Trip Start Jun 06, 2009
48Trip End Aug 31, 2009
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I am flying out of Amsterdam in about 2 days time and I wanted to get here to relax for a few days before I flew out. I've done enough moving around for 3 months as it is and I would hate to travel all the way from England and then fly out from there across the pond. So some down time is exactly what I need.
-Well, I think this is the part where I'm supposed to think of a conclusion for my blog. I really wish I had some great writing ability and could whip together an amazing ending that leaves a lasting impression for all. You know, give you "something to think about and remember" when you are done as my English teacher used to tell us. But what can I say that I haven't already said before? It's been an amazing time traveling over in Europe and I am so glad that I finally did it. I remember when I was finishing up my time on the ship over in Japan and deciding what to do in the near future. Stay in the Navy or get out? I even bought a travel book for Europe back in 2004 and started to highlight some places that I wanted to see and go do. I had the original idea to travel for 6 months across Europe but I ended up signing up for 3 more years so I had to postpone my European Adventure for a bit. Then I had a good 3 years working in Washington DC for the Navy and really learned what I wanted to do in life. I also learned what I didn't want in life and if I would have stayed in the Navy after DC, I would of had to choose between being on a ship, or going to Afghanistan. Sadly, I would have chose Afghanistan because I can't stand the ship. It's pretty sad that I would prefer going into a war-zone vs a nice warm bed safe somewhere in the ocean. Though I certainly wouldn't have been kicking down doors in the desert. I had 4 years of pain and punishment and that is all that I needed in my life. So I decided to get out despite a recent promotion that I could have rode out for 12 more years and retired at 38 years old with a pension. People think the military is so difficult. I think it is actually one of the easiest things to do. You are basically told what to do, when to eat, what time to be somewhere, and what to wear to work. How hard is that? There are obviously other factors that comprises of life in the military but lets face it, you can't ever get fired. What other job can you half-ass and never get fired from? You may not get very far rank wise but some don't care. What I'm trying to say is that I feel that I beat the military machine by excelling pretty far in my short-lived career and made the choice to get out despite the kickbacks I could have received if I stuck it out for a bit more. I like to think that I took the road less traveled. Others that I have known might of taken the same path that I chose to take, but had certain commitments they had to take care of like providing for a family. So the choice for them might have been an easy one to make. There aren't too many people who would have gotten out mid-way through a military career to pursue other interests. Interests like blowing all your cash to travel around the world for a bit. But I like to think that you only live once and it is very important to live your life to the fullest. I may turn back while trying to climb Mt Olympus and not die, but I'm not afraid to be on my own and take the risk of plunging head-first into the unknown. I am 27 years old now and I feel there are so many things left to see and do. There are so many places that I want to see and explore. I have truly only scratched the surface and learn each time I travel, that I am only a grain of sand on the beach in this world. There is so much more to the world than the small town where a lot of us are from. 3 months traveling seems like a lot of time but with a place like Europe, you really need more time. I think 6 months would have been better but there is no way I could have afforded it. I'm already way over what I wanted to spend or thought that I might spend traveling here and it's a good thing I don't have any mouths to feed. Only my own big mouth to feed! And this mouth has taken a liking to all kinds of sweets and other foods that are ooh soo good!
This trip has really been an eye-opening experience for me and I have truly had a great time! Are there things that I would change? Probably. But what is in the past is in the past.
-Like I said before, 3 months really isn't a lot of time to see Europe. There are so many different cultures all over Europe that require a lot more time in to get the full feeling of but I chose to do so much hopping around. I recently met a couple that were doing 8 months in Europe. A few weeks here, a few weeks there. That I think would be ideal to get the full feeling of immersion in Europe. I spent a lot of time either on a train, ferry, or airplane going to my next destination. Or when I was in a new city, I had to think of where I would be going to next and that took a lot of energy and time just researching and booking hostels or train tickets. Lets face it, while I was on vacation for 3 months, it was kind of a working vacation. This obviously wasn't one of those all-inclusive resorts where you just relax, eat, and drink your hearts content. There was a lot of research and learning going on. So I think knowing what I know now, I think next time I come to Europe I will stick to a few different countries and have more time in each place. Traveling around Europe let me experience which places I love and which ones are so-so. Which really aren't too many to tell you the truth so it may be hard.
