5 Ways To Make The Most Out Of Traveling To Europe

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It’s been almost a year since I roamed the streets of Paris and stuffed my face in Italian pasta. Everyday I wish I could transport myself back into the metro stop at Joanic in Barcelona and start all over again. I’m not lying when I tell you I had the time of my life, because really, I had the time of my life. The people I met, the food I tasted, the cities I explored was nothing my year ago self would ever think of embarking upon. I kept most of you updated through Instagram, and made stories of my everyday life through each and every country I went to. So now, I’ll let you in on my little secrets on how I made every thing you saw seem so great, when in reality it was.

1. Oh my Gaudi, let’s talk about those day trips

So many places in Europe can be seen with just a simple purchase of a metro ticket. I’m saying: 10 euros = 10 journeys = 10 BRAND NEW OPPORTUNITIES TO GET OUT THERE AND EXPLORE. Of course, there are other purchasing options and tickets vary between countries but you get my point.

After living in Barcelona for 4 weeks you learn to navigate the metro with your eyes closed. It’s pretty easy, pretty convenient, and pretty awesome. There are no hefty gas price to worry about or those ridiculous bumper stickers, “My other ride is your mom” (I’m not laughing). The metro is basically nonstop. However, check the schedule before you think staying out until 4am is a great idea and no taxis are around.  

My favorite day trips in Europe included:

  • Parc Güell 
  • Montserrat
  • Venice
  • Bergamo 
  • Palace of Versailles 
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I explored Gaudi’s magical masterpiece of mosaic art while embracing the beautiful architecture of the park. It was so much more than the famous salamander at the main entrance. It was an artistic wonderland filled with villas, pathways and history that cannot be explored in only a few short hours.

*Purchase tickets beforehand, they do sell out!!

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I’d say Montserrat takes the prize for best view and most natural beauty. Another trip that involves quite a few different hikes but totally worth it in the end. The church at the top is fascinating and of much religious significance; being home to the black faced Madonna. Highly recommend not wearing sandals like me because things called blisters will appear and haunt you the rest of your trip.

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Most would say that Venice isn’t a day trip, but I made it into one from Milan. I boarded my train at 8:00 and got back on at 20:00 (enjoy the military time you’ll have to get used to it when you do go to Europe). I walked everywhere that day and navigated myself through the island using my handy dandy iPhone. Pretty easy to navigate once you realize streets are basically alleys and the street names are located high on the sides of the building. The color and architecture was amazing and the food didn’t fall short. Highly recommend going on a gondola ride, that’s where I met some friends from Egypt and they also took that pic of me (shown above).

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The Palace of Versailles was a day trip I had been dreaming about since I had decided I’d be going to Paris. Getting off the train and walking up to the palace is like a little kid at Disney World walking up to Cinderella’s Castle, just simply jaw dropping. Extravagant is not even close to describing it. I simply just wandered the grounds and enjoyed my own clueless tour that I gave myself. I was able to soak in the beauty and absorb everything there was to offer. However, the Palace does include an audio tour, which I enjoyed, and it really helped enhance the culture of the environment. 

*Again, purchase tickets beforehand. The lines alone will scare you away and make you question if this really was a day trip or just a line trip to the front of the Palace. 

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Bergamo felt like my home away from home. I was staying there for three days, but only took one day to explore the older upper district, Citta Alta. Filled with cobblestone streets, luscious green trees, and church bells, I felt like I was in a summer wonderland where my only worries were the crazy Fiats and motorcycles zooming by. It was another great little town to explore and showed every view from the mountains to the booming Italian cities. 

2. Make new friends, but keep the old 

I came to Barcelona for a study abroad program and expected to meet new people, but never expected to meet best friends. I found people that weren’t just silver, they were gold, PURE SOLID GOLD. They made Europe worthwhile and so much more than I ever could’ve dreamed of. Traveling alone can be scary, but find people that are on the same journey as you and enjoy it together. It makes the food seem better, the adventures more wild, and the smiles so much brighter. 

