Hello fellow travelers! I’m not traveling myself, but my good friend Sherry (who I have mentioned a million times), was just on a short 3 week trip to Europe. She wrote this beautiful post about the kindness of strangers that … Continue reading
Hey everyone! So, I have been SLACKING hardcore with my other blog, Tay at Home.
I don’t really have a reason except for that I’ve been suffering from some serious post-travel blues and I am faced with “life” decisions: what next?
Don’t worry, after many mental breakdowns I am breathing again (remember, just breathe).
Anyways, I just wanted to say hello to everyone, especially to all the individuals who have stumbled upon my blog after my travels! Unfortunately I don’t have any awesome photos or new travel stories to share, but I stumbled upon my very first message I sent to my friends/family back home during my first day in Europe.
Here it is:
“So I took a bus from the airport to the city centre. The man driving the bus had such a strong accent that when I got off I wasn’t entirely sure if it was the right place. And, in true Taylor fashion I tripped getting off the bus (but seriously why would there by a step from the seats to the walkway!?) anywho there was free wifi on the bus so luckily I looked on the map before getting off to get a general sense of where I was. The city is old–very old, like started being built in 898 old! But, because of war a lot of the buildings aren’t original and not ‘old Europe’ looking like you would expect. People evetwhere! I’m staying in the temple bar area–the cultural centre of Ireland, and it’s a block away from trinity college university (beautiful btw, I’ll load pics when I can). Anyways, I wandered into. The templeBar area and got lost — but then wandered into a pub and asked and I was actually only 2 blocks away! By this point I was exhausted and wanted to sleep but my room wasn’t ready until 230 — it was 10:20…shit! So, the guy pointed me to a cafe where I went to buy coffee–then to a ‘free’ walking tour (still expected to tip). Glad I went–10 or so people, 2 friends Chris and Cree from Colorado –the tour was awesome, but more on that later bc my finger is getting tired from typing! Had my first guiness, which tastes 100% better here than at home. I would load pics but for some reason it won’t work. After the tour the guys and I made plans to meet for dinner then go on a pub crawl. No worries tho, Cree doesn’t drink! Never has! We’re going to see the pub/meet ppl/ listen to music–none of us want to feel hungover so yay no need to worry! tomorrow I’m going to wander–and research where my next stop might be!
Anyways, that’s all for now! I’m alive and well! Having fun these first 24 hours!”
It’s really interesting to read that now after now being home for over a month.
It’s been 3 weeks since I started my journey in Europe.
Three weeks since I got on a plane to Dublin.
Three weeks since I said goodbye to everyone and everything I knew.
Three weeks since I started my bravest adventure to date.
When I told people I was traveling to Europe for three months, the first question was always ‘with who?’
‘No one,’ I would say and immediately their eyes would widen and they would say ‘you’re brave!’
Sure, I have spent a fair amount of time alone in a foreign country. Sometimes I have to stay in a hotel so meeting people is close to impossible, and no, I’m not brave in those moments. In those moments I am a pathetic, sobbing mess who calls her mom.
But, the majority of my trip I haven’t been alone. As all travelers will tell you: you will make friends!
I’ll admit, thanks to some awesome grandfatherly advice, I’ve always been pretty good at making friends. And no, it’s not because I have some really cool attribute; it’s quite the opposite actually: I am awkward and love to tell my most embarrassing moments to people as a way to break the ice.
But, not everyone is ‘brave’ enough to approach a stranger and propose friendship. And, to be fair, sometimes you just don’t know how to say ‘can we be friends’ without sounding like a crazy person.
But, after awkwardly approaching a group of women on the terrace a couple nights ago and saying ‘oh hey, can I sit here?’ and sitting with them without waiting for a response, I realized that everyone secretly wants to talk to each other while traveling.
So, I did some ‘research’ and talked with my new friends about how they have made travel companions in the past.
How to make friends while abroad
1. Say hello. It really is that simple. Of course, don’t say hello to someone as they’re about to use the toilet; pick the proper moment. The common area in a hostel is ideal, or if you happen to be in the room at the same time, a polite smile and hello can go a long way. It’s not a guarantee, but using the simple hello method at a hostel has worked for me 95% of the time, thwarted only because of a language barrier.
2. Go on a free walking tour. They have these in the majority of major European cities now. It’s perfect because the crowd is generally young (18-26) and they usually offer tickets to a pub crawl that night. I’m not saying that you have to drink to make friends, but bonding while drinking a pint is always easy. You already have something in common: booze!
