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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Know how you are getting to your hotel in advance. So many airports are leagues away, and taxis can be outrageously expensive. Plan ahead.
- 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.
- Know the local language for: yes, no, please, thank you, and excuse me. Numbers 1-10 also are helpful.
- Know that things will go wrong at some point and be thankful when they don’t.
- 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.
- 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.”