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3. Click, click, take a pic

When I wasn’t traveling with my fabulous posse I was going solo, and by going solo I didn’t have anyone to take my pictures *insert emoji sad face*. So how was I supposed to make it look like I was living my best life? You ask strangers to take your picture. Yes, I know I said strangers, which of course goes along with the fear of not getting a great pic BUT now it’s up to you. Figure out how you want your pictures to look. Know your poses, show them a picture of how you want it to look and lastly, DO NOT HESITATE TO ASK FOR ANOTHER ONE IF IT ISN’T WHAT YOU WANT. I found people that looked like they wouldn’t mind taking pictures and asked away. I knew what I wanted and ended up with some of my best pictures from the trip. 

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4. Vacation calories don’t count

Eat, eat, eat! Living your best life means enjoying the best food. You’re walking enough that you don’t need to worry about the calories. Worry about your happiness and how food is one of those fuels that fuels your smile, at least it does for me. No one likes a hangry, don’t forget tired because of all that traveling, type of person. Get you some food that’s picture perfect and Instagram worthy. Go to Instagram and search the city to find photos tagged with delicious food. This was my favorite way to find not only cute places but good eats. EAT UP! (don’t mind my insane sweet tooth)

5. Walk like you have no agenda

When I say walk, I mean WALK! Who cares about the blisters or sore feet, YOU ARE IN EUROPE AND YOU WILL SURVIVE. Twenty miles a day of walking will not kill you, only work off all that amazing food. I mean you could always be back in your suburban home, having to get in the car, and hoping to see a deer run across the road for a little excitement, because ya know, that sounds like so much fun. I’m saying just aimlessly walk. You’ll come across little treasures no tour would ever show you, and better yet you can do it on your own time. I found so many cute places that I enjoyed because I discovered them by walking. What a concept! Walking also helps you become more aware of your surroundings and comfortable with the places you’re staying. Just take a walk!

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I’m sure as much as you loved living vicariously through me and my posts, it’s your turn to start living your best life! I’ve given you five ways to make it look like you’re living your best life when you really are living your best life. Give it a shot, and see how you do. You might surprise yourself.  I did a pretty good job of doing just that:) 

See ya later!

Jacqui M. Green 

How I Traveled Europe in 42 Days ALONE​

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I’m not going to tell you it was easy, because it most definitely was not. I’m also not going to tell you that you should never do it, because you most definitely should. However, I am going to let you in on how traveling alone will forever and always be the best decision of your life, whether you’re down and ready to try new experiences or just need a cleanse from your everyday life, traveling alone will give you a sense of clarity and certainty as to why this life is yours and you need to live it your way.

Ok, not going to lie, I balled my eyes out before I boarded my plane. I MEAN STRAIGHT OUT UGLY TEARS, BALLED MY EYES OUT. My mom drove me to Toledo, where my first plane was taking off to Charlotte, and I broke down. I lived up at school for a year in an apartment with friends so I was used to not seeing my family every second of every single day, but man, being across the world by myself for 42 days was getting to me, and I hadn’t even left the country…

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Step 1. Leave The Nest

Traveling alone was hard, I had never flown by myself, LET ALONE OUTSIDE OF THE COUNTRY. I had a lot of growing up to do in a little amount of time. I knew that I could take care of myself, I’m not incompetent, but I’m certainly not the type to ask for help…and BOY, that is the number one rule about traveling. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP. That train is not going to yell at you and say “hey Jacqui, you bought a seat on my train!” when you’re aimlessly looking through the train station, or  “yo Jacqui, apparently we’re on strike today and I will not be able to get you from Milan to Paris, so looks like you’re out of luck”.  

When the random tragedies of traveling strike you, ask for HELP, or if you don’t speak Italian, French or any other language in Europe and you’re v confused (v = very), you ask for HELP. I know, that ego of yours, must really suck to ask for help, but when you’re about to miss your train that’ll then cause you to miss your flight back to America and you’ll be stuck in Europe forever (or at least until you get on another flight) help is not going to make you any less of a man or woman. 

Step 2. Be Aware

Now that I got my HELP rant over with it’s pretty smooth sailing from there. Don’t be an idiot and walk around with your phone in your face, keep all your belongs close, and try to blend in. I didn’t say be one of them, because most likely you are American and the Europeans will be able to sniff you out, no exaggeration, we stick out like sore thumbs. So to make you a little less obvious wear Adidas, stay away from sport caps and do yourself a favor and look at a fashion magazine before you go. No one will ever be as fashionable as the Europeans, but if you can pull off a pair of cute trainers with jeans and some headphones you’ll be just fine. 

