This is it!

Well, we’ve finally reached that day everybody: the last blog entry of my trip.  I could go on about my last travel day, but there’s not much to it, and I’m sure we can all appreciate it if I shorten it a bit.  The short version goes a little like this: took the tube to my hotel (very nice place), went back to the Transport Museum to pick up some Underground souvenirs, ate dinner in Covent Garden, back to pack and shower, fell asleep to Batman Begins, and now I’m a few hours away from LAX as I write this.  Good enough?  Okay, moving on then lol.

Overall, I must say that I’m very happy to have done this trip.  Even more so, it’s given me a huge confidence boost.  Of course I’ve traveled in the U.S. before on my own, but never have I traveled for this long, let alone in a foreign country (or 8 haha).  I’ve had to deal with so many new things on this trip, and I’ve truly enjoyed every moment it.  Even the boring stuff, such as doing my laundry, always had a bit of a learning curve to it, and I’m always up for learning something new. 

I’m also glad that I’m the planner that I am.  This trip was one year in the making.  I spent many hours reading and annotating guidebooks, navigating travel sites, finding well-reviewed hostels and buying the right packing gear.  Not only did it make my trip run much more smoothly, but it also prepared me for the differences I was about to expect and what to face.  I especially am glad to have read Rick Steves’ book Europe through the Backdoor, which not only provided sound travel advice, but also showed me the cultural differences of Europe and how to learn to accept them.  In the end, any challenge or problem I faced just became another part of the adventure haha.  The planning just made the problems less severe lol.

As I’ve said before, single traveling has its pros and cons, as does traveling with someone else.  I am glad to have done it, because otherwise I’m sure I wouldn’t have forced myself to meet all wonderful people traveling the European continent.  I thank each and every one of you and hope that your travels are or were safe.  I’d especially like to call out all the people who took the time to get to know me and share part of their adventure with me.  To Nick, Nina, Ellen, Andrea, Gray, Tianna, Liz, Andrew, Claire, Slawek, Vinay, the British guys in Poland, Kayla, Alexa, Jillian, Justin, Agustin, Hans, Casper, Anna, Matt, Jaime, the Swedish guys at Oktoberfest, Layne, Kim, Roxie and anyone else I missed, you guys all rock!  I’m happy I got the chance to meet you and I hope to either hear from or see you sometime again!

So what’s next?  I said this to myself several times on my trip and I’ll say it again: it’s bad that I went on this trip.  Why?  Have you ever heard of this little illness called the “travel bug”?  Well, I caught it lol.  Sure, it’s an expensive and time-consuming sickness, but I just feel there is so much to explore.  And now that I know I can travel on my own for a month, the possibilities are endless!  I might just end up like one of the Aussies, traveling for 9 months all over the world.  You never know!  Man, just to think, 6 years ago I was afraid to fly over oceans and liked to stay in my little bubble of Grosse Pointe.  Look and me now!  I’m thinking Italy, Spain, Greece, definitely all of Eastern Europe, Russia and Japan to name a few.  Don’t worry; I have NO money and NO vacation to do that right now, so I won’t be leaving just yet lol.

Back in the real world, what can I expect?  Work…grad school…bills…all the stuff that makes day-to-day life fun lol.  I’m set on making a trip back to Europe and beyond.  And who says your daily life can’t be a blast?  I live in one of the best places in the world, surrounded by awesome people and some great places.  There’s plenty to explore at home!  And school?  That’ll open up even more doors!  Maybe I can even study abroad, that’d be sweet!  Oh man, I almost forgot about my book!  Don’t worry, it’s going to get finished and published, you just wait!

After blogging continuously over this past month, I think I need to take a vacation from it lol.  I think it may be a little while before I post again. :-P  There’s still pictures to post and organize, slideshows to arrange to show the peeps, and maybe even a photo book of some of my favs.  We’ll see. 

