Danya Carithers is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A marketing major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
In this week's post, Danya talks about travel in Europe and shares a few tips she's picked up so far on her adventures.
On our first day of class, our professor asked each of us why we chose to study abroad in Florence. We snaked around the room and it was almost humorous how repetitive we were. Our answers varied between interests in Italian food, architecture and history, or having family connections. Despite those small differences, every single one of us agreed on one thing: we chose to study in Florence because it's central location means easy accessibility to traveling throughout Europe.
Before arriving here, I was expecting to travel for spring break and maybe a weekend or two if I had the time and money. But, I completely underestimated the amount of travel involved with studying abroad. Most people in my program are traveling every single weekend to another country or part of Italy. I am not saying this is a bad idea whatsoever; I think it's smart to take advantage of the fact that we are in Europe and have opportunities to see countries without paying hundreds of dollars for long-haul flights from the US.
Traveling while abroad has many obvious perks, but it can become unfavorable quickly if you aren't smart about it. From my first six weeks here, I've learned a few things about traveling throughout Europe:
To find cheap plane tickets:
The first thing to understand is that you need to buy plane tickets in advance. Yes, that means you need to plan out your weekends making sure you aren't flying back at 1am when you have a presentation the next day. I've found (unfortunately) that buying a ticket three weeks in advance can end up saving you half the amount of the price you would pay if buying a ticket the week before.
Lastly, I would recommend using Google flights or Skyscanner.com to help you compare find the optimal option based on price, time, and more.
To plan your trip:
What I've experienced is that you need to be adaptable when planning a trip. Researching destinations online can only give you a certain amount information that won't actually give a realistic idea of where you're going. While you should still find restaurants, museums, landmarks, and so-on that you want to go to, it's really important to keep an open mind. I'm the type of person that needs to plan everything in advance and have control over situations, but traveling has made me realize that sometimes it's just better to go with the flow (sorry for the cringe-y phrase) once you arrive.
Right now, I'm in Palma de Mallorca for spring break and I've had to completely let go of the pre-conceived ideas I've pictured in my head. On arriving, I quickly realized that many famous destinations are many miles apart and that most people drive throughout the island as opposed to walk. The stores and restaurants that are walking distance away from my hostel are mostly closed and only open in the summer, something that Google never told me. But after talking to an local employee at my hostel, I was able to find a cheap bus ride to the city center.
Once I got to the city center, I was able to walk aimlessly around the historical center with Spanish castles and cathedrals dating back to the 1400s. This weekend was Carnival, a holiday celebrated throughout Europe that involves dressing up and partying. So, after getting off the bus I ran into a huge food market with Spanish pastries, meats and drinks served at each tent with live music. Then, I ended my day back near my hostel on the beach to watch the sunset. I'm getting really sidetracked reminiscing about my first day in Mallorca, but my point is that even if things don't appear to work out when you first arrive at your destination, adapt to the situation and use it as an excuse to relax and explore without the worry of seeing everything you planned.
I have many more trips planned before I go home to the States and I am excited to experience many more mishaps turned into something that was better than I was expecting. I hope my tips were helpful if you are planning to travel anytime soon!
Danya's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned!