After spending my week days in Florence, I have decided to take advantage of my time in Europe by travelling to other places on some of my weekends. The great thing about my program is that although the school days are long and intense, the weekends run Friday through Monday. So every weekend is a 4-day weekend! So far, I’ve taken weekend trips to Switzerland, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast. After many hours spent on trains, boats, and buses, here are a few things I’ve learned.
1. Drink water. Lots of water.
EVEN if you don’t feel thirsty. I know from personal experience that getting dehydrated while travelling from place to place is not fun or healthy. Many cities, especially in Italy, have public fountains, so you don’t always have to purchase water. Always carry a bottle and drink up!
2. Book trips through a student travel company.
If you’re not an experienced traveler (me), planning trips can seem stressful and overwhelming. Many students who study abroad book trips through these companies that offer a flat fee which often covers transportation, overnight accommodations, a planned itinerary, and some or most activities. You travel with a group of fellow students and the group leaders are super friendly and knowledgeable about wherever you’re going.
3. Consider new places.
My second week in Florence, I got the chance to go to Thun, Switzerland for the weekend. I had never really given much thought to Switzerland and I definitely had never heard of Thun (I thought it was pronounced like “thuhn”. It turns out it’s pronounced like “tune.” Asking for a train ticket was a challenge). It ended up being one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my entire life and I’m so happy I got to experience it.
4. Bring your own towel
If you’re staying in a hostel or even some hotels, they might not have a towel. So bring a thin, cheap one just in case.
5. Remember to call your bank before you leave
If you’re leaving the country, your bank will freeze your account if they see activity in a foreign country. But as long as you let them know that you’re going there, you should be fine.
6. Take as many pictures as possible.
Even if you’re tired of taking pictures, you will want to remember everything later. But don’t forget to take in everything and experience it through your own eyes, and not just a camera lens.
7. Pick up unique “souvenirs”
Everyone buys the typical tourist souvenirs, and there is nothing wrong with that! But you might find a local shop that sells handmade dresses or jewelry and gifts like these have a more authentic, special feel to them. Or just literally take a piece of that place with you-I visited Cinque Terre and collected some rocks from the beach.
8. Eat before you leave.
Eat a good meal before getting on long train or bus rides. It will help you cope with the long journey so much better. Don’t go to McDonald’s before getting on a train like I did-it may have been a fast meal but it made me feel sick pretty fast as well. It’s tough, but try to eat something a little healthier.