Travel Lessons

Today marks our second to last day of class here at CESA. Looking back at the past three and a half weeks, we’ve learned a lot, not just in the classroom but also out and about in our travels. Here is my summary of everything I’ve learned outside of class in 10 points:

1. Don’t forget to bring a towel. In America, we take Towels for granted. We expect that they will be provided for free in hotels as that is the norm. Here in Europe though, towels are a traveller’s gold. Towels cost money. Either in the form of an expensive hotel that provides you one, the towel renting fee in a hostel, or the 10 euros that you’ll have to shell out for the same size towel you had when you were 3. No European traveller would go anywhere without bringing their own towel.

Three of us making use of our towels to enjoy the sun in Monterosso

2. Shower early. Assuming you remembered to bring a towel, shower as early in the day as possible. Why? The only thing worse than not having a towel is having a wet towel. And if you always shower right before you leave, your towel will always be wet.

Wet towels. No fun to dry your hands on, and no fun to put in your bag.

3. Make friends with the locals. This one may seem like a no brainer, but its crucial. Ask about them, be genuinely interested in them, learn about them, and good things will follow. You can never learn everything there is to learn about a place from a tour or from a book.

Three members of the group with new friends we made during our canyoning tour in Interlaken

4. Always go somewhere new. While its nice to visit a favorite location, there really is nothing better than going somewhere new. The first weekend here, I went to Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera, a place I had already been. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time and still think its one of the best places on earth, but something was amiss. There was no thrill this time. No thrill of seeing new things, being in new places, or of making new friends. I’ve had way more fun this past week going to Zurich, Freiburg, and Interlaken than I did going to Cinque Terre.

Four members of the group exploring the residential streets of Interlaken in search of the path to the lake

5. Seize the moment. This one may sound a little cheesy, but it may be the most important lesson to learn. Professor Moomaw said it best a couple weeks ago when she told us, its always better to spend a little bit more money on something and be glad that you tried it, than to always think “what if?” There is no time to be counting pennies; as long as its reasonable, go for it. Pay a few extra bucks to go paragliding, or to buy that shirt you saw in the window of a store. When you’re travelling, you never know when you’ll be back somewhere so its important to get the most out of it while you still can.

When is the next time I'll have the chance to jump off a cliff in the Italian Riviera? Might as well go for it.

6. Maximize the Fun-to-Franc ratio. This is a phrase that started out as a joke, but slowly I’ve realized that its not a joke at all. While I said above that its important to seize the moment and spend a little more if you want to, you must still try to make sure that you’re always maximizing fun had for money spent. Fun is different for everyone, so don’t just spend money on something that everyone else is doing for the sake of fitting in, find what maximizes your utility and go after that. Its simple economic theory.

Fun-to-Francs: Maximized. Paragliding in Interlaken with Jungfrau in the background.

7. Appreciate where you are. Even if you’re just passing through to get somewhere else, stop and appreciate what is going on around you. There are things to see and learn everywhere, and if you’re too focused on reaching your next destination, whether its the next landmark in a town or the next city, you’ll miss out on a lot.

Pausing to enjoy the scenery around our tent village in Interlaken

8. Jump in the water. There is no pleasure so universally shared as jumping into an inviting pool of water. Whatever the reason, time, or occasion, its never inappropriate. Whether you have a free afternoon in Interlaken and don’t know what to do, have an hour between the end of class and the sunset, or have a meeting with the city planners of Zurich soon, jumping in the water always refreshes the mind, body and soul. It is a very underrated activity.

Three of us in the lake in Zurich before a meeting with the city planners

Jumping in the water during a canyoning excursion in Interlaken

9. Eat. I came to Europe trying to keep up my diet plan. I caved in after 3 days. The food here is far too good to limit yourself to what’s healthy. Grab an extra piece of bread, spread more butter on it, have more Raclette, order dessert after having a large steak at Kartoffelhaus, and never miss the chance to eat a Kebap. You can’t find food like this in America, so enjoy it while you’re here.

Getting dinner with the group at Ristorante Ciak in Monterosso

10. Plan the next trip before you leave. Travelling is, in my opinion, the best thing to do in the world. There is always somewhere else to go, something else to see, and more to learn. The best time to make an informed decision about where you want to go next time is while you are travelling. Why? Because you can look back at the things you’ve done this trip that excited you the most, and with these memories fresh in your mind its easy to find a destination that excites you. For myself the next trip will be to Budapest, the day after the program ends. Planning even further ahead, maybe South Africa over winter break and after that, who knows where my travels will take me.

I can only hope its somewhere new.

View of the Alps from a plane flying out of Zurich. One of the last sights of Switzerland many of us will see before going home.

Author: Mario Gazzola, Undergraduate, Global Development and International Business, VT

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