Travel Tips, Tricks & Thoughts

Tori Lyons
April 26, 2018

My exams are over, my papers turned in, and with just one more week to go in the greatest city in the world, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my time here. One of the things that excited me most about studying abroad back in January was travelling. Everybody I talked to advised me to take advantage of my time in Europe by visiting as many places as I possibly could. With trips to Cambridge, Edinburgh, Bath, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Cardiff now behind me, and one final trip to Brighton still to come, I’ve gathered some thoughts, tips, tricks, and advice for any eager voyagers out there.

1) The Early Bird Gets the Worm

As someone who had only travelled to another country once before studying abroad, I was both delighted and terrified by the concept of travelling—and I was particularly terrified by the idea of travelling alone. My first big trip involved flying to meet friends in Edinburgh, and I found myself at the airport four hours before my flight left in fear of somehow being late. Four hours is probably pushing it, but I have found it’s much better to worry about how to kill time in an airport than to worry about whether you’ll be able to sprint to your gate in 3 minutes. Having free time in airports also gave me the chance to get some homework done, so once I arrived at my destination, I could focus on exploring a new city rather than finishing a paper.

2) Pack Light

Everyone always says this. I say this to myself constantly. Yet I always find myself struggling to zip up my bag due to the unnecessary amount of stuff I bring with me when I travel. It can be hard knowing exactly what you’ll need for a trip. My biggest takeaway is: if you’re not sure if you need it, you probably don’t need it. Don’t bring it. Packing light is absolutely crucial to a successful trip. Nothing is worse than dragging a way-too-heavy bag around with you in an unfamiliar city for hours on end.

3) Don’t Over-Plan

My favorite trip was without a doubt my Scotland trip. In fact, it has sparked a new life dream of mine: to return to Edinburgh for the famous Edinburgh Fringe Theatre Festival someday. There were so many reasons why I loved Edinburgh so much, but I think the main reason was that we were very spontaneous throughout the trip. We didn’t plan what we were going to do in Edinburgh beforehand, and we didn’t do a lot of the touristy things we would’ve planned. We mostly just wandered the streets of the beautiful city, stumbled across restaurants and cafés and cake shops, relaxed, and enjoyed each other’s company. Doing touristy things can be fun, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes the best trip is an unplanned one, where you’re free to do whatever your heart desires in the moment.

4) Travel Within Your Host Country

Especially for those who have never been before, there are so many popular study abroad travel destinations. Everybody wants to go to Rome, to Paris, to Prague and Barcelona. And yes, these cities are all absolutely amazing. But some of my favorite trips were actually within England. My first trip was an IES Abroad field trip to Cambridge, where we were given a tour of the town and the university and then given free time to wander, eat and shop. I absolutely loved Cambridge, and that was somewhere I don’t think I would’ve gone without IES Abroad. This past weekend, on my way to Cardiff, we had the most incredible scenery of the English countryside as we zoomed along on the train, passing by countless small English towns. There are so many beautiful places to explore in England that can provide a cheaper but equally as exciting weekend getaway to a big European city. I cannot contain my excitement for my Brighton trip on Sunday and exploring the beautiful seaside town.

5) There’s No Place Like Home

I am very grateful for the countless number of people who encouraged me to travel a lot during my time studying abroad. I wouldn’t have traded my trips for anything, and they’ve given me countless memories I’ll carry with me throughout my life. But there’s something to be said for staying home, as well. Around the middle of the semester, after a couple weekends straight of travelling, I finally had a weekend back in London at the end of March, and I was overjoyed. The weekdays can get very busy with classes and homework, so the prospect of having an entire weekend to explore my host city was exactly what I needed. Your time abroad goes by so quickly. As someone with only a week left, I know this better than anyone. It’s so much fun to travel and experience a new place for a couple of days, but also, there’s nothing like spending time in your beloved host city.

Tori Lyons

<p class="MsoBodyText" style="margin-top:2.35pt; margin-right:25.0pt; margin-bottom:.0001pt; margin-left:5.0pt"><span style="line-height:115%">Hi, I'm Tori! I'm a junior English major at Johns Hopkins University. I'm from Boston, but I spent most of my childhood in New York City. Now I'm at school in Baltimore, and I'm getting ready to spend my spring semester in London (clearly, I'm a city girl.) As an English major, you won't be surprised to learn that I love to write and read. When I'm not typing up a paper or engrossed in a novel, you can find me in our theater on campus where I'm a stage manager, checking out restaurants in Baltimore (my current favorite spot is a tiny doughnut shop called Diablo Doughnuts), and taking pictures of anything and everything.</span></p>

Destination:
Term:
2018 Spring
Home university:
Johns Hopkins University
Hometown:
Newton, MA
Major:
English
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