On The Road

I just finished a six-week journey across Europe to Romania, where I now will serve as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar for the 2016-2017 academic year.

After finishing the Dramaturgy Intensive at the Kennedy Center at the end of July, I remained a few extra days and then flew on August 3 to Iceland for a stopover before heading to Glasgow, my entry point into Europe. From Glasgow, I trained to: Edinburgh, London, Cambridge, Brussels, Bruges, Cologne, Nuremberg, Innsbruck, Bologna, Rome, Naples, and Bari. I took the overnight ferry from Bari to Durrës, Albania, where my sister lives and teaches. I stayed with her for almost two weeks and then flew with her to Istanbul; she stayed the long weekend, but I remained another week to allow a side trip to Cappadocia. Finally, on September 19, I flew to Bucharest.

I posted daily on Facebook to keep my family and friends informed. I won’t attempt to rehash all of that here, but I will share the following:

Traveling for any extended period is as challenging as it is exciting and rewarding. It doesn’t take long for the dirty clothes to pile up and a weariness result from going day after day. I offer the following most essential tips for any of you planning an extended trip:

  1. Plan and purchase far in advance to save money. For me, half of the fun of a trip is the research, planning and learning before you make any decisions. Advance online reservations and purchases save me 50% or more on every trip.
  2. Travel as lightly as possible and plan to wash every 4-6 days. If everything can go into one carry-on (and one personal item) in order to avoid checked luggage and reduce your lug-around weight.
  3. If you do check a bag, make sure that it contains items you can afford to lose, in case the bag is lost. Always keep your meds, electronics, and essential toiletries and documents with you.
  4. Get your cash at the airport or train station, when you arrive. Know in advance the currency and conversion rate. Get some coins immediately for bathrooms.
  5. Know how you are getting to your hotel in advance. So many airports are leagues away, and taxis can be outrageously expensive. Plan ahead.
  6. Have a paper print-out of your hotel that includes a pic, phone number, and street address. I also prefer hard copy for all tickets: too easy to lose phone service, internet, or even the phone.
  7. Know the local language for: yes, no, please, thank you, and excuse me. Numbers 1-10 also are helpful.
  8. Know that things will go wrong at some point and be thankful when they don’t.
  9. Be a traveler, not a tourist. Sure, see the main attractions, but stay and eat local. You can eat McDonalds and stay at the Holiday Inn when you are back in the U.S.
  10. Have fun, but represent yourself and your country with integrity and pride. Be polite without being a push-over. Be yourself but be alert and discreet. Don’t be the “ugly American.”