3. Stalking. Okay, wait, I don’t mean follow someone around while dressed in a black-trench-coat. No, this trick I learned from a frequent traveler (one who I will not name), and her story seemed to resonate with everyone. It goes like this: you’ve arrived at a hostel, are feeling lonely, and 4 hours have passed since you’ve interacted with anyone. You’ve missed the free tour for the day, and the girl you approached in the kitchen didn’t speak a word of English. Damn. You’re lying in your bed, feeling pretty defeated, and thinking of what type of fun you can have alone on a Friday night in Madrid. Then, you hear it. It’s barely audible, but your ears are sure: it’s English. ‘Hey, where can I buy some beer to drink on the terrace?’. This is your moment. You can either remain lying on your uncomfortable bunk-bed or run out there and say hello. But wait, you can’t just sprint out to the reception and blurt hello. No, you’re a normal person who follows acceptable social norms. Okay, solution: walk out to the reception (casually) and ask the reception ‘hey, I was wondering where I may be able to find some beer?’. Now, assuming the English guy standing next to you also follows basic social-norms he should invite you along.
‘We’re looking for the same thing’ he says with a smile. Damn, no invite. Okay, be brave: ‘no way! Is it cool if I tag along with you to grab some?’
Bam! This guy thinks it’s all his idea to have you tag along with him and his hot Australian buddies, but you can give yourself an internal high-five for manipulating the situation to your advantage!
And yes, this is a true story.
4. When all else fails, just remind yourself that you’re in Europe. Spending a night alone isn’t a great option every night, but heading to a cafe or a pub solo and grabbing a drink in Europe is a cool story, with or without people. You will remember it fondly and say to people: ‘this one night, while alone in Europe…’ and no matter what you did, it already sounds awesome.
The best part about friends abroad is learning about their culture, a few words in their native language and you may increase the amount of Facebook friends you have. And, if you really hit-it-off you may get yourself an invite to their home. So, even after your adventure you have the opportunity to visit France, Portugal, Brazil, Italy, Spain, the UK and maybe Australia. You may even host someone yourself.
So, what are you waiting for!? Go say hello!
Hola! Como estas?
I arrived in Madrid Monday night after a very long day of traveling. And honestly, I was smelling pretty horrible. I was in need of a shower, and I really needed to do laundry. I feel horrible for those who had to sit next to me on the trains.
I’m staying at the Barbieri Sol Hostel, only a one minute walk to the main square of Puerta del Sol.
Since I am already a master of the Metro system in Paris, taking the Metro from the train station to Sol was painless. And although it was 10 at night, the square was full of people and the restaurants were full. I am not used to such late festivities on a Monday night, and I wondered if perhaps it were a holiday?
The answer: no, it was merely a Monday night in Madrid.
I have learned a lot about the culture of Madrid in the past few days.
For instance, the history of their city is quite colorful. Kings, civil war, in-breeding and drinking were all high-lights of the free walking tour, as well as an explanation of execution techniques.
Also, the oldest restaurant in the world is located in Madrid, as well as the largest palace in Western Europe (yes, even bigger than Versailles!).
What I really want to tell you about is the food! Yummy! Tapas!
Confession: I was very confused by ‘tapas’. I had heard of it, but the customs behind it were foreign to me. In Madrid, tapas are not ‘free’ as I had expected. I was told that in cities like Salamanca and Granada, tapas are served free as they were in the old days. Here in Madrid when you order a drink you may get a plate of olives or cheese at no cost, but most places when you order ‘Calamares’ for example you must pay extra.
Sorry, let me explain.
Tapas are a customary ‘snack’ in Spain. I’ve heard two versions about their history:
1. When a king some years ago was at a restaurant, he ordered wine and a small snack. He was near a beach, and the wind was strong that day. An attentive waiter noticed that sand was blowing into the King’s wine, and decided to place a small plate with his food on top of the glass I prevent Sand from getting into the wine. The King wondered what the waiter was doing, and he said it was a ‘tapas’ or top.
2. Farmers would head into the city during their lunch to eat and have a drink. Well, most of the time they could not afford to do both. So, they chose to drink. After lunch, they would return to the fields slightly drunk as they had nothing to eat to help absorb the alcohol. Thus, productivity declined. The King at the time made a law that from then on, every drink must be served with a small portion of food at no extra cost.
The truth, I believe, lies somewhere in-between.
