This past Winter my boyfriend Matt and I decided to take a trip overseas. We decided on Turkey, party because of my ongoing love affair with Istanbul and partly because of this killer deal we found on Turkish Airlines ($550 round trip! eek! Houston – Istanbul). Anyway, the trip was perfect, full of new surprises, friends, adventure, etc., but traveling abroad can have its glitches, so I over the years I have honed my own personal list of cardinal rules so ensure excellence throughout your adventure, and I thought I would share them with you!
- Bring a bag that ALWAYS Fits: I can’t stress this enough. Anyone who has flown within Europe knows the nightmare of excess baggage fees superseding the cost of the flight itself. Try to avoid this hassle by bringing appropriate luggage, preferably the carry on kind. We absolutely love our Lipault suitcases, they are frame less so you can pretty much squeeze them into most small spaces. They are also super spacious, as the lack of rigid frames gives you a little more room to work with so you can stuff in an extra souvenir or two!
- Pack Black and Don’t go Back: Just a few words here. Everything. Goes. Together!
- Learn a Little Local Lingo: Before going to Turkey both Matt and I spent some time attempting to learn a little Turkish. Admittedly Matt was way better and way more diligent about Rosetta Stone that me but I muddled through as much as I could. My lack of diligence aside, the point here is that Matt actually used what he learned a ton, and the locals absolutely loved it!! You could immediately tell that it made them feel way more comfortable using their English (the whole, we are in the same boat thing) and they genuinely appreciated us making the effort. We ended up getting lots of free fare, and made lots of great friends along the way! It definitely takes a little confidence but if you can give yourself that little extra push, it’s well worth the effort.
- If They Offer…Try it!: One of the many great things about exploring a new culture is the food. In my experience the locals are always excited to share their native cuisine with you, but can often seem pretty forceful when they want you to try something. A few years ago I was in Morocco at the Marrakech night market. I had been beckoned over to a nearby food stall by a very exited vendor who was serving up this lamb stew of sorts. There were two options, lamb or lamb brains. I opted for the regular lamb but was given the brains out of sheer excitement of the vendor to share his local fare. Now I would consider myself a pretty adventurous eater for the most part, however brains were a just a little outside of my comfort zone. But alas, guilt and social pressure won in the end and I ate the brains, surrounded by local bystanders waiting for my nod of approval. And I tell you…It wasn’t half bad! You will be surprised how many great new dishes you will discover along the way if you are open to it. The moral of this story is this: when in doubt, just eat the brains.
- The Mini Trip Within a Trip: I know its not always possible, but if you manage to get away for long enough, look into taking a mini trip to a nearby town or even a neighboring country. There are so many great apps like Rome2Rio that can help you plan out the details of your trek. When we were in Istanbul we decided to take a few day jaunt over to Trabzon in North Eastern Turkey to check out the incredible Sumela Monastery situated up in the Black Mountains. From there we took a bus into Georgia and spent a few days checking out this really awesome McDonalds and relaxing along the black sea, a very welcome break after the hustle and bustle of city life.
- Out of the Museums and into the Masses: While we can all agree that museums are great, and well, lets face it, almost obligatory while traveling, be sure not to spend all you time looking at what was and miss out on what ishappening in the place you are visiting. Walk the neighborhoods and get lost in the crowds, grab an espresso and watch the world go by!
If anyone has any tips they swear by, I’d love to hear them!