Now that David and I have been living in Paris for more than a month, I feel somewhat qualified to present Part II of my Travel Tips. See Part I here.
I’ll start with the points I think are most important –
1) Be patient! You’re going to get stuff wrong sometimes. Did you miss the bus and the next one isn’t for another hour? Well, sit back and relax. Buy a coffee. Or a glass of wine…
2) Laugh at yourself! You may as well come to terms with one important fact: you’re going to look like a fool. You’re in a new land where you likely don’t speak the language. At least not very well. Sometimes you’re going to sound, and look, like an idiot. Did you forget the French word for rain and say “C’est la douche, aujourd’hui” (it is the shower, today) to make conversation at the grocery store? Just laugh. Because they are, and it’ll happen again.
3) Don’t be afraid! Seriously, travelling is not nearly as dangerous as it seems. I learned this the hard way – after a few sleepless nights and unsettling paranoia during the first few days, I realized most people are genuinely kind, generous, and usually helpful. Did you get lost? Don’t be afraid to ask for directions.
4) Be aware! While you shouldn’t be afraid, that doesn’t mean you should be a blind tourist. Tourist destinations are going to have scams, beggars and pickpockets. For the love of common sense, don’t put your wallet in your back pocket! Ladies, bring a crossbody purse (a purse with a strap long enough to sit on your shoulder and hang across your body), so that it can sit in front of you. Be aware, but don’t let paranoia and fear become the focal point.
5) Don’t rush! I think this is the biggest mistake travellers tend to make. Don’t pack too much into your trip. After a while, you’ll stop absorbing (and appreciating) your surroundings. Take your time, prioritize what you want to see, and don’t rush it. If it takes you the whole day? Well, that was a great day, wasn’t it?
6) Throw your planner out the window (sometimes) (oh, and not literally). Another difficult lesson for me to learn, but some of the best days we’ve had have involved little planning. Take public transit somewhere new, and explore the surrounding area. Don’t be afraid to walk off the beaten path (only do this during the day, and couple this with being aware!).
7) Have a cellphone, with data. A cellphone is like a lifeline when you’re travelling. If you get lost, if there’s an emergency, if you need a cab, or if you just need to call someone, your cellphone can help. I can’t tell you how useful having Google Maps at our fingertips has been. Or the ability to text after you’ve just wandered off to stare at pastries in a shop window…
8) Sometimes it’s okay to splurge. David and I planned this trip on a budget. And part of that budget was “unexpected expenses” (i.e. splurging). Create a realistic budget when you travel! It’ll allow your experience to be more authentic. And part of that experience is eating at a fancy restaurant, or buying that expensive bottle of wine, block of cheese, or those scrumptious-looking pastries at the local pâtisserie. And I just realized all my examples had to do with food. Well, you can tell what we splurge on!
9) Wherever you are, and wherever you’re going, bring snacks. And Advil. This is just good sense. Who wants to be on a train hungry, with a headache? No one.
10) Pack a scarf/wrap. Okay, so this isn’t that important. But a scarf is an inexpensive accessory (leave that expensive jewelry at home). And you’ll look trendy! Plus, I don’t know about you, but on those cold rainy days, if my neck is warm, I’m warm.
And have fun! (That doesn’t count as a tip. If you’re not having fun, what are you doing?)