A True National Lampoon’s European Vacation

Since graduating college, I’ve been carrying around a morsel of regret for not taking advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. As I became ingratiated in intercultural communication during my senior year (where we often discussed the differences between the US and other cultures, particularly European cultures,) I promised myself that if the opportunity presented itself to travel, I’d take it. Such an opportunity came up during a series of casual conversations with two of my best friends, who were embarking on the vacation of a lifetime with some additional pals.

At first, I was hesitant about going on a three-week long excursion; partially due to finances and partially due to the fact that I’d never been out of America for that long. But, when I learned that the airfare was unbeatable, coupled with the foresight that this would be unlikely to present itself again, I booked my roundtrip flight to Stockholm.

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From left to right: Rachel, myself, Greg, Conor, and Maddie. Photo taken at The George Payne in Barcelona.

At the beginning of the year, it was determined that the group of us (Maddie – best friend since childhood, Rachel – person I’m pretty sure is my twin separated at birth, and Conor and Greg – Maddie’s fellow Hawkeyes) would travel from Stockholm, to Prague, to Brussels, to Naples, to Barcelona, to Amsterdam, then back to Stockholm. Having never been to any of these destinations, I was excited to learn what they had to offer.

Now looking back on the three weeks I spent abroad, I see how much I learned about cultural differences and travel in general. What I was really happy to learn, is that even if you think your shipped has sailed (for me, the ship being studying abroad) another form of transportation may be lurking behind…in my case, the other form of transportation consisted of 11 plane rides and countless buses and trains (and one taxi ride that I’m shocked to have survived.)

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So, my first concern was: how the heck does one pack for three weeks? The answer to that is: throw the concern out the window and only bring the essentials. While it was a task fitting everything I would need into a purse and a 45L backpack, it was nice not to be bogged down by a ton of luggage; especially when bouncing from place to place. We then sorted out all of the flights we would take in between each place, as well as accommodations (which were a mixture of hostels and Airbnbs.) The upcoming posts will detail each destination, as well as what was learned from each place.

Thanks for reading along and happy travels!

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