May 18, 2006


Note: This entry was originally posted to an old blog of mine called Go Out and See the World. It can be seen in its original here, including all comments, which were not imported. The entries are separate from Sunny Day Happy Face, but were imported for posterity! Enjoy!

Sitting at my computer over a month before I leave, I feel completely overwhelmed by the number of sights to see and things to do in each place I am going to be visiting. With 3 days (plus two travel days) in Prague, how do I know what's worth it to see and how to I spread this out over three whole days, so that visiting is convenient and efficient? With just 1 day in Milan, what is not important to see? After my Europe trip last year, I'm an expert at squishing everything into one day, but then I could consider the possibility of coming back to Milan during July.

The hardest of all is Florence. It's easy to decide what to see when you have a limited amount of time, but with one whole month, it's easier to decide what not to see! I also have to plan around tourism because waiting in line for certain museums (there are a few I'm willing to go to!) can take hours and there are always huge crowds. Worse off, I need to factor in day trips. How many places do I want to go to? How far away are they? Do I get there by train or by bus? On which days do I go on an excursion, and which days do I stay in Florence?

Research, to me, is the most important part of going on a trip. While some people like to wing it, I would hate to think that I could leave a city without seeing something that I would have really wanted to. Last summer, I did some basic research and came up with a list of landmarks I wanted to see. Since no one else in the group did this, and our tour guides hadn't always been to the cities we visited, I often was able to visit many of the places on my list!

But now I'm going at it alone for the most part, so I get to decide what to see all the time. No tour guides to drag us there based on a map, I've got to do it all myself.

One of the hardest and most time consuming things so far was choosing my hostels. There were so many in Prague, but I wanted to have my own room (not stay in a dorm with other backpackers) and I didn't want to pay for multiple beds (in Europe at a hostel, sometimes rooms have 2+ beds, but because the rooms are private, one person must pay for all of the beds, so it is impractical and extremely expensive to book a 4-bed room for one person!) -- the hard part was that most hostels were already booked. The shitty ones had vacancies, but I don't want to stay in the outskirts or in a hostel with doors that do not lock! It took hours to find a hostel with the proper room and then to find good reviews on it!

Milan was worse, because it's not a backpacker city. It's an expensive, executive city, where even the hostels are geared towards high-powered cliental, not young, energetic backpackers! I gave up on finding a hostel, so I found a low-budget hotel for about the same price as one night in Prague, in a great location.

It's nerve wracking not only to book a foreign hostel or hotel online, but because I am basing my decision on other reviewers and a few small pictures. I don't really know if these places are on small sides streets or if the guests are noisy all the time. It's a crap shoot.

So, all I've got to say is... time to research!

why travel?

Note: This entry was originally posted to an old blog of mine called Go Out and See the World. It can be seen in its original here, including all comments, which were not imported. The entries are separate from Sunny Day Happy Face, but were imported for posterity! Enjoy!

Today I was thinking, "Why travel?" Some people choose to stay in one place their entire lives and have no interest in venturing outside of their bubble. Some people spend every possible moment away from home. So, why do this? For me, there are many reasons.

I find it impossible not to care about the world and the different places, sights and people that exist within it. My huge desire is to find out how other people live. This partially explains why, when I go away, I don't spend my time in museums, because I rather walk, shop, talk and eat, things I do on a regular basis at home and not as a tourist, to try to experience real life wherever I am. I want to know how people dress, where they go, what conversations they have, what jobs they have, why they live there -- there are so many things to want to know about someone who lives in a different city, country and continent than I do.

Second, I do want to see the sights to find out why tourists flock to these locations, what makes it important and to see it with my own eyes. I don't think it's possible to ever be satisfied by seeing a picture of say, the great pyramids, and not want to see them for real.

As I get older, becoming aware of the United States, politically and otherwise, has led to my wanting to travel, too. I wonder, there are so many people living in other countries who don't choose to be in America, so why should I? Most of the time, I don't see the benefits of this country and a reason to travel is to find out whether or not I would like to stay here as an adult.
Also, there is a certain comfortable feeling I get when I'm in the U.S. I understand the little things everywhere I go: What street and highway sign mean, how to act at a restaurant... Plus, everyone speaks English. But everything from the clothes to the attitude to the air is different all over the world, or, within my scope, in Europe.

Mostly, there is nothing like exploration. The language barrier alone gives me a rush. It's a constant challenge. And, not knowing a city makes it more difficult to navigate. Every corner is new; every face is unfamiliar. There is no feeling like not knowing your way, but finding fun and knowledge everywhere.

I am not the intellectual type. I will never be content reading books and looking at pictures of these cities and countries or learning about their histories. I learn by doing, so traveling is the ultimate experience. Travel is my addiction. I never knew that when I casually signed up to tour Europe last summer that my life would change so profoundly: That I would never be able to spend a school break at home again, that I would spend nights researching places I want to visit, that I can imagine leaving home for months or years at a time, or forever. But now that I have seen the light of travel, I will always desire to be on the move.

So, as another summer flies by, I will again be six hours ahead of New York time in Europe, the continent that I am determined to conquer (as far as visiting goes). This summer is the first time I will be traveling completely alone, which gives me the most extreme form of independence, and also the first that I will be studying during travel, too (though I hope to do as little of that as possible).

This is my travelog. I will update it as often as I can from internet cafes in the cities I visit. My sorry attempts at keeping a written journal in the past lead to nothing memorable for myself. So, I created this blog in hopes that not only will my friends and family be able to keep up with me as I move around, but maybe that other people can learn about or be inspired by where I go, as well.

So, check back often and follow me as I travel (mostly) in Italy (and the Czech Republic). Feel free to post comments to my entries, I would love to hear from friends, family and other visitors while I'm away (and sometimes it's easier than e-mail). Thanks for stopping by.