Hey, everyone! This is the first post in my travel series, Going Soulo, which I’ll be posting in every week for the rest of the summer!In the past month I have been going crazy trying to get ready for my study abroad, which has now officially started after 14 days of losing my mind. I’ll admit that I was planning on doing a fancy post with pictures about how to be packing savvy, but planning a summer trip to two completely different areas got the better of me.
And my bag honestly wasn’t packed nicely enough to be flaunted over the internet. Kudos to the girls that make time for that in their posts; I was running out the door to make my flight so I had no time for fancy blogging. I still have the pictures of what I’ve taken but not pictures of the packed bags, since I was rearranging everything last minute to make my sneakers fit. That was no easy feat, I assure you, seeing as I’m packing for a city trip and a farm trip. Part of what I originally laid out to take was thrown back in my closet because there was no way I could pack everything.
In my defense, since this is study abroad, I had to take my computer, notebooks, the contents of my portfolio for the class, and three Shakespeare plays, which will most definitely be passed on to new owners since I don’t want to drag them around Europe. I also have this terrible fear of getting sick after two bouts of pneumonia, so I brought oil of oregano (I’ll be posting about this at a later date, it’s fantastic), Lauricidin (a supplement to help with my mononucleosis), and B12+Iron, which I take to make sure I’m getting what I need as a vegan.
I’m not a newbie at packing for trips abroad and staying in hostels, which really teach you a lot in the art of cooperation. This is actually my fourth time to be out of country, but the longest I’ve ever been gone from the states is three weeks. So I’m about to hit a pretty steep learning curve. Luckily, I do have an arsenal of packing tips, which I’m going to share, though you’ve probably heard them before.
- You should prepare for getting sick, even if you’re only traveling for a week, and especially if you’re staying in hostels. My grandfather got sick on my trip to London last year, and I was popping vitamin C like they were Milk Duds to avoid getting sick as well. Depending on where you go, remedies could be plentiful, but if you have something that really works, bring it with you.
- For the love of God, do not forget your shower shoes. You will be so sorry.
- Buy a universal sink plug. Even if you don’t use it for laundry, it will most definitely come in handy. Washing your clothes in the sink may sound gross, but nicer hostels will clean them multiple times a day, and you’ll celebrate when you don’t have to pay for washing machines. Last year, my family lucked out in Ireland: we ended up staying in a townhouse for the eight of us and a washing machine was included. But don’t count on bumping into a cheap one.
- Wear boots on the plane. They’re wonderful travel companions and if you have a versatile pair, they work with a multitude of outfits, despite their bulk. Wear them when you travel and then you don’t have to worry about making extra room in your suitcase.
- Pack for the experience you want to have. If you want the backpacking experience, consolidate everything and plan on looking like a backpacker, because you probably won’t blend in. But if you want to blend in and look like a local, you’ll want to pack a little bit more. It helps to lay everything out before you pack, that way you have a visual as to what you’ll need. Always pack as light as possible, because dragging a ton of luggage with you is a pain. Literally.
- If you have a special diet, then you must do your research. And always bring snacks because you never know what will be available. My mother follows a gluten-free diet, I’m vegan, and my sister is allergic to corn and red food coloring. Depending on where you go, your diet could be very manageable or very miserable. Ireland has gluten-free options almost everywhere and since Europe doesn’t use artificial coloring or corn syrup, my mom and sister could eat almost anything they wanted. I, on the other hand, was stuck eating nothing but potatoes and bread and occasionally consuming soup with milk products because I didn’t want to starve to death. If you’re vegan or vegetarian and have a smart phone, invest in the HappyCow app. It will be your best friend.
- Don’t hole up in your hostel bed and read every night. Go out and make friends, even if you aren’t solo traveling. Yes, there’s always the chance that your new acquaintance could be the next Ted Bundy, but what’s the point of traveling around the world if you aren’t going to meet people? I met a couple of cool pharmacy students backpacking through Europe that I never would have encountered if I hadn’t put myself out there. Be careful, not reclusive.
- But it is a good idea to invest in mace. Just saying.
- You will have to choose between wrinkles and efficiency. Folding clothes over one another (you can find the technique on multiple websites) does reduce wrinkles, but you won’t be able to fit everything you need if it’s a longer trip. I used the roll technique, mostly because it doesn’t matter if my farming clothes are wrinkled, but I folded my dresses and blazers because I’m wearing those pretty frequently.
- Get off the beaten path. I cannot stress it enough. Touristy places are great to visit, but the real gems of a place are hidden and frequented by locals. I’m talking about hole-in-the-wall restaurants, tiny independent bookstores, local parks, etc. Do internet research, ask around, do what you have to, but don’t exclusively hang around the popular sites. Last year, my family and I drove out to see the battlefield of Thermopylae, which had very few tourists and was awesome to experience because of the history. Taking the extra time and effort is well worth it.
I have more, but I’m also exhausted, so I’ll keep you posted and check in next week with a post about eco-friendly traveling. Does anyone else have good travel tips?