Ten Things To Do When Traveling: Abroad Edition
Ten Things To Do When Traveling:
The first time I traveled on a plane, I was 18-months old. Though I don’t remember the trip, I truly believe it destined me to have wanderlusting in my veins.
A couple months ago, I came across this “ten things to do” list which I quickly scribbled down on a scratch pad. It read to me like a really good fortune out of some cyber crescent cookie, in which all I could say in return, was “challenge accepted”.
Jump ahead two-months and I’m boarding a United plane on my way to Southern Germany to a very small town called Biberach, where my Oma lives, and Paris, France for fourteen-days. In my hand, a little red Moleskin and the ten-things written down on page one. My objective, cross off each one and tell the tales.
1. Challenge yourself to do something new.
Trying new things can be really difficult, especially when you’re already out of your comfort zone and in a foreign country or place. But being open and receptive to new things can really be the game changer in the trip.
It can be as simple as me taking a taxi for a longer drive with my German dictionary in hand, or trying a local favorite dish or drink (which are always a must for me). One of the best ways to do this is to ask the locals. Whither it be your hotel hostess, a waiter, or wandering around the local digs (like the farmers market's) the locals will be the one's to point you in the right direction. Trying something new doesn’t always have to be “jumping out of a plane” extreme, all it is you opening up your being to the culture and land around you.
This will fill your soul up faster then you could possibly imagine.
2. Purchase a souvenir (not from a gift shop)
Now, I will be open from the get go, that I did purchase a couple souvenirs from the Parisian and German gift shops. However, I, think its more rewarding to acquire a trinket that doesn’t get put on a shelf that hardly anyone ever sees.
For me, I find that I collect coffee mugs and scarfs without even thinking about it. I love being able to wear a scarf from a vendor in Afghanistan, or from my host mom in Guatemala, and other places I’ve been, as it’s a small reminder throughout my day of all the good memories and its also incentive to plan my next journey.
I also purchase t-shirts from every doughnut shop I ventured into. The souvenir doesn’t have to be expensive or obvious. All it has to do is be a small reminder to you of your trip (both near and far) and the feelings you felt. The object can be anything.
3. Keep a travel journal
I have, for the longest time, swooned over the beautiful travel journals that little sites like Tumbler and Pinterest showcase, and I have tried with such gusto that when I failed I just didn’t want to pick my bruised ass off of the ground, or try every again.
But then it was a requirement for a trip I took to Guatemala in 2015 and I decided I’d start small…literally. I purchased one of the small Moleskin notebooks and chose to fill two pages every night before I checked my Instagram or other social media. This was my turning point.
By the end of my two-week trip, I was writing five – ten pages full of moments, doodles, thoughts and quotes. I even would write down words I wanted to remember. It became a joy once I realized I didn’t have to make it prim-perfect like I’d seen, it could be anything, and that’s what I ran with.
So when it came close to my trip to Germany and Paris, I purchased another little Moleskin notebook and started writing in it even before I left as I wrote down packing lists, important phone numbers and wish lists for the trip. Once again, I wrote in it every night before checking my social media and now that I’m back, I am so grateful for these little books.
They, in a way, are the best souvenirs I could possibly have acquired.
4. Eat at a restaurant recommended by a local
This, is one of my favorite parts of any trip. I’m going to have to shout out to two foodie heavens here.
The first is in Biberach an der Riß, Germany called “Coffee Fellows”. Ice cream delicacies, coffee and hot chocolates to cream over, adult drinks that put bars to shame along with pastries that melt in your mouth. On our first venture in I had the honey cake with a hot chocolate and my soul sang with eat bite and sip. The cherry on top is the free wi-fi (pronounced ‘Vee-Fee”) and amazing service.
The second is nestled in a local area of Paris, France called ‘Paul”. A full bakery display that will make you want to order one of each (a fresh croissant was only €1.50!) with a line of anticipating habitué’s out the door, as well as a coffee bar and full restaurant that was the cheapest we ate while in Paris. The cherry on top was how it was filled with so many locals and the staff speaks English.
Food is the quickest way into a culture. Try something new, or something the waitress recommends. It will make for whimsical memories, and later down the road you can say “I tried that”.
5. Go on an excursion
During our trip, my man and I celebrated our anniversary for the first time, together, in five-years! That being said we chose to spend it exploring and just hanging out. So we grabbed some breakfast from a local bakery and then hopped on an early train, 30-minutes out to Friedrichshafen, Germany.
Home to the Zeppelin Museum, beachfront to the Bodensee and plenty of gardens, beer and ice cream, not to mention a shopping central, this city was a zig-zag of small streets lined with café’s, restaurants and shops. And we indulged in all of it. We even hung out at the local library (which also houses a delicious restaurant and a theater) to snag some free wi-fi, or shall I say “vee-fee”?)
We ended the day at a hip little coffee house and shop, perusing the little odd’s and end’s and sipping our first laté of the trip. We then walked back to the train station, had dinner back in Biberach before venturing back home.
Finding even small moments to explore your current location can take you places that you may normally not find on a “top ten places to explore here’ list, or in your travel guide.
6. Learn the language
Now, most suspect that I can speak German fluently. Sadly, this is not the case. In fact I can trace my inability and willingness to learn back to high school taking German when my 16-year old brain put everything to a screeching halt. Now, fast forward 9-years later and I was fumbling with my words trying to make a concrete sentence with my Oma.
However, going to France was a whole new ballgame for me. I spoke ZERO French. A huge plus is that majority of the French community, DOES speak English. Putting me to shame, yet making me oh so grateful.
In both instances I learned so many new words and phrases just by listening and attempting to follow along. Watching their hand gestures was a big help in this.
7. Explore a neighborhood
While in Paris, I was deceived by the little map the hostess at our hotel gave us by how far away things were from one another. I was also deceived thinking the only roads that existed were the one’s on the map.
After seeing the Eiffel Tower, our next stop was the Arc De Triumph, which stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. Thus, ensued our exploration of French neighborhoods. We walked by adorable toyshops, a small grocery market and rows and rows of outstanding apartments. All caked with the rich architecture that flourishes France along with small porches and patios adorned with hundreds of flowers.
The next day, the same map mishap ensued, which led us down old cobbled side roads with olive oil shops, a pizzeria, a small market with raw cheeses and meats out on display right up to the little breakfast joint I mentioned earlier “Paul’.
8. Check out a bar/club
Being in Germany made this pretty easy. However, my favorite bar moment was when the husband and I ventured into a place we kept walking by everyday in hopes for finding dinner. Where dinner was short in supply, we still felt bad for sitting down, so my husband ordered one singular beer. What was delivered were these two huge beers.
None the less, I will say we drank our drinks and we found dinner else where. However, during the 30-minutes we were there to drink the beers, a woman comes up to us and dumped on our table handfuls of condoms, which were adorned with the famous golden arches of, you guessed it, McDonalds.
The woman than did this to the couple that was sitting a couple tables away from us, after she left, both couples burst into laughter, as yes we saved one of the McDonalds condoms.
9. Forgo your maps for one day
We really tried to not use maps while exploring Biberach. Because it was a small town, made it a little bit easier to handle, but also took us down side streets no map would have shown.
Admittedly, we did get turned around and lost a couple times. However, we knew that the church was the center of town, and its steeple rose high enough that you could see it from almost anywhere in town.
Not using your maps, even for half a day, opens up the possibilities of exploring the place in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have. We are spoiled with having Google Maps everywhere we go, that it was nice to once again use paper maps when we needed them and otherwise, just figuring things out on the fly.
10. Take public transportation:
In honesty, I think the only two forms of transportation I didn’t use on this trip were motorcycle and hot air balloon. The beautiful thing about Europe is not only
it’s enchanting castles and enriching history, but its range of public
transportation. In a nutshell, my Oma is 75-years old and has never
had a drivers license.
When asked what my favorite form of transportation in Europe is, I usually respond with train. I love being able to see the countryside, and it’s really convenient and cheap. However, the highlight of public transportation came during the one-hour taxi ride from my Oma’s home to Friedrichshafen.
For all the times I’ve traveled to Germany, I had yet to really enjoy the roadways. The 5:00am drive took us along misty fields, thick ancient forests caked in fog and dew, and I could feel myself falling in love with the country all over again. It
was a beautiful, gentle Auf Wiedersehen from Germany, and all I could do was
send my souls love song quietly back into the atmosphere for such an incredible
With Grace + Guts,