By Michael Castaneda
With finals approaching rapidly after the cruel tease of Spring Break, let’s think of a happier time — life after finals. May I suggest a trip to Europe? The good part of Europe. Not the part of Europe that is so bad that people from there will hide which country they are from by saying “I’m from Europe” vis a vis an entire continent. We would never say we are from North America.
Before I get into this let me address some obvious push back I am sure is out there: If you want to go to Europe why don’t you do a semester abroad? This is something I fully support doing, but sometimes it doesn’t work for everyone. Some of us have to work. A semester abroad may also push back your graduation date because you may not get to take classes needed for your major. Finally, some of us can’t bear to be away from our beagles for that long.
Another argument is that it is expensive. Well, yes it can be, but so is a night out. If you can save a $600, you can take a trip abroad that you will never forget. I was able to get a flight to Dublin last summer for under $400.
Finally, a former roommate told me that he will go to Europe when he is older and has a lot of money so he can “do it right.” Yeah ok, but travel is different at every age you travel in and you don’t want to miss the fun and romance that comes with traveling while young.
Needless to say, you need a passport. Some full-time jobs that you will be applying for after graduation will require one. So, it’s something you should get anyway if you are able to.
Being an American abroad is your right. You get to travel to a relativity safe country where few people speak English and navigate through your experience like a pilgrim. When you find other Americans there, or to a lesser extent Canadians, you feel like finding your long lost brethren. Then you can go home and tell everyone about it like you were the only person to have ever done that.
Once you picked a cheap ticket, you can choose to stay at a youth hostel. Hostels are cheap and safe to stay abroad. They are supported by the government to facilitate easy travel for backpackers. You can stay in a room with lots of people or have your own depending on what you want to spend. Breakfast and Wi-Fi are usually included.
Everyone there will be looking to meet and talk to new people. Even if you were traveling by yourself, you will quickly make friends and dates. It’s likely that you will be going to the tourist attractions or will learn about ones you never thought of. Then you will see the same people from your hostel there whether you planned it or not.
However, there are a few things to watch out for. Aussies and Kiwis do a one to two year trip around the world before going to college. Needless to say, these are not poor children. They are good fun but could out drink your run-of-the-mill frat boy. Watch out because it may be more than you have expected. Another thing to watch out for are Hostel Lizards which are guys in their mid-early-20’s that never want to leave the hostel. Often they manage the lesser ones for a free stay and pocket money. They usually have issues with their parents and are constantly on the lookout for new young girls who they can take under their and into the beds.
Once you’re there you pretty much spend as much money as you would while you are in Brooklyn. In some places, things cost less. The great thing about being in a foreign city is that normal things become bigger deals. You are at a cafe, except you are at a cafe in Paris. It sounds much cooler. Museums are often free as they are paid for by the government.
Many people will tell you that once you set foot in Europe you should go everywhere. If you have the time and money, it’s a great idea. There are low-cost airlines like Easyjet, affectionately known as “Sleazy Jet” and there is the Eurorail. Being cheap, I would advise against this. One, this will not be your only trip abroad. Once you go, you will get the bug and then go as often as you can. You might be even turned into one of the annoying people who open a conversation with a new person with “Do you like to travel?” Another reason to stay put on a short trip is that there is a lot to see and experience. Your Instagram page will thank you later. If you are in a big city like Paris or London, you can take months just getting to know it. Imagine those people who go to New York for the first time and go to Times Square and confidently say “Ok, I’ve seen New York. I’m done.” Don’t be that guy!
Do be careful as any other place can be unsafe. I was in Turkey once and was heading to Shul, only to find out that a bomb had gone off 20 minutes earlier. There are places in France that make the dangerous parts of East St. Louis look like Disneyland.
Still, there is an upside of going to Europe while learning a Eurocentric curriculum. Go to Delphi after reading about the Oracle of Delphi. If you love Harry Potter, Oxford is just over an hour away from London by train. You will feel like you are in Hogwarts.
Whatever you do enjoy yourself. And of course, have a great summer.