What’s left?  Oh yea, my blog entry wouldn’t be complete without some lists!  So here we go, top this-and-that, best/worst, all that good stuff (not in any particular order lol):

City Rankings:

1.       Berlin
2.       Krakow
3.       Prague (All of Eastern Europe rocked!)
4.       London (needed more time)
5.       Amsterdam
6.       Paris
7.       Munich (Oktoberfest was cool, but it overran everything)
8.       Vienna (Just no, at least if you’re in your 20s)

Best / Worst

·         Trains: Germany / Poland
·         Non-native English Speaking: Dutch / French
·         For your money: Krakow / Paris and Vienna
·         Public Transit: London Underground / Paris Metro
·         Bars/Pubs: London / Vienna
·         Clubs: Prague / Vienna
·         Foreign Food I tried: Steak Tartar (Prague) / 2-day-old Milk (Krakow)
·         Museum: Deutsches Museum / Ludwig Museum
·         Hostel: Ars Hostel (Krakow) and Raise a Smile (Berlin) / HI Deutz City Hostel (Cologne)

Favorite Moments:

·         DJ Tiesto!
·         Oktoberfest with the Swedes
·         Eating special brownies (and not feeling a thing lol)
·         Walking into the hostel in Krakow to Slawek’s smiling face and a tray of cherry vodka shots after a long day
·         Riding and sleeping in trains
·         Berlin, just period.
·         The Asian guy in Vienna burning a hole in his underwear
·         Shopping for a new jacket in Germany after my hoody zipper broke
·         Grocery and market shopping
·         Bernard!
·         The guy in Amsterdam who told me to pay him €100 so he won’t forcefully have sex with me
·         Finding the world’s longest happy hour in Berlin; Cheap drinks from 16:00-05:00 every day!
·         Opera in a t-shirt
·         Layne and I knowing the same street artist in SF
·         Clubbing in Prague until 06:00
·         Dancing to Polish pop music
·         Finding the biggest LEGO collection EVER in Krakow
·         The peeing statue in Prague

Lessons Learned: (* = those mentioned in Rick Steves’ book)

·         Pretty much everyone traveling in Europe is Australian or a “kiwi” (New Zealander)
·         Free toilets are few and far between *
·         Small hostels are more fun and you meet more people
·         Water is carbonated; if you don’t like it, ask for “still” or “without gas” *
·         Parisians absolutely DO NOT stop for pedestrians
·         Do the free tours; they give you a good overview for any city (Thanks Kristen for the tip!)
·         German trains rule, Polish trains suck
·         Avoid people flying souvenir airplanes, dropping rings, holding bracelets or carrying a little piece of paper with a paragraph in English *
·         Look right and left at least twice when crossing the street in England; I don’t know if I’d ever get used to people driving on the left side of the road!
·         Seat reservations (even on high speed trains) are usually pointless
·         All the words you need to know: “hi”, “please”, “thank you”, “yes”, “no”; the rest is all just pointing at things *
·         Everyone smokes, get used to it
·         Smaller proportions abound, but if you really want a lot of food, you just have to pay for it
·         Don’t fly through Texas
·         Locks on a bridge might be for love, but I think I’d stick with a combo lock so I could take it off (just in case) :-P
·         You can absolutely get every comfort and food from home that you could possibly want *
·         Transit passes are very nice, museum passes not so much
·         Starbucks, McDonalds and KFC are everywhere, but not BK (at least in France lol)
·         Please mind the gap
·         A true European “enjoys” their meal, taking up to 2 hours.  And expect to flag someone for the bill *
·         Vodka is cheaper than water in Poland; Beer is cheaper than water in Munich; Wine is cheaper than water in Paris
·         Coffee and tea reign supreme in Europe; Sorry orange juice, you’re not the “in” thing.
·         Don’t freak if eggs or milk aren’t refrigerated. 
·         Groceries and markets are the cheapest (and most fun) way to eat by far *
·         Looking for a street sign? Best bet is the corner on the side of a building (Thanks again Kristen)
·         Three hours in a museum is enough
·         I can’t compete at Oktoberfest
·         Accept free drinks, just know you’re dealing with first!
·         PDA is much more fashionable in Europe; Not my favorite thing, but you guys go for it
·         The ground floor is not the first floor; it’s Floor 0
·         Get an unlocked GSM phone and use SIM cards; it’s so easy!

With all that, I bid you goodbye from seat 44A.  Hopefully I’ll see you all soon!  Oh, and for all you Michiganders/Michiganians (whichever you prefer), I’ll be home for Thanksgiving!

Later folks!


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