Traveling around Italy for a month was unreal, but nothing can truly compare to coming home. I’ve been back in Michigan for a few days now, mostly just recollecting on the time I spent abroad. There’s so many things that I learned about the world, traveling in general and myself, things you just can’t learn in a typical classroom.
- Packing light is the way to go. Now as some of you know, I was so determined to pack everything in a carry-on sized suitcase for this trip due to the fear that if I didn’t, I would end up being the only girl struggling to get my bags from place to place. I was successful, thanks to my eagle creek packing cubes, however, I still ended up having to buy another small suitcase for all of the gifts I bought. So yes, packing light helped me a lot, but I definitely learned that I need to be more prepared to save room for gifts next time!
- Comfortable flats will save your life. Walking around the cobblestone streets in Italy was so much easier for me with my Tieks. So many people have asked me, “are Tieks really worth the money?” And I can now respond with a confident YES! They were hands down the best purchase for my trip to Italy because they completely saved my feet from the aches and blisters I would have gotten from other flats I own.
- Strangers are nicer than you think. There were so many times that I felt like panicking when I was lost, but instead, I would stop, collect myself, and ask for help. Even if the locals could not speak English, they would find a way to communicate and help me no matter what. There were two women in particular that helped me get on the right train from Cinque Terre to Venice. Without them, I doubt I would have made it there!
- Experience each and every moment– even if that means not taking pictures. I know what you’re thinking; a blogger not taking pictures? But I’m serious. Put down the phone and take it all in. The last city I visited during my trip was Florence and as much as I wanted to go around taking photos of every beautiful thing I saw, I chose to tuck my phone away and just enjoy my time with my friends instead. I challenge you to do the same the next time you visit a new city. You won’t regret it!
- Say yes to trying new things, food especially. Whenever I visit a new place, one of my favorite things to do is try new foods, no matter how bizarre they seem. In Italy, there were a few items I had to keep an open mind about, but I’m so glad that I did. What better way to immerse yourself in another culture than by trying their food?
- Get away from the tourist traps. I have said this so many times in previous blog posts. I love love love getting to see the true beauty within a city, and you can’t see that when you’re being drowned by souvenir shops full of pointless knick knacks and people trying to sell you selfie sticks. I’ve learned to just keep walking and take the path less traveled.
- Go with the flow and stay flexible. I’m sure many of you understand that things don’t always go as planned while traveling. Well, imagine traveling with a group of twenty… Let’s just say we all needed to learn how to be flexible when it came to plans because they changed all the time!
- It’s okay to be homesick. I tried so hard to not allow myself to miss home because I felt guilty. How could I possibly be homesick when I was given the opportunity to visit such a beautiful country? But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t help it. And that’s okay. I soon learned that missing home is all part of the journey.
- Grow independently. It’s so easy to feel lost when you’re with a group of twenty almost all the time. I found that every once in a while, being by myself helped me to grow more independently since I couldn’t rely on anyone else. And isn’t that what studying abroad is all about anyway?
- The world is bigger than you think. Being 4,619 miles away from home made me feel so small. Not to mention staying in a country where the history dates back several thousands of years. The entire experience felt so surreal. When I stood on top of the mountain in Aosta and saw the other mountains that reached the borders of France and Switzerland, I felt alive.
Studying abroad was an experience I will never forget. I intend to keep traveling no matter what because this world is way too big to just stay in one place. Just think of all of the other cities that are begging to be explored!