Travel tips – what has worked for me
It is nearly November, and I am finding it difficult to believe that I’ve completed more than half of my study abroad semester. Fall’s beautiful blanket of colorful leaves has covered Vallendar, and this week the temperature has begun to take a steep dip. I am starting to wear two jackets instead of just one; the air has the slightest smell of snow. The change in weather seems to align with the start of the new quarter. At WHU, we take courses according to the quarter system, which is why students have had exams for the last two weeks and the campus is finally beginning to wake up again.
When I reflect about my October study abroad experience, I think of the places I traveled to. I visited four large European cities, spending thirteen days outside of Vallendar. During the first week of October, I spent an extended weekend in Amsterdam with seven friends. We spent the days biking throughout the city, eating Dutch pancakes and Stroopwafles, escaping the rain by visiting museums, and touring the city by boat. I was especially amazed by Amsterdam’s countless canals, which reminded me of what I imagine Venice must look like. After my Strategic Management exam two weeks ago, I departed for a weekend in Munich and then meet up with three friends in Vienna and Budapest. It was another lovely trip, exploring historical palaces, gardens, and museums, relaxing in the Budapest baths, and enjoying delicious meals.
As I spent almost half of the month outside of Vallendar, I gathered some small takeaways along the way. They aren’t particularly insightful or visionary, but they resonated strongly with me during the hours I spent on trains, buses, and planes.
- Don’t be scared to travel alone.
Sometimes we get so used to constantly being in groups that it can become uncomfortable to be alone again. As I got on the train to Munich by myself two weeks ago, it felt very strange to be traveling alone. After a few minutes, I began to think that everyone in the train was staring at me, noticing that I was not in a group. Afterwards, I realized that I had become so familiarized to traveling in groups and spending time with other students that I had forgotten what it felt like to travel alone, which I did a lot this past summer when I interned in Munich. Meeting and spending time with friends is undoubtedly an essential component of study abroad and inevitably leads to lifelong memories and friendships. Yet, I think there is definitely value in spending some time alone every so often to reflect on the experience, how you’re growing, and what you would like to do in the remaining weeks of study abroad.
- Planning for trips is good, but a lot of amazing moments happen spontaneously.
Before each of the trips, our group would convene beforehand to do some informal planning so that we had an idea of the spots we wanted to explore. Our plans were never set – we didn’t create schedules for each trip, except for certain museum tickets we had to buy or transportation we had to catch. Instead, we generated lists of activities for each location based on the recommended tourist spots. Some people prefer sticking to a pre-made schedule when they explore a new travel destination, but I found myself really enjoying our method. It gave us the flexibility to assess how we felt every day and then to decide whether to do activities from the list that allowed for more relaxation, or activities that required more effort.
One night in Vienna, I decided to busk on the street with Mikey, one of the friends I was traveling with. I had unofficially planned to perform on the street in one of our travel destinations, and since we all had enjoyed a day of sightseeing it fit nicely into our schedule. I played guitar and sang, while Mikey soloed on harmonica, and we managed to earn more money than I had expected. Looking back, busking made my day (and maybe even my stay) in Vienna, because it was a wonderfully energizing addition to the sites and activities we had planned. In the Strategic Management class that I took last quarter, our professor shared a quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower that resonated with me: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Just like in business strategy, planning for the trips was important, but allowing for flexibility was the game changer.
- Spend time appreciating your experience.
Study abroad is not just a time to learn about new places but also to learn about yourself. I noticed this after the two short-term study abroad experiences that I have participated in – I cherished the historical and cultural learning opportunities as much as I did the personal growth and reflective opportunities. To do so, I think it helps to capture your thoughts in written form. On the bus ride from Vienna to Budapest, I found myself writing a new note in the notes section of my phone titled, “Passions.” It is not as if I developed a new passion during the trip, but instead the trip helped me realize a new reason for that passion or specific subset of that passion, or how to voice that passion. I began to think about the internship applications and interviews that I have been working on, and I realized that they are essentially means to express passions for a job and company. For me, creative ideas or personal branding often originate when I am relaxed or stimulated by a new environment, both of which can occur when traveling. Appreciating and reflecting on the experiences you encounter while abroad can help you personally and professionally.