A clear advantage of living abroad, especially in Europe, is the close proximity and ease of travel to a wide range of countries. However, between class schedules, exploring your home city, and coordinating logistics with those traveling with you, trips can seem a bit rushed—after all, you can only fit so much into one weekend. Between avid planning, sifting through which sights and museums are most desirable, and rushing around once at your destination, it has surprised me how the few moments of free time or the spontaneous, on the spot decisions actually lead to some of the greatest memories. While planning ahead for these short stays is not only a smart move but also a valuable time saver (think skipping a multi-hour line to the Vatican Museum by purchasing a ticket online), simply walking around an unexplored neighborhood without a plan or spending an extra hour in your favorite location can create an indescribable memory that is made even more special because you didn’t know what to expect. Here are some of my most spontaneously great moments thus far and how they shaped up to be some of the most memorable and meaningful of abroad.

Budapest — I mentioned this in my previous post, but buying chocolate covered strawberries and eating them overlooking the Chain Bridge was the absolute best way to spend one morning.  I spent a few hours wandering the streets of Budapest before deciding to take a break and appreciate the Danube and its beautiful view I had only looked at for five minutes the day prior.

Paris — Without any planning whatsoever, my parents and I stumbled onto Place de Concorde just as the sun was beginning to set. We decided to jump into the Grande Roue (the large ferris wheel) and hit the top just in time to witness one of the most picturesque sunsets overlooking the Seine River and Eiffel Tower. The pictures absolutely cannot do it justice, but it was a moment I will never forget. I could not believe our luck in experiencing one of the most beautiful views I had ever witnessed.

Rome — One of my favorite moments involved spontaneously stepping into a gelato shop called Don Nino and eating it in front of the Trevi before wandering through the streets of Rome. All of our other gelato stops were meticulously planned (we wanted only the absolute best of Italy!), but I truly felt as if I was in a movie as stared at one of Rome’s most iconic landmarks eating one of the best desserts out there. And yes, Italy really does have the best gelato.

Copenhagen — I decided to head to a coffee shop to do some studying one afternoon. I had stared at my laptop for so long that I hadn’t noticed it had turned from complete daylight to a full-on sunset––and this was one of the most gorgeous I had ever seen in Copenhagen. I went out to the patio to snap a picture before realizing what an amazing view the coffee shop had of the city, something I had never noticed in my schoolwork-focused mindset.

Christiania — In a small neighborhood within Copenhagen lies Christiania, a hippie village complete with its own stores, lake, and even laws. It’s a very unique area with a lot of character, so my friends and I decided to spend one Saturday exploring it. We ordered food to eat by the lake and as we approached the water, a group of the swans appeared out of no where. I’m not sure if I’m in the minority with this one, but I’ve never actually seen a swan in the wild. It seems simple, but witnessing this on a random Saturday was pretty neat and unexpected.