Example:

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A nice tight fitted dress with trainers will also do the trick (I added a belt to snatch the waist and add a little extra pizzazz)

Example:

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(Side Note)

I thought this mirror was really cool and the least I could do was grace my presence with it and feature it in my snap story for a nice mirror selfie. Kudos to the hostel for picking a bomb mirror in my room. Also, since we’re on the hostel note, I would highly suggest NOT getting a coed room. Not very relaxing at the end of a long day, after you’ve walked 20 miles, have a bazillion blisters on your feet and just honestly feel like pure CRAP, to then have a guy try to talk to you and ask you to go out. LIKE NO THANK YOU. I think girls just walk into the room and understand that if you don’t talk you probably don’t want to talk and therefore you should not talk. Simple is as simple does. 

So moral of the story when you are traveling alone I HIGHLY suggest staying in either an all female room or an all male room in a hostel, and if you’re thinking…why wouldn’t I just stay in a hotel? Because you’ll quickly realize that you’d rather be spending your money on something else besides a bed that you sleep in for maybe 8 hours and isn’t even as comfortable as your own. You are welcome, this will help you a lot when trying to be smart and wanting to spend your money on something actually worthwhile (food).

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Step 3. DO NOT go out at night ALONE

I’d hope this is pretty self explanatory. As little kids we learn that the dark can be a scary place, and no matter where you are, whether it’s the safest place on the planet STUFF can still happen. Go out with some hostel buddies if you want to go out, but please please PLEASE do not do it alone. 

Step 4. Learn how to eat by yourself

Since you will be ALONE you will be eating ALONE. Don’t pull the..I’m just going to eat gelato for every meal because I don’t want to sit down and look like a loner. Yes, maybe people will think that because you are sitting by yourself but you are also in Europe and it’s not uncommon to see someone doing that. In Europe people take their time to enjoy meals, they don’t run up to a McDonald’s and order a cheeseburger when they’re on the run (well actually some do). 

Enjoy a nice meal to yourself. TREAT YO SELF. I ordered a nice fancy breakfast in Paris after I had a pretty chaotic travel night. It was a three course meal, IN THE MORNING (didn’t eat the rest of the day because I needed to save money lol), and it was the best decision I made that whole trip. The waiters and waitresses were so nice to me and the place was so stinkin’ cute.

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Step. 5  Make friends or meet up with friends

 Yes, I enjoyed traveling alone but I did get a little lonely. When I made friends or called up a friend that I knew would be in Europe, I hung out with them!! It was a breath of fresh air to be able to talk to someone that wasn’t me or not have to people watch for entertainment (even though we all know it’s a lot of fun).

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Step 6. Learn how to love spending time with yourself

I’m not saying talk to yourself out loud and pretend that there is someone else standing next to you, I’m saying get comfortable with being with you and only you. So many people get scared of traveling alone because they think that they will be LONELY. When you become comfortable in your own shoes you become your own best friend, a person that can cheer you up, motivate you and simply enjoy. It’s one of the many things people don’t take into consideration because they feel like they should be spending special moments with special people, BUT YOU ARE A SPECIAL PERSON WHO DESERVES SOMEONE WHO CAN ACKNOWLEDGE THAT aka you:). Your confidence will grow and you will begin to feel on top of the world, free 0f anything holding you back, when you simply learn to enjoy the presence of yourself. 

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Last but certainly not least…

Step. 7 ENJOY

Traveling ALONE meant I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to. So if I wanted to go back and relax in the middle of the day I COULD. If I wanted to hit everything from the Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Champs de Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe all in one day I COULD. The freedom of doing simply whatever you wanted with no instruction besides the ones coming from yourself was one of the many beautiful treasures of traveling by yourself. 

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Don’t let people scare you and put the images of Taken in your head (never phased me because I never watched the movie, so HA). I think traveling by yourself is one of the many things that you HAVE to do in your lifetime. My neighbor said working as a waiter or waitress is another thing you have to do but I’m still a little skeptical with that one. ANYWAYS, do yourself a favor, take a chance, and travel the world ALONE. The opportunities are endless and the thrill of only relying upon yourself is…quite amazing actually. 

Go, grow, prosper.

See ya later!

Jacqui M. Green