When I first moved to Europe, having only made three trips here previously, I was full of wonder and excitement. I was READY TO TRAVEL. And why not? It’s okay. I’d even say it’s expected. I’ve always considered myself to be adventurous. But, I was also a wee bit naive (like my Why aren’t those eggs in refrigerators? moment). And that’s okay too. There was, and still is, so much to learn, discover and explore.
Since our move seven months ago, I have racked up visits to 10 countries. Not too shabby. That is absolutely, without a doubt, hands down (or up, waving wildly) the biggest perk about being an American living in Europe. The possibilities for travel are endless. After planning that many trips in a short amount of time, I’ve learned some stuff. Here are my top three revelations:
- Living “like a local” is unique and cheap. We realized early on that we want to have a local experience while also looking for deals. Whether it’s
risking our life in a tin cantaking advantage of the discount airlines, finding a reliable hotel bargain, or shopping for meals rather than eating out, there are plenty of ways to save cash. Saving cash = more money for more trips. For housing, we started using rental sites like Housetrip and Airbnb to book our accommodations and finding that we very much prefer it to hotels. It’s never quite the Four Seasons, but that’s not a priority for us. We want to be OUT of the room as much as possible. If that’s your jam, go you. For us, staying in a home, we can make our own coffee and meals to save a bit of cash (bonus: you get to poke around local grocery stores which I love). Every property has pictures, so you know exactly what you are getting. And, I don’t know, there’s something nice about coming back to a home rather than a hotel room. So you can have this for dinner without a shred of guilt:For meals, same thing. While it’s always lovely to dine in Michelin-star restaurants, why not try the street food from the cart in the square? We have had some of our most memorable meals that way. In a good way! It also scores you points with the locals when they see you are willing to give them a chance. So go ahead, try the snails! (Whether you survive or not is your problem.)
- Try off season travel. I stress try. This has good and bad qualities. When it comes to traveling during the winter, it’s just not my fave. I don’t prefer to sight-see when everything is dead.Because you know what I always say? Ooh, I need to come back when the weather is nicer. I don’t like being completely bundled a la Randy from A Christmas Story when walking around a new city. Does this mean I won’t travel when the weather is less than perfect? Of course not. A cold trip is still better than no trip. Depending on where you go, this could work to your advantage. Sometimes this means that hotels and airlines have reduced rates, or maybe you get attention from local restaurant and shops owners and end up getting some great personal advice about what to do and see (it’s happened to me and was great). Then again, hotels might be closed up altogether or restaurants are annoyed to have to wait on you, the only patron in the restaurant, when there is a soccer match on tv (it’s happened to me and was depressing). You might as well try.
- Be open to unexpected destinations. While it’s natural gravitate toward famous cities (such as Barcelona & Paris) or famous natural wonders (like the Cliffs of Moher or the Sahara Desert), I’m convinced that every place on earth has its charm and deserves a chance. This is what is so great about being an expat, everything is new and exciting. Even little towns around the Netherlands like Haarlem, Delft or Zandvoort are lovely. It’s important to be open to places you may never have paid attention to before expat life. Like in my case, Moscow. Moscow wasn’t high on my list of places to visit. But since Jaro had some meetings there, I jumped on the free hotel room and spent my days wandering around. Why not? There is beauty everywhere and living over here affords you so many opportunities to see it. And sometimes it’s in places where you least expect it. Like Moscow’s metro stations:
So, what do you think? Are there other expats out there that share this joy in discovering a new place and general love of travel? I feel like I could write a book about my ramblings on this subject (maybe I should!) or at least continue to expand upon it in future posts. To be continued…