As soon as July hit, I made a pact with myself- it was time to kick my studying abroad planning into first gear and stop being such a baby and actually accomplish something besides playing with the cat all day and making late night visits to Friendly’s ice cream window. Being that I was supposed to be on vacation July 22-27 and again from August 3-13 but I would be leaving for Italy the 28th, I figured this would make the sense.
(Me: “Dad, PLEASE let’s go on vacation earlier. I can’t only have two weeks and some to get ready to live in another country for four months.”
Dad: “No way. Life is hard.”) End of conversation.
Anyway, point is that I figured I would start getting ready in July. First off, I made a to-do list of all the things that I had to do (there were like thirty things. frick). and then I just very slowly yet steadily ebbing away at them until now I only have the super hard stuff left (what a surprise). Here is a condensed version of a few things that you may forget (and should definitely do) while venturing across the pond.
1. Make a list of places you want to go. It’s a little scary at first to go through the endless lists of things to do and places to see, but this is’t a concrete list. It’s just nice to get you thinking and get planning (just a little) of what you want to do. All childhood dreams are welcomed. Example: I have always wanted to go to Transylvania. No one I know has ever been there and I don’t even know of any cool sites. But I want to go there. So it made the list. After naming a few other general sites and cities, I felt a little more settled in my own adventure. This also makes it easier for step two (see below).
2. Call the damn bank. I WANTED to go in and speak to them myself about the places I would be visiting (kind of like what grandparents do) but apparently Bank of America doesn’t do that, although Wells Fargo does. Whatevs. I called the bank and told them the countries and dates I would be visiting. WRITE THIS DOWN. Because if you end up going to a country you didn’t name (which you probably will) you’ll be up the creek without a paddle once the ATM takes your card because it thinks you’re a thief. When you call, they’ll also give you an international number and a collect call number for once you’re away in case you run into problems. This is a beautiful thing.
3. Buy a guidebook. I love Amazon– I live 30 minutes from civilization and buying online is almost always cheaper, plus you can sell it back later. Utilize the “look inside this book” feature to make sure the book is what you thought it would be- are the maps comprehensive? Does it cover the countries and cities you want to hit? Is there detailed information about the sites (so you can give tours to yourself)? Are there nifty traveling tips that aren’t common sense? Getting the book early will also give you something to do when you get bored on the plane (i.e. read). Highlight and make some notes of the must-see sights.
4. Make copies of all your stuff. Your plane tickets. Credit cards. Student IDs. License. Passport. EVERYTHING. Make two copies- one to leave at home with fam or friends and another to keep with you in case something gets stolen.
5. Buy a money belt. They look super lame (like a small fanny pack) and they hide under your clothes where you can keep some money and your passport in case you get pickpocketed. They also have ones that are like a cross body bag (but als0 go under your clothes). Cheap and worth it.
6. Get some ear plugs. You’ll be glad you did once you’re on that 12 hour bus ride.
7. Exchange your money at the bank. Don’t you dare count on those exchange stations unless you HAVE TO. You’ll get the best rates at your own bank and you’re better off arriving with cash, since many European destinations aren’t huge on debit and credit cards.
8. Get an iPod converter. I love my Mac and my iPhone dearly, plus they’re the only things I own of value. So I’ll be damned if I waited this long to get this stuff (thanks Dad!) and then it blew out when I got there. Do yourself a favor and get the real Apple converters. Apple makes a World Travel Kit with all the adapters for all the continents, but it’s $40 and you don’t need them all. Just get what you need on eBay and save some dollars.
9. Send out a mass text and gather everyone’s addresses. Write them down or put them in your phone so you can send out postcards (way better than receiving or having to carry a magnet all day).
10. Credit card. Boom. If you’re like me, no one will give you a credit card. And even if they do (God bless) the limit is probably like $300. Get a co-signed one with your parents if you’re a young’n so if you need an emergency plan ticket or something, you can buy it and pay them back later (like over five years throughout the course of your life). You’ll be glad you did when you don’t have to spend Christmas in an airport because your flight got delayed.
There. That’s it. I think I have carpal tunnel now. THANKS. Anyway, please comment if you have any questions or suggestions to add to this list!