-So I think the next time I would come to Europe and staying in places for a week or two, I would be doing a lot more cooking. Eating out at restaurants is VERY VERY expensive. That is probably my 2nd biggest expense behind the room. Just buying some food and making something easy in the kitchen can save so much money. I believe I mentioned this before why I didn't really do it before. I think because I was only in a city for only a few days at a time and I can really only cook a meal that lasts for 2 or 3 meals. Which requires some kind of air-tight container to keep it fresh. Which hostels don't generally have to use. So it would of meant throwing food away. And the second reason I didn't cook but a few times I think, it was because I was kind of lazy. Who wants to fight to use pots and pans with other hostelers when you can have someone else cook for you. Third, because I wanted to sample the local cuisine. Like in Prague, I was only there for 2 nights so that didn't leave a lot of time to sample the goods.
-Third thing I would do differently. I would of brought a language book with me. I should of brought an all-in-one European language book with me. I've seen small ones with other people and I had my mom buy one for me but it would of been a pain to mail it to me. And I didn't have much time left when it would get to me. By saying a few local words to people can really get you further when traveling. Just saying "please and thank you" is very much appreciated with people everywhere you go. Even though a lot of people have a basic understanding of English, it is respectful of their culture. And I do admit, there were a few countries where I didn't learn a single word and I have no one but myself to blame.
This trip has really opened my eyes to the world and also helped me learn about some of my capabilities and limits as far as a few things are concerned. My first week traveling I met a lot of people and had a great time. My 2nd week I was a bit lonely and wondering why I was on this trip in the first place. And the 3rd week I seemed to get adjusted and finally just go with the flow. I think at first I used to try kind of hard to meet people at the hostel by sitting in the lounge and basically trying to be friendly. There were a few times where I wasted time by doing this and it helped a bit. But I learned just to do my thing and meet people along the way. If I didn't meet anyone, then so be it. As long as I was doing what I wanted to do like going to a museum or seeing some various sights around the city. I was happy. And when I did meet someone, then we usually had a great time together. Were there times where I had a thought in my head from seeing something really amazing and wish I had someone to talk too? There certainly was. I remember meeting a 17year old girl from Mexico in Paris that was traveling by herself. I assume from the daddy fund, but she said the same thing to me about wishing she had someone to talk too when she was looking up at the Eiffel Tower the day prior. But just like everything, there are good and bad things to traveling alone. Pros- I can do what I want, when I want it, and how I want it. No compromises to make. Meeting people you wouldn't have met if you were with someone. Go where the wind takes you. Cons- Seeing something incredible for the first time and having no one to talk to it about. Eating a meal by yourself can get a bit lonely at times. The ability to be goofy with someone familiar. Meeting someone for the first time can be like a first date. It sometimes takes me a bit to get over my shyness/awkwardness.
This trip has been surprisingly pretty calm for me. I have been traveling before and did the party thing when I was younger. And waking up mid-day with a hangover and not seeing too many sights isn't that fun. It also saves a lot more money by not partying. So by not partying till I drop, I have been able to wake up early most days and actually see and learn something. Who really wants to pay a lot of money just to get drunk and not remember? That and I'm 27 now. I'm getting too old for that stuff anyway.
