Advice for the Prospective Traveler

October 11, 2017

in Academic Year 2017-2018, Europe, Fall 2017, Madison Clarke, Spain

  1. Bring good great shoes
  2. Learn how to use public transportation
  3. Try not to get your stuff stolen

Good shoes, my friends. Good shoes. Bring them. Not those cute white ones that you were hoping to keep beautifully clean, not the new heeled shoes that might be in fashion, but good quality walking shoes that you can wear socks with. You’ll thank me later. The health app on my phone tracked me walking more than 30 miles in two days in Barcelona and I have blisters to show for it.

Second: public transportation. I didn’t understand anything about public transportation before I got here, so if you do you’re already miles ahead of where I started. Public transportation opens a ton of doors, particularly in Europe. It is cheap, fast, and pretty consistent. Because Abbie and I didn’t have bus passes in Barcelona, we bought individual trips for long distances that cost less than three euro. This, combined with a good attitude about walking helped us see more of Barcelona than we ever thought possible in 48 hours.

Third: theft. Theft is something every mom, travel advice book, and study abroad program leader talks about. Here’s what they don’t say: theft has a lot to do with luck. Wherever you are, you have a small chance of running into an extremely crafty pick-pocket that may be able to outsmart your best attempts at hiding your wallet. Even so, there are some precautions you can take.

My best advice is to be consistent. Often, tourists arrive with their hands clenched around their belongings so tightly that the blood drains from their fingers. When they board the metro, their eyes dart around nervously, sizing up each rider as a possible pick-pocket. This is a great way to get a massive hand cramp and forget to enjoy the city.

Once visitors feel a bit more comfortable, they become too relaxed– maybe leaving a bag on a table to go to the bathroom or to the side of a restaurant table. This happens to the best of us. My travel companion to Barcelona just got her backpack stolen from a Cien Monteditos last week.

I’m not an expert, but I think the secret is to find a happy medium. Figure out what you need to do to keep your stuff safe, then don’t worry about it. When I go to a restaurant with a larger bag, I put my foot through the handle. When I travel in crowded places with a backpack, I put a hand behind me to block the top zipper where I keep my phone and wallet. When I travel through Sol (Madrid’s city center), I rock the front-facing backpack soccer mom style. Some of these things take a bit of extra effort (and the front-facing backpack isn’t glamorous), but the piece of mind is worth my trouble.

If you don’t have to worry about your feet, wallet, or mode of transportation, your travel experience will be awesome. Eat lots of food, take lots of pictures, and keep your eyes wide open.

That’s it for now.

Adios,

M


Gaudí’s Casa Battló

Sagrada Familia

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