5 Principles to Live by When Traveling Abroad (or Reflections from a Wannabe Rick Steves)

Written by Katherine June 30, 2015

Sunset Bikes in Amsterdam

Ms.Fiore & a traditional Sicilian Breakfast

Arjun, our new friend who we met in Cinque Terre

Hotel Manhattan

Flowers under the Brussels Atomium

Lemon Festival in Monterosso

There are only two things in life that you can spend money on the will actually make you richer: education and travel.

Looking back on my CIMBA experience, my life has grown richer in these past four weeks. I believe that I am more proactive, flexible, adaptive, self-reliant, and in tune with the world around me from my study abroad term. At CIMBA, we balanced homework, weekend travel, presentations, tests, friends, and company tours and came out of four weeks maxed out and with memories of time and travels that will last for years to come. My time at the foothills of Mt. Grappa has taught me so many lessons in such a short period of time and has rekindled my love of travel and adventure. There are five principals that I lived my study abroad experience by that truly made the biggest difference in my time in Italy.

          1)   There Are Friends Everywhere You Go

Asolo, Paderno, Amsterdam, Palermo, Bassano, Treviso. Everywhere you go, there is always someone to take your picture, give you directions, or just send some love. There is an incredible blessing of sweet people around the world that will go out of their way to help you and for them I am truly thankful. Offering a warm greeting and a smile goes a long way when working to make new friends around the world; a smile transcends all language barriers.

MEMORY: Palermo, Sicily. These sweet southern Italians had hospitality down to a science. No matter where we went, we had amazing people being so kind to each of us traveling. Ms. Fiore, our B