, because originally I was going to Greece with only one bottle of sunscreen lotion. Then, I was told that a bottle of sunscreen in most parts of Greece was close to 20 EUROS. That is insanity (Think, 30-35 dollars)!!! I picked up an extra tube for my face and an extra bottle with a higher UV index just in case. I didn’t finish any of my bottles but I did get really close, and I did use all of them. I was so happy to have the choices because the prices were a LOT higher than what I would have liked to pay.
What I didn’t realize is that the evenings in Greece get VERY cool. Out of habit I brought a zip-up hoodie and some jeans with me, but there are still some nights that I was shivering like crazy. Moral of the story: do your research so you know what to expect and pack enough of the RIGHT clothes and not too much of the wrong ones.
Those are the first five things that I could think of, but I know there are a lot more important things worth knowing. So tell me, what lessons have you learned while traveling abroad that are worth sharing? I’d love to know for the future!