It’s been almost a year since I roamed the streets of Paris and stuffed my face in Italian pasta. Every day 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 country I went to. So now, I’ll let you in on my little secrets on how I made everything 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 prices to worry about or those ridiculous bumper stickers, “My other ride is your mom” (I’m not laughing). The metro is nonstop. However, check the schedule before you think staying out until 4 am is a great idea and no taxis are around.
My favorite day trips in Europe included:
- Parc Güell
- Palace of Versailles
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!!
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.
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).
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.
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 are greater, and the smiles so much brighter.
Arc de Triomf in Barcelona (left) Tossa de Mar, Costa Brava, Spain (upper right) Montserrat, Cataluna, Spain (lower right)
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.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
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 picture-perfect food that’s 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 on 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!
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 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