A question I have been asked a lot along the way is "what is my favorite place." To tell you the truth, I really can't answer that. I have been traveling a lot the past 9 years or so and have been to a lot of different countries. Asia(easier than listing them all), Brazil, Panama, Kenya and Tanzania, and Europe. They are all so very different and I can't possibly tell you which one is better or worse. There are a few places that I wouldn't travel to again, but I can't say which is the best. I really loved Berlin, Greek Island, London, Munich, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and probably Spain. There is just so much to see and do in each of those places and visiting for a few days isn't enough time to soak it all in. I could easily live in any of those cities or countries and have a blast. Probably like most people I tend to enjoy places more when I don't feel I am in danger. Because lets face it, who wants to walk around on vacation at night and worry if you are going to get robbed or shot. Thought it may be adventurous and kind of a thrill, it doesn't do too much for the nerves. For example in Rio De Janeiro on the famous beach of Copacabana, the daytime is fine to walk around. Once night hits, they have these policemen stationed about every 20ft with big wooden clubs. They're there for the gangs and what not. I was sitting at night enjoying a drink on the boardwalk when I tried to walk onto the beach and feel the water. The lady working there quickly warned me not to go there and the made the sign of a gun with her hand. So I didn't go down there. So I think I tend to favor the more developed countries because they tend to have lower crime rates because I can truly let my guard down and not have to worry about too much.
The Rise of Europe. When I went to the Vienna Parliament Building, they had an interactive exhibit on the EU that I played with a bit. I learned that the EU is ever-expanding into new territory's and thus adding more power under their belts. With their current member count to 27, they have a population of almost 500 million. I think if they ever do truly consolidate and essentially become 1 union, then they will be a force to reckon with. Let's face it, the US only has 305 million people and with the whole globalization thing leveling everyone's chances of global supremacy times will change for all of us. And I won't mention the whole China India thing coming up. The EU already has a lot of powers over all of the member states and you even see construction sites with big signs that say this % was financed by the EU. They just need to overcome the whole cultural and language differences first to truly unite.
I have to admit, I have lied quite a few times on this trip to perfectly good strangers that have come along my path. What have I been lying about? I've lied a few times about my travels and how long they are. At first I would proudly say "3 months" when asked how long I am traveling for and where I've been. Then as you meet all kinds of different people along the way, you realize everybody is different and not everyone gets the chance to whip around Europe for 3 months at their leisure. So I tend to tell certain people that I was traveling a lot shorter time than I was truly doing because I kind of felt embarrassed that I was doing 3 months. I met a lot of people that were doing 6 or 8 months and I even meet a few that were doing 12 months worth. But I guess I kind of felt like a pompous ass because I was doing a considerably long trip and sometimes would modify it from 3 to maybe 2 or 1 month depending on the person and what I felt like telling them. The more I think of it, I would probably tend to tell more native English speakers my true travels versus someone from a less advanced nation. Somewhere they probably have been saving up money for a long time to take their 2-week vacation. There were even a few times where I would meet a few different people in a lounge and tell different story's and kind of mix them up. I didn't like doing it but I kind of felt that I had to do it so I didn't make them feel small or me like an ass.
Why are foreigners more attune to US news than Americans?: I have met countless foreigners who know more about what is happening in the US than most Americans. How many Americans know more than 2 or 3 foreign leaders? Since I have taken a liking to the International Herald Tribune newspaper over here, I have been getting a lot of European current-events which is nice because it further deepens my understanding of the countries here as I go along. I read the Germans are holding their election in about a month and it is supposedly not drawing a lot of interest among its people. The US election last year for Obama drew a lot more fanfare in Germany and of course around the world. When I first started to travel, I met loads of people that could tell you some of the top echelon of Washington, certain policies that were being developed or debated in Congress, a lot of geographical points of the US, and just so much about America that I'm guessing Joe 6-pack wouldn't know. I was thinking about it and I think it is because the whole world gets news about the US in their home country. Let's face it, Americans don't get any news of the world. Unless it involves a suicide bomber, an earthquake in a 3rd world country, or something financial. Death and money!!! We just don't hear anything about the country of Liechtenstein. I've been in some countries where they get the daily briefings from the US President translated in their language on the TV. What does that say about Americans? I think it is also because of the importance ladder. The US is the #1 country in the world and things that happen in the US have a ripple effect throughout the world. Ex: corrupt corporations and natural disasters. If something major happens in tiny town of nowhere around the world-who cares? If something major happens in the US, it again has major reciprocating effects globally. So when the US President speaks of a major policy change in something, other countries pay attention because it will effect their economies as well. Second, I think it is because of popular culture. American music and movies are deported around the world very easily and that also gives the outsider a way into the American way of life. Even though it may be BS Hollywood movies. A lot of foreigners can tell I'm American by the way I speak or the way I dress right off the bat. -This of course may be biased by the fact that a meet kind of worldly liberal types who follow world events like myself.
