When you’re stuck in quarantine you have nothing but time on your hands to reflect on things. It could be your life’s choices, career path you’ve taken, or rather should’ve taken. That girl you friends warned you about dating, the questionable pizza you thought better against but still ate it anyways if you’re initials are M.J. My point is that you got all the time in the world right now.
I simply chose to remember all the good, and sometimes bad, moments of my past adventures while traveling. Tips I picked up along the way, memories made with friends new and old, and the best falafel I ever had while drunk on a sidewalk in Budapest after a bar crawl. Why not bring back the old feels, relive some moments, and remember others while we are stuck in quarantine?!
Enjoy some of my Throwback Travels from adventures past while looking forward to new ones when this is all over. First up: things I learned during my first time in Europe.
Every part of Europe I encountered drinks only bottled water in the restaurants. If you ask for tap they will look at you like you’re Cerberus. Bottled or nothing is the motto here. By the way their bottled water stinks. You’ve been warned.
Pay to Pee
Want to use public restrooms? Prepare to shell out 0.50€ for each pee, poop and wipe. Fortunately the facilities are all kept neat and tidy unlike the US counterparts, so it’s not too much of a nuisance. I still have yet to see anyone complete a full shower in one though.
Foodservice is slow, really, really slow. If you’re in a rush then go to the corner store instead because they’ll have none of that rush here. Which in any case reflects a lot on their culture: Europeans simply don’t rush. Their laid back lifestyle is a stark contrast to the west. From professional life to waitstaff everything is at paint drying on walls type of pace. It reinforces you to enjoy things in life, big or small.
Popping One in Public
You can openly drink in the streets and no one really looks at you funny. Granted you should not be blatantly drunk while in public or that could spell disaster. The relaxed laws and social acceptance of public consumption definitely was eye-openers on my first visit. Everyone seems a bit more responsible about their consumption both in private and public. I really believe the cultural outlook in place has a lot to do with it.
Stereotyping, Not So Typical
Not everyone in Amsterdam smokes weed, hash, reefer or a combo of whatever you can think of, but a lot do. You can basically smoke it anywhere permitted, maybe not dine in places though. But that doesn’t just account for Amsterdam or stereotypes of Europe, there are actually more to them than meets the eye. You are winning if you caught that 80s/90s pun.
I was thrilled to find out what we westerners thought of Europeans weren’t just something depicted out of Hollywood. Switzerland eats more than just cheese fondue, outside of Paris is actually insanely beautiful, there’s more to Rome than the Colosseum and aquaducts, and Budapest isn’t just all-natural hot spring bathhouses.
These Shoes Were Made for Walking
Get a good pair of shoes if you plan to walk around like I did. Not only is it a good form of exercise, last words you want to hear on vacation, but you get to see so much of a city by walking it. Of course you could also bike, and the public transit system are bar none leaps and bounds better than what we have. Bus, train, boat, trams, we took em all when we wanted to rest the little piggies.
Having a battery pack with you is clutch when you’re out and about all day exploring. No need to look for power plugs at a corner cafe and bring bulky adapters on your person, just bring a bulky power pack! Do remember that Euro power outlets are different from US ones, but I will leave that conversion up to you.
City Cards are the Rage
City cards were something I discovered before going to Europe my first time and have been a great addition ever since. You pay a flat rate for a card and gain entrance to a plethora of galleries, museums, functions, hell even the transit lines. There’s often discounts to many shops and eateries as well. I always found the card paid for itself after the first few uses and they make a great memento if you’re into scrap booking.
Most of my encounters with natives were dealt in English as they like to converse on a tongue you’re more comfortable with. But do try to learn little phrases though as this shows them you’re actually more interested in their culture than just ordering a schnitzel in German. Basics like hellos, thank yous, two colas please can go a long way. Trust me I have been scoffed at in other countries when speaking only in English, so learn!
We Smile … Too Much?
One thing I have been told by locals and expats is that westerners smiles way too much in Europe. Want to know who is from America? Check out the goon smiling his ear off everywhere. It’s not to say that Europeans are sad creatures, it’s just saying westerner’s ways to cope with being in a new environment is to grin, nervously. Also, if you smile a lot it gives off that you aren’t from around the area, and that makes you prime pickings for thieves. I rarely smile now, only on the inside.
Looking back on that fisrt trip to Europe, and for most of us out of the country without our parents, only garner fond memories. From getting delayed leaving Logan, stopping by Iceland before it was cool to go. Visiting Rembrandt’s home, what remains of the Berlin wall, eating haxen and pickled herring until my stomach burst at the seams. That trip is still brought up in close circles even to this day, with only hopes to replicating what we felt those few short weeks away.
I believe it is good to look back on trips, not to relish in the past, but to remember the good times in these uncertain ones. We will travel again, for leisure, fun, to meet old friends, to keep our souls young and our life rich in experiences. This is but a hiccup in the grand scheme of things. If I were being honest I am already planning that next sabbatical! Until next time.