Thaddeus is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2017, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A BFA major at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, he is studying abroad in London this semester.
In this week's post, Thaddeus lists 5 tips he's learned from traveling outside London.
Yes, yes, yes! This is a post you may have seen coming, but I still wanted to give my two cents as someone who has never traveled abroad before...at all!
1. Plan Train Travel Ahead
If you are at all fascinated by train travel (guiltily, I am), traveling by train can be one of the fastest ways to travel Europe and Greater England. Something I wish I knew about, and quickly learned how to do, is plan all train travel at least three weeks in advance! The closer to the date you book tickets for train travel, the higher the price will be.
When you plan ahead with train travel, you can find some steals for ticket prices! While spontaneous travel may be fun, it may not be so much fun for your bank account!
2. Research Local Meal Customs
If you are traveling to a country where there is a different cultural time schedule such as Italy and Spain, be sure to look up when meals typically begin - and what is typically eaten. This can help you plan out your time to find the food you may want to look out for on your day.
For instance, in Spain, most breakfast and lunch restaurants are open and operating from 10 am to 3 pm, and then reopen at 6 pm or later for dinner. Knowing this custom allowed me to plan out things I wanted to do in the city during the cultural downtime.
Also be sure to look up the tipping rules for the countries you visit as well. Some cultures like those in the Netherlands roll the service fee into the pricing of the meal. In Barcelona, however, it all depends on the restaurant you visit.
3. Get Familiar with the Area
After finding my flight and accommodations for the place I am visiting, I am sure to study the map of the city or area and be familiar with the names of roads or landmarks. When arriving, I feel a little less alien to the area, although physically being there may curve your understanding of it a bit.
I think being topographically familiar is very helpful for me especially walking to the city. Most cities won't seem so daunting and overwhelming when you do this!
4. Learn the Conversational Language
This is a big one. I found that learning greetings and simple phrases, even apologetic ones that would translate to "I'm sorry I don't speak this language" can open up doors for conversation or experiences with whomever you interact with. I have been surprised to learn how universal the English language has been within many European cultures. Many people speak it. However, if you show that you are attempting to respect the ear of whoever you are interacting with by approaching with their language, I feel it shows that you, a guest in their country, are respectful of the culture you are visiting!
5. Don't Close Yourself Off - Be Open!
Now, of course, you have to watch out for your general safety when you meet new people anywhere, and when you travel abroad I think you need to double that awareness.
However, if you do end up starting a conversation with someone new at a hostel or out and about within the city, be generous in your interest with people! I have definitely met more travelers and students abroad this way and have created a few small friendships with people I never expected. This is a great way to get a new view of the city especially if that person is a local!
I got to make some very good local friends in Barcelona, and was able to get to know them as we walked throughout the city. It was an eye-opening experience to get to trade ideas and understandings of each other's cultures and ways of living.
So don't always assume the worst and take a chance to start a conversation. It can be very rewarding!
Thaddeus's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.