After the walking tour I wanted to go on the tapas tour they offered. But, I got lost on my way, and never found where it was, so I missed it! I was tires frustrated and HUNGRY! I repeatedly walked by the same restaurant about half-a-dozen times. The waiters inside began saying ‘hola’ every time. Because they were so friendly, I decided it was a good place to sit down and have a beer and some food (pictures above and below).
Then, yesterday, my friend Pablo took me around the lesser-known areas of Madrid. He also took me to this wonderful Tapas bar which looked like a hole-in-the-wall and was teeny-tiny! It was so busy you could barely move! But, it was delicious!
1. A lovely waitress pouring our beer. You can see the food in the background. There was a limited menu.
2. Queso y Membrillo – cheese with quince paste. It was delicious! The cheese was very bland, but the Membrillo (fruit paste) is very sweet.
3. Fried padron peppers — deep fried peppers tossed in coarse salt. Pablo told me that while most of them are not hot, sometimes one will be spicy. I had one spicy out of the dozen I ate. It’s like a surprise! A wonderful surprise!
And are you ready:
Croquetas de jamon y Queso — fries goats cheese with ham. And yes,
I ate a bite. GASP! It’s fairly popular, and pig is a staple in their diet here. There was trace amounts of meat, and like the bad pescatarian I am I ate it. I attempted to avoid the meet (you could see it). It was how you would imagine deep-fries cheese would taste-delicious!
I leave you now with some pictures I took while exploring with my England friends and Pablo.
Traveling is awesome! Whether you’re just taking a day trip in a town next to yours, or you’re trekking across Europe, it’s an amazing feeling.
While with my friends I didn’t feel too homesick. There were moments of wishing I could take a break at home, but for the most part I didn’t have time to think about it.
Then I was alone. I’m sure even if you travel with friends you’re bound to get homesick.
Confession: I have horrible anxiety. My brain goes into over-drive and people always tell me that I ‘think too much’ and my heart races and I become overwhelmed. Experiencing this, alone, in a foreign country, is horrible!
My first two nights alone I cried. Not just a little, but a lot!
You will get homesick. It’s a horrible feeling. I called my mom and my best-friend during these moments and they did their best to console me, but sometimes you just want to be home. My first night in Paris I literally started to think of how I was going to get myself home in the next couple days–forfeiting all the money I had already spent.
You will feel this way: especially if you are alone.
The bad news: it really is one of the worst feelings ever!
The good news: it goes away.
For me, these feelings are the worst at night, when I’m alone and there is nothing to do to distract my thoughts (beyond French television).
My mom gave me great advice that I am now going to pass along. It’s common sense but sometimes you just need another voice of reason.
If traveling alone were always simple more people would do it. Traveling with friends is also difficult. But, the good will always outweigh the bad.
A situation always feels the worst at night when there is nothing you can do but sleep. But that’s the point: just sleep. When you’re traveling you sometimes forget to take care of yourself. You probably need rest.
I didn’t have a hostel in Paris so I had to pay 90 euro for my first night in a shady hotel-I was worried about not having a place to stay the next few nights. After a 20 minute self-pity party I took a deep breath, got on the Internet, and found a hostel. Next, I looked up times for trains to Madrid, where I already had a hostel booked.
Then I took a walk.
When you feel overwhelmed, put the situation in perspective. Yes, you’re alone. Yes, you’re not entirely sure what your plans are. Yes, you might be paying too much for this hotel. But, yes, you are in Europe!
”I’m in Paris! I am exactly where I wanted to be”. You have choices: sit in your room and sulk, looking at stained walls in a cramped hotel room OR get outside and experience a different culture!
I needed some comfort so I went for some Sushi (it’s my comfort food) and then walked along a busy side-street. The restaurants were packed–it was a Friday night and people were out enjoying the gorgeous weather.
I went and bought myself some wine (2.5 euro bottle!) and a bar of chocolate. I needed some comfort.
Then, because I didn’t want to be alone at night on Paris streets, I went back to my hotel room, poured myself a glass of wine, ate some chocolate and turned on Air Bud 5 — en francais.
Within 45 minutes I was asleep. I kept the tv on in the background as noise to distract my mind and I had one of the best sleeps yet.
I woke up, took a deep breath, and went to my hostel.
I was homesick. I was alone. I was overwhelmed. I remained alone all day.
But, it gets better. I made friends, and I had an awesome night drinking wine in front of the Eiffel tower learning French, Portuguese and Spanish.
Take a deep breath.
It will get better. I promise.
Just remember: breathe.