I've been meaning to write this particular blog entry for a few days now and since I'm basically stuck in my hotel room with nothing else to do...now is as good a time as any.
I started my European leg of this journey on April 1st. It is now May 14th. That is 6 solid weeks of travelling. It's been fun and challenging. This blog entry is about the things I've learned about travelling or about myself.
Something that has made my travels easier, for example, is that every hotel has an English speaking receptionist and take-away maps of the city. If you get lost, walk into a hotel and ask for help. If they can't help you (which would shock me) they almost always have wi-fi which you could then use to look up a map of where you are and where you need to go. Hotels also have food if you find yourself stuck in a country where all the stores are shut for a holiday you've never heard of. Hotels also have bathrooms which they'll never say 'no' to you using.
For the first month of my trip, I couldn't remember what day it was. Usually, I knew the day of the week, but not the date, which is important for trains and flights and things. Over the last few days, I've been waking up or even mid-day having these moments where I have no idea where I am. I might be able to tell the country, but the city is a mystery for like 5 minutes of hard thinking. "Where the hell am I?"
For some reason I have no problem remembering my hotel room number. It's easy for me to forget yesterday's number and remember today's. For most of my trip, I've had a new hotel room in a new city every night. My gmail inbox is filling up with requests from Trip Advisor, Expedia, Hotels.com, etc to give feedback on a specific hotel room. If I don't do it immediately, there's no chance in me remembering the room, let alone the staff who checked me in or the cleanliness of the foyer.
I've learned that my first stop in any city needs to be to pick up water and food for the hotel room. Especially if I'm staying in a budget room like an Ibis or Travelodge or a cheap B&B. Water is a must or I'll get headaches. Food is optional, but good to have for that midnight hunger that won't let me fall asleep. Buying one banana is good. I'll usually eat it right away but buying two means I'll have a squishy banana in my bag for two days before throwing it out.
Because I've been alternating between cheap places and sort of cheap places, only half of them offer travel-sized bottles of shampoo and soap. I grab them when I can get them, so I have something at the super cheap places that only offer the shampoo/body wash combination on a pump on the wall. Not my favorite.
Like I said, for the most part, I've been switching hotels every night. But on those rare occasions when I have a hotel for two nights, I make sure to do a small load of laundry in the sink (usually using the shampoo or body wash from the previous hotel). This gives the clothes time to hang and dry before moving on. Funny side story, the first thing I wanted to do when I arrived in Copenhagen was use my friend's washing machine for my jeans. I brought two pairs with me on the trip and one pair worn in Italy was starting to give me the creeps. I have mentioned that the public bathrooms in Italy are horrendous. You don't want to touch anything while you're in there and I was starting to over think how many times the bottom hem of my jeans might have, for a second, touched the floor. I was either going to chuck those jeans in a washing machine or in a fire. Thankfully, I washed them.
Public transportation is a wonderful option for the traveller but it's a lot harder than I thought. The hard part, honestly, is buying the ticket. Is it by stop (go 3 stops, pay for 3 stops), is it by zone (how far is a zone), if I take a bus, do I need a ticket or will they take cash and if they say how much cash will I understand? Tomorrow, I have to take the number 100 bus to Brandenburg Gate for a walking tour that I've booked. I was lucky enough to see the bus and the bus stop today, so I know where to get on (and in which direction) but I have anxiety about paying for the bus. My tips for this are google something like this, ask the front desk person at your hotel or take a handful of change and smile with your hand out at the bus driver when saying "Brandenburg Gate?". A smile goes a long way.
When in Italy, Kate and I went to buy some bananas. We took a few and the check out clerk started speaking to us in Italian. Obviously, we'd done something wrong. We made the "I don't know. I'm sorry." Face and sort of half smiled our apologies. She took the bananas, got up, went back to the fruit stand, weighed them and took a print out ticket of the amount from the scale. Woops. But hey, we learned.
This might be more of a life lesson than a travelling lesson, but always focus on the positive. There is just no point finding the thing that makes you upset and then looking for it everywhere you go. You will find what you look for, so look for the good. If you hate the lack of personal space in a country, get used to it and focus on the fact that they have really good gelato and you'll reward yourself with one when you're out of this queue/line.
The only other thing I can think of right now is a combination of what might seem like two opposing thoughts. Do what the locals do and do what you're comfortable with. For example, have espresso in France but maybe not tripe. Know your limits and bend them if possible, but do not break them.
OH, one more thing. Be courteous! Don't pretend you are the king of the world and say things loudly like, "I don't understand why they do this, or that, it's just disgusting!" Save that for when you're at home with your family and friends. You're in their town so shut your trap and smile. If you don't like something, walk away. Or run away if it's something really bad, but complaining about it isn't going to help you.
Ok, my head is all fuzzy from sitting upright for so long. I'm going to go back to coughing lying down. Peace out for now.