A Trip to Europe: Advice and Experience
Much like the little pigs, this blog post will be in 3 parts.
Chicago → D.C. → Dublin → Rome → Venice → Munich → Prague → Berlin → Paris → London → Brussels → Tilburg → Budapest → Amsterdam → Chicago
2 months away = 1 month traveling + 3 weeks study abroad at Tilburg University + 1 week traveling
Recommended Apps for Travel (Top 10… +)
Google Trips is the perfect way to organize a trip and find cool things to do, places to shop, and restaurants and bars to go to. For free. Get it for IPhone and Android.
Google Maps is the best way to figure out where to get to your destination. For free. Get it for IPhone and Android.
*Pro tip: Download a map of the places your going before you go, so you can still find places offline. Directions to do that can be found here.
People speak different languages in different countries. Google Translate helps you understand. For free. Get it for IPhone and Android.
*Pro tip: Download languages offline before you go. Instructions can be found here. Android only.
You don’t need to learn French before you go to France, but it is useful to have some common phrases at your disposal. Duolingo can help with that. It even has an offline mode so you can learn on the go. For free. Get it for IPhone and Android.
GoEuro provides an easy way to find cheap trains, planes, and buses throughout Europe. For free. Get it for IPhone and Android.
Hostelworld is the best place to find hostels throughout the world. Hostels are the best place to meet fellow travelers. For free. Get it for IPhone and Android.
*Pro tip: Book on the hostels website itself. Sometimes you get free extras and lower prices.
7. Unit Converter
What are 20 Czech Crowns to U.S. dollars? What does 2.5 kilometers away mean? I better get my jacket, I heard it was only going to be 30 degrees C out today. Get a unit converter. I guarantee you’ll need it. For free. Get it for IPhone and Android.
WhatsApp is great for you to keep in contact with friends and family back home. As long as you have a WI-FI signal, you can easily call, video chat, or text with anyone in the world. For free. Get it for IPhone and Android.
Rule 1: Don’t use Facebook while on vacation. Rule 2: Don’t use Facebook while on vacation. Rule 3: Ignore Rule 1 and 2 … sometimes. Facebook is a great way to stay connected with all the people you meet while travelling. Use it for that, but don’t be in Europe and focused on the drama back home. Be present. For free. Get it for IPhone and Android.
10. Kiwix for Wikipedia — Offline
You might need an SD card for this one. All of Wikipedia, at your fingertips, completely offline. Want to know more about the history of King’s Cross Station, but don’t have wifi? With Kiwix it isn’t a problem. Here is a guide to get started. For free. Get it for IPhone and Android.
Whether you’re on the plane or the train or the bus, at some point you’ll want something to do that doesn’t require WI-FI. Below are some great ways to stay entertained:
Netflix — Download movies and TV shows to watch later. Great for a long bus ride. Get it for IPhone and Android.
Podcast Addict — Listen to all your favorite podcasts offline for free. I especially recommend Planet Money and This American Life. Get it for Android.
Read a book — Read E-Books for free offline. Find classic books here and here. Get an E-Book reader for IPhone and Android.
Offline Games — Play games offline. I recommend Alto’s Adventure, the classic 2048, or play a Nintendo Gameboy Emulator.
Oh… and also a Notebook
While attending the amazing Kermis Festival in Tilburg, I unfortunately had my cell phone stolen. Luckily, I had a notebook for class where I could write notes, draft emails, set to-do items, or just doodle. I also learned that not having a cell phone isn’t the end of the world, and not staying connected can be the best way to get connected.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help — You are in an unfamiliar place with an unfamiliar language. It’s normal to be confused sometimes. Set aside your pride and ask. People have this odd tendency of helping each other. Take advantage of it.
- Don’t take the inter-city train — Instead of seeing the city, you’re seeing underground tunnels. Even if it is a couple miles, it’s worth walking, or even better, biking. You’ll take in so much more of the city that way.
- Eat at grocery stores — The best meal I had in Europe was Nutella on a baguette with a peach and a glass of €3 euro red wine sitting on the grass of the English Garden in Munich. Buying from the local grocery saves you money, and is more fun to buy and eat as well.
*Pro tip: Buy ingredients for a dinner (pasta works well) and make it in your hostel’s open kitchen. Offer to share it with anybody around or trade it for some of their food or a drink from the bar. It’s an easy way to meet people and have a delicious dinner at the same time.
- Be the one to say “hi” — I get it. You don’t want to bother someone who doesn’t want to talk. You might be right. But you probably aren’t. They may be thinking the same thing you are too. All it takes is a “Hi, my name is …So, where are you from?”
- Remember the Serenity Prayer —
“ God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”
In life, shit happens. In travels, shit happens. You can’t stop the shit, you can only decide how you deal with it. For example, on my trip I -
- had my flight canceled
- had the airline lose my luggage
- got my bed puked on
- got scammed by “charity workers”
- got the flu
- got in trouble with the police (nothing bad)
- lost my phone (stolen?)
- flight redirected to the wrong country (I always wanted to go to Slovakia)
- somehow managed to lose my toothbrush and deodorant in customs
- not allowed on my initial flight back home
… and yet it’s probably been the best 2 months of my life. So go. Have your adventure, and hopefully some of what I’ve shared will help.