Something many may be thinking, why are you spending money elsewhere when you could be traveling just as easily in the US? I guess I find the overseas traveling more adventurous and exotic. Let's face it, a McD's is basically much the same in NYC as in Miami. Maybe they have a different variety of sandwich, but it tastes the same none-the-less. Then take that McD's over to a different country and the whole menu changes drastically. That and the fact that I am young, it is better to travel lond distances when I am young versus when I am retired and much more fragile. Also usually the American Greenback works in your favor when traveling. I met a guy who spent only $150 for an entire month of traveling. But that $150 was spent in Pakistan. And take that $150 and go to Europe with it, hope you enjoy your weekend of traveling because that's all it will get you.
Being American: I've spent 3 months traveling in what can be called the 2nd most influential place in the world behind the US. The US is very similar to Europe in so many ways but they are the small differences that you could only notice if you had the chance. When I first came to Europe, I thought it would be just like the US only with funny accents and funny clothing. But I think Europe is so very different from the US and I truly hope it stays that way. Not to put Europe down, but I think Europe is very much less developed than the US. I can clearly see why the US is at the top of so many lists. I think because the US is so much newer than Europe and thus easier to expand and build. There were no recent World Wars fought on US soil. And the way of life here is so much calmer and laid-back that I don't think Europeans want anything differently. Why start work at 7am and finish late when you can come to work at 10am, have a 2-hour lunch break, and finish at 5pm? Also why trade having a little cheese shop, meat shop, and shoe store for a Super Wal-Mart? The Europeans like the way of life like it is and thus resisting the rapid decline of their simple way of life. To sum it all up in urban terms, the Europeans like it old-school and don't want to change from old-school!
I think I'm going to cut it off right here. If you hated me for traveling for 3 straight months, then you're going to hate me when I say that I will have 2 more months of traveling. After I go home for 2 weeks, I'm flying to Africa and taking an overland trip from Kenya to S. Africa. Overland basically means I'll be getting on a bus/truck with 15 or so strangers(I'm sure mostly English speakers), with some tents, and working our way down the continent looking at animals and stuff. It will be a lot of bus time, but I'm sure the view will better than corn fields. I would also like to do another travel blog about my time there but since I've been to Africa before, I know that it is Africa. So internet will be extremely sparse and probably nonexistant. I had a hard enough time in some country's here in Europe, so it's safe to assume that a country where the average salary is less than $2 a day, I won't have access to high-speed internet. Thus won't really be able to upload pictures. I'll be lucky if I can even type anything out though I will most definitely try. And if I can't do it right away, I may write a travel blog when I get back though my memory may be hard to recall after all that time. So I will have to do some long-hand. Check back in a few weeks to see if I posted anything on Africa.
With that being said, I had a great time writing this and think I did a decent enough job on it. I can't help to think I missed a lot and I could have done a bit more if I had a laptop with me, but I did my best. So I thank all of you for reading this from time to time and I hope you learned and enjoyed something from this blog and don't be afraid to try something like this yourself. It's a lot easier than you think to travel. If you speak a moderate amount of English(which you do b/c you are reading this), you can get by in most of the world. And as far as the money thing, make the sacrifice. Do you really need that extra-large tub of popcorn at the movies? $5 in the bank is $5 in the bank more to travel with. If you have any questions about anything, you should know how to reach me.