I am back in the states now, staying with my parents while I work to get things in order for my coming move south. I've had some time to think about my big trip, and wanted to share a few of my highlights and some things that made me go "meh", okay. So here we go!
New York - A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway
Iceland - Glaciar hiking and attempting to ice climb
France- Beaches of Normandy, the Eiffel Tower and the fountain art at Versailles
Switzerland - the beauty of the Alps
Italy - Urban graffiti in Venice, body acceptance on the beach, Michelangelo's Last Judgment
Jordan - Just in general Jordan was awesome, but the bedouin family I stayed with at a camp site really topped my list. Fellow travelers in Jordan were awesome as well.
Egypt - camel ride near the pyramids of Giza, my Egyptian guide and friend
So here's my 'meh' list, things that didn't overly excite me personally, or which were just lower on the list:
New York - I had a hard time figuring out the dang subway, I just needed more time
Iceland - Losing my wallet, with credit card, cash and drivers license
England - in general 'meh'
France - Paris - signage on streets was awful, smell of piss at the Louvre was overwhelming in the heat
Switzerland - the price of train tickets to get there was unreasonable
Italy - Disgusting tourists in Rome (seriously I was afraid to walk in the bathrooms because of the things I've seen in the hostel at Rome), pizza is much better here in the states as far as I'm concerned!
Jordan - store owner gropage, aggressive vendors at Petra, entrance fee to Petra is quite outrageous, no acceptance of credit cards
Egypt - Over aggressive vendors throughout upper Egypt, losing my cell phone, no acceptance of credit cards
This list is super simplistic, but just provides a brief overview of the last couple of months. Here are a few traveling tips I will throw at you as well, since you might be curious how I travel so cheap. These tips suit my particular style of travel, which includes grocery shopping, hostels (yes you might share a room with 5+ people), using only public transportation if possible and conducting some pre-trip planning to ensure you get the best possible rates and locations.
1. Changing money - seriously don't take a grand or so on your trip with the idea that you will exchange money and get the best rate because you won't, you will never win if you take over money to exchange. Take a couple hundred bucks for emergency cash and store this in a seperate spot in case you lose your wallet.
• Take your debit card, even with the 5$ fee you might pay for using a bank other than your own, you will come out much ahead. There are atms literally everywhere, you will find one and you most likely will find an atm easier than a money exchange/bank
• Create a travel plan with your bank before you leave so they do not lock your cards up. And, check what your daily allowance is, if you are only allowed to take out $300/day, and if that is enough for you and your style.
• Keep copies of your credit cards with someone you trust at home and if you will be gone for a long length of time, consider giving power of attorney to someone at home who can make decisions on your behalf (really only if you are going on a long trip or have medical issues, bills that need to be addressed, etc.).
• Keep the international numbers you can use to reach your bank with you so you can call asap if you lose your wallet.
2. Do some pre-planning - this will tie into public transportation which I will address in a moment. Because I rely on buses and trains that I have to book myself (instead of joining a tour group), I plan ahead so I have the address of my hostel and directions how to get there. I have never shown up to a town without knowing where I'm going to stay. A tiny bit of planning will ensure you don't overspend on something convenient and that you don't wind up in a bad neighborhood. 3. Use public transit, seriously, I know most of us are Westerners and we drive everywhere, but when you travel you will save huge amounts of cash by going local. Part of that is a lot of taxis don't have meters, and well, you might not know that from one spot to the other should only be 2$ and you wind up getting charged 10$. Public transit has the same fees for everyone. I've gotten on the wrong metro and buses before, big whoop, I figure it out. However, its okay if you splurge! When I was in NYC and was frazzled and couldn't take it anymore I hopped in a taxi. It was my last resort and it saved my day! 4. Be respectful of locals. Seriously, do you want foreign people taking pictures of you and your kids? Why not? Because it is an invasion of privacy, you are not on show for the tourists, and unless they agree to you taking the picture beforehand have some respect. They are people, respect their desire to protect their children. I'm serious, you will be shocked at how many people take pictures without asking. A man on a train in Egypt did it to me, and it was weird! 5. Give yourself a break, things don't always work out as planned. You don't have to do everything, or anything for that matter. This is your trip, if you choose to go to Jordan and not visit Petra, it really is fine, do as you wish. At home you don't go 2 weeks without a day of rest right? Well, don't plan that you will on vacation - take a day off! Relax, enjoy! Not sure if this will help anyone, but these are just a few things I have learned. Thanks so much to everyone for keeping in touch with me over these last couple of months. I look forward to seeing you all in the future!
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