Outside of my program in Paris, I have had the opportunity to travel on my own time with a few friends. Traveling without my program peers and program director makes for a much different experience. When the program travels as a group (19 students total), we have a schedule to follow that instructs where we need to be and what time we need to be there. When traveling on my own, if I wish for an itinerary, I need to create one; there is nobody to tell me when and where to go. It is definitely not easy at first, but I have gained independence and learned a lot from traveling.
My first experience traveling aside of my program was in February; three of my friends and I adventured to Geneva, Switzerland. Adventure is the best word to describe our trip. We had no idea what was in store for us, just four college girls wanting to travel Europe who spontaneously bought plane tickets to Geneva. Little did we know, Geneva is one of the most expensive places in the world. After finally finding our hotel–which included figuring out the bus system and a lot of walking–we were informed that we would need to purchase another hotel room because only two people are allowed in one room: $240…a night. That was our first indicator that Geneva was NOT a cheap place to visit. We ended up buying most of our meals for the weekend at the local grocery store with reasonable prices. Although we encountered some dilemmas that we had to find solutions to, this trip gave me some of the best memories which include climbing a mountain to see a breathtaking view of the Alps.
After my first adventurous trip with friends, I felt ready to conquer another country: Portugal. Luckily, Portugal is very cheap and I could afford to eat out. We did not run into nearly as many difficulties in Portugal as we did in Switzerland, but when traveling a new country, there is bound to be something. Portugal has a great deal of hills, and carrying our luggage up and down those hills was a challenge. However, the biggest struggle was our search for our Airbnb. It was dark by the time we arrived in Lisbon, and we spent over an hour trying to find our Airbnb. Obstacles that arose include the language barrier–finding it difficult to ask people for help–and also the lack of cell phone service which made it impossible to contact the owner of the Airbnb. Eventually, we found where we needed to be, and the trip took a turn for the better.
My most recent travel was to Milan and Venice, Italy. Two of my friends and I traveled from Paris to Milan, Milan to Venice, Venice to Milan, and Milan back to Paris. We were able to see and experience a lot in the five days we were in Italy, however, we underestimated the total time and cost of traveling between cities. Yes, it is rather cheap to travel in Europe; our plane and train tickets were not that expensive. What we didn’t take into consideration was the cost to travel throughout a city. In Milan, we traveled by metro, which was not bad seeing as that is how we get around in Paris. In Venice, our hostel was an hour away from central city by either boat or bus; the first night we spent in Venice was challenging. We bought a 3-day city travel pass, however, we were not aware that the pass did not include the boat that traveled to and from our hostel. We’ll just take the bus, we thought. Coming back to our hostel the first night we were quick to find out that the bus stops running at 8pm. Needless to say, we are very grateful for the kind souls that helped us out in Venice. Italy was another adventure to add to the books which, again, left me with amazing memories.