Travelling is my passion. I have been through over 20 different countries - I lost count after my fourth trip to Europe. As long as the number exceeds my age, I'm satisfied.

I'm an avid backpacker. I don't just want to see the world. I want to experience it.

I travel in a unique way. I have climbed the Great Wall of China in snow, worked on a farm in Normandy, France, and volunteered at an orphanage in Bali, Indonesia.

Backpackers are constantly sharing information, stories, and advice. I'm not doing this because I make money off of it (which I don't) or because I think I know it all (which I definitely don't).

I am simply doing this because it's what I love to do. Enjoy!

Monday, 23 July 2012

July 23, 2012

Courtney and I have been traveling through Europe for a solid two weeks now, and - like always happens while one travels - we have learned and experienced a lot.  I tried to condense our recent adventures into ten helpful tips that we have discovered first-hand.  Enjoy!

Eurotrip Life Lessons

#1. Contrary to the ancient myth and general public opinion, there is such thing as a friendly Brit.  We entered London July 10th under the previous assumption that British men were crude, drunken, and had really bad teeth.  None of this proved to be wrong; however, Courtney and I also had the fortune of meeting several kind Londoners based solely on our interesting accents.  We seem to have a knack for making friends in McDonalds and small, dark pubs; but our most wonderful interaction happened in the rain.  Classy army-veteran Mark offered to share his umbrella as Courtney and I had made every tourists' worst mistake—forgoing our raingear due to a misleading morning blue sky.  He offered countless random facts about Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the Parliament Buildings as we strolled the streets using his sturdy umbrella for shelter.  Afterwards, he led us down a side-alley where the second oldest pub in England, the Red Lion, was perched.  We were thankful for the friendship and we quickly realized that people are people, wherever you go. 

As a side note, London boasts impeccable fashion sense. Trends include shirts that are shorter in the front, quite see-through, and--my personal favorite--tights over shorts (I sorta fit in!).  It was impossible to open your eyes anywhere in London without seeing the British flag. Perhaps it was thanks to the upcoming Summer Olympics more than anything, but nevertheless, Courtney and I found a warm welcome in the rainy city through the patriotic people.
#2. You don’t need to clutch your bag like a newborn baby to avoid being pick-pocketed.  Yes, there are pickpockets, and you should be careful; but most tourists that find themselves targets and victims are doing something wrong.  It’s all about being smart with your valuable possessions.  After a long second day exploring London, Courtney searched her camera bag frantically for the key to the hotel room.  “It’s not here,” she insisted, and I checked my bag too just in case.  Defeated, we trekked into the lobby and explained what happened.  The man behind the desk handed us a new key hesitantly.  We returned to our room and Courtney dug into her camera case, emerging with—you guessed it—our original key.  It was a close call, in a way.  Turns out it’s much easier to suspect something was stolen by someone else rather than lost yourself.

#3. Alcohol is way more fun on the streets.  Oh, and don’t worry about bringing your ID, no one checks anyways.  When you go out for a smoke, it is perfectly acceptable to carry your pint out with you and continue to drink.  You can’t veer too far from the pub, but it’s still a step up from Canada’s strict policy.  Although neither Courtney nor I smoke,  we found it appropriate to venture outside and enjoy our drinks under the canopy of the bar, inhaling the fresh fumes of the night air masked by thick tobacco, like true Brits do.

#4. Always know the transportation cut off time.  The Metro is called the Tube in London, and red Double Decker buses are literally everywhere.  By the end of our week in London I finally felt as though I had a solid grip on the Tube underground, and I was confident in my ability to find our way home to King’s Cross Station at night.  However, Courtney and I forgot to take into consideration the closing time of the Tube each night—midnight.  An annoyed bus driver let us off in a deserted area of town, where strange men lurked in the shadows.  Jumpy and terribly afraid, we found our way to a bus station where the correct night bus number stopped and brought us home.  Nothing bad happened, but the situation we had got ourselves into was not one I wish to be in again.

#5.  Laugh at the metropolitan police.  Seriously.  They don’t do anything, anyways, as a few young Brits told us.  Courtney and I were sitting outside a large festival, Hard Rock Calling, listening to needtobreathe in the periodic sunshine when two cops noticed my giggle fit.  Sauntering over to us, one inquired, “What’s so funny?”  To which I hastily replied, “I was simply admiring your hat.”  He handed his hat to me and demanded that we take a picture.  Laughing, the four of us discussed backpacking and the dreary weather and Alberta.  We found a wonderful place to watch Lady Antebellum from the backstage entrance, when the same two cops approached us and offered us free concert tickets.  A man had offered them to the police, but they had to refuse—and instead of asking someone they really knew, they thought of us.  Courtney and I got through the muddy gates and ran up to the stage where we got to watch Bruce Springsteen in the open, clear air of Hyde’s Park. 

#6.  Cider is sweet, beer is black, and more than both are usually on tap.  I’m not used to cider back at home, but I love it here.  It tastes like apples or pears and flows freely from a keg.  Guinness is the national drink.  It looks like black, cold coffee and tastes ten times worse.  Courtney usually opted for Stella Black or Fosters and I would indulge in Magner’s Cider or Pim’s lemonade.  My favorite part was the pint glasses they'd serve: the brand of the beverage would always decorate the outside of the glass, so you would always know exactly what each glass contained.

#7.  Hostels over hotels, every single time.  Not only was our hotel room the size of a matchbox, but they never actually cleaned our sheets—the staff only made the bed.  We had approximately two centimetres of floor space each and a springy twin bed to share at night.  Although we had a sink in our room, we shared the toilet and shower with two other rooms on our floor.  Calculating in the extreme cost of food, a hostel is a much better deal and a far better way to meet fellow travelers.  Things to know for next time, I guess!

#8.  Trust your mom’s opinion, even when she sends you to a park overflowing with nudity.  Vigelands Parken, in the middle of Oslo, Norway, was brimming over with bright flowers, shirtless men playing football (soccer to us North Americans), and extremely inappropriate naked statues.  The castle, which was under construction, was much less impressive than the bridge of nude people and orgy tower.  Thanks mama!

#9.  Norwegians love wieners.  I know, laugh it up, Alison said wieners.  But it’s true.  They are long and skinny and flavourful and available at every gas station corner store.  Courtney’s relatives are addicted to the hamburger hot dogs and shrimp salad toppings, but my personal favorite is the bacon-wrapped cheese in a bun.  Takk!

#10.  When in doubt, jump shot.  Pretty smiling pictures get boring far too soon, so we began taking photo opportunities as a chance to do something ridiculous.  We got some strange looks and a few giggles, but the pictures ended up awesome.  You can’t force a smile while jumping in front of a grass-covered roof in the green hills of Norway.  As the sites bring out everyone’s camera, Courtney and I fooled around photo bombing the best ones, and ended up making more friends than enemies... so far. 

That's all for now, but don't fret - we've still got three countries left!
Until next time, hadda!

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