We’re back!!! After almost 3 weeks of traveling around Europe we have returned home to Brooklyn and are busy trying to get back to normal life and back to est (i.e. this is being written at 3:30am). I am SO excited because I have so much to share about our trip and cannot wait to delve into some of my favorite parts of the places we went. First though, fresh off the ride home from JFK, I wanted to take a sec and just jot down my thoughts right now:
1. Staying off social media while traveling can be a really nice break. I actually discovered that I have a pretty healthy relationship with Facebook, and that was a pleasant surprise. I thought it would be really tough to lay off but I found it was just a routine I had to break- not an addiction. I also felt positive about my decision every single day. We would visit all these amazing places and all you would see is people glued to their cellphones or arranging their selfie sticks trying to get the perfect photo to share. I think we (myself included) miss a lot nowadays; it’s so difficult to be present and really experience where we are and who we’re with when we’re trying to also share each moment with the rest of the world. It seems like the original goal of taking photos on a trip was to capture the experience, now it seems so many of us are trying to create an appealing picture of what the experience might look like. Check out the pic below I snapped on our trip to Versailles. If you spend the day in these magical gardens and don’t get lost and then giddy imagining the most elaborate game of hide-and-go-seek then you are totally missing out. Just sayin.
2. Getting a Delta Skymiles Amex was one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only were we able to use miles to pay for a significant amount of our airfare, we also enjoyed the normal cardholder perks like early boarding. Coming back to the U.S. through Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, we easily saved ourselves an hour or more of waiting in lines–Sky Priority members have their own expedited checkin and security lines which we happily breezed through.
3. AirBnB is definitely something to consider in the future, especially for trips abroad. A lot of people gave me this advice while we were planning our trip, and while I considered it, we ultimately decided to go with hotels for one main reason: we like hotels! I remember telling my parents when I was little that I wanted to live in a hotel. What’s not to love? You can order food up to your room, someone picks up after you and makes your bed every day, and often there is a pool to go play in! Still, on this longer and further away journey, I certainly began to see the appeal of having our own space. There was one day each in London and in Paris where it poured. We tried our damnedest to don our plastic ponchos and still be tourists but it just got exhausting. We made the best of it and cozied up in our hotel but honestly, it would have been so nice to have a sofa to snuggle up on, and a kitchen to cook in. I love eating out; it’s very easily one of my favorite things in the world. But when you are gone for a longer period of time heading out for each meal can start to feel like a task. Next time, it would be great to mix it up with a home cooked meal with items found at a local market. Although you better believe we didn’t totally miss out–we had a couple spread the towel on the bed picnics of unbelievable charcuterie, cheese, and bread!
4. We’re comfort people, and I kinda love that about us. Years ago I was discussing travel with a friend and she said something to the effect of: “I don’t really care where I stay when I travel, I just want to get in there and really experience the culture and the people; really soak it all in.” Yeah I didn’t really connect with her on that one. I think in my early twenties I desperately wanted to be this free-spirited adventurer who would just lay where she landed. Now in my early 30’s, I have NO desire to be adventurous with accommodations, especially when it may mean sacrificing comfort, cleanliness, or location. I feel super grateful to have a partner that feels the same way. Want to know a little secret about us that some people probably wouldn’t share? One of the first things we did when we checked into each of our hotel rooms abroad was turn on the TV and flip through the channels to see what we were working with. Believe me, it wasn’t much, lol. But that’s us, we are TV people–it’s one of our comforts. We weren’t planning on spending any days cooped up watching Telemundo, but at the end of the night we both look forward to relaxing in bed and falling asleep to the tube. FYI, since programming was limited we wound up watching about 1000 episodes of Modern Family on Netflix and we are officially hooked, the show is HILARIOUS. Sad story though, we tried to continue our binge watching back at home during our recoup day and turns out the show is not available on Netflix in the U.S.–total bummer!
5. I’m so glad I bought SUPER comfortable shoes, even if they aren’t the cutest pair I’ve ever owned. I definitely feel like you get a totally different perspective on footwear once you live in NYC or anywhere else where your primary mode of transportation is walking. When I first moved here it was January and we were experiencing an especially snowy and frigid season. I felt more than prepared coming from Michigan with a pair of cozy boots that had easily gotten me through the winters there. However, since i was now required to walk a distance longer than a parking lot, those slippery suckers just wouldn’t cut it.
Summer footwear is no different. While super thin strappy sandals might be fine for a day at work, they just won’t do if you’re planning a day of traipsing around the city. After sadly not being able to squeeze into the largest size of super cute ECCO sandals that I found, I settled on this pair by New Balance that I found on Zappos.
Like I said, they are not THE most stylish shoe I’ve ever owned, but the comfort is unmatched. I walked for hours and hours and miles and miles in them and my feet and my entire body felt great. If interested, you can find them here: http://www.zappos.com/cobb-hill-ireland-tan.
6. The 1 a day plus 1 free day method works great for us. So i just made this up but it pretty much sums up our system for scheduling activities during our trip. We were in each location for 5 or 6 days. Within that timeframe, we scheduled at least one planned activity for each day and then kept one day totally free to decide based on mood. My husband and I are definitely both planners. By scheduling one definite activity for the majority of the days, we woke up feeling like we didn’t have to stress or think or make arrangements, but we also felt like there was plenty of room left in the day for spontaneity. Often, our morning activity would inspire the rest of the day. For example, we took a city tour our second day in Paris and it ended right near The Louvre. While we had originally planned on waking up early the next morning to get in line for the museum, our tour guide shared an insider tip with us: there are actually several other entrances to The Louvre besides the main Pyramid entrance where everyone gathers and waits for hours. We left the tour and walked right in through one of the “secret” entrances. We found the Mona Lisa in about 5 minutes, confirmed that she’s super small, underwhelming, yet mysterious, and then wandered around for another hour or so enjoying ourselves while simultaneously reflecting upon the fact that we are not really “art” people.
I talk to a lot of people about travel and I find that many of them prefer not to have a set schedule. I get that, but I also find that you risk missing out on or waiting in long lines for some great things if you choose not to plan ahead. When we got to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the estimate to get in through the queue was 2 1/2 hours…we were immediately let in through a separate door with our advance purchase tickets and sat down for an introduction to the museum.
7. I LOVE the USA. Ok, so this is not at all a sentiment that I was expecting to come back with, but not only did I come back with it, I carried it around all over Europe. This trip inspired a love for my own country so strong I plan on writing at length about it soon. For now, let’s just say that I walked around these foreign places and said to myself, “wow, this place is so amazing,” and then, “man, I feel so happy and lucky to be an American and live in the United States.” America is a young country, but it’s also a great country that’s made an extraordinary amount of progress in a short amount of time. I think a lot of times we don’t give ourselves enough credit as a nation. But again, that’s what makes us great–always striving to be better.
Taking a big trip like this made me realize that anywhere we travel is a destination. I’m just as excited to plan our next 3-day weekend in a nearby Northeastern city as I am for our next BIG adventure. We watched Stand by Me last night and I thought the narration in the last scene was spot on to how I’ve been feeling. He talks about coming back into their town after their 2 days of adventure and he said coming back, the place never looked smaller. That’s one thing I get every time I come back from traveling. I may live in one of the biggest cities in the world, but when I step outside of it, I realize just how much bigger the rest of the world is.
8. Our bed is the best investment we have ever made. My final thought may seem like an odd one but I couldn’t be more serious. We have a great bed-king size, tempurpedic, great sheets, etc. Our last night in Amsterdam all I could think was–“man, I cannot wait to get home to that bed!” Yes this suggests Europe has a general shortage of comfy king-size accommodations, but more than that, it reflects how lucky I feel that I was able to go to some amazing places for 3 weeks and then really be excited to come home–not just to our bed, but to our city.
When we travel to a new place and we are discussing whether we like it or not, I insist on trying to picture whether I could live there (my husband insists this is NOT necessary). I keep thinking we might land in a city one day and think, wait a minute, maybe we are supposed to be here. So far, no place tugs on us but Brooklyn, and we are so very glad to be home.
Please stay tuned, posts about some of the fantastic places we visited are in the works. Can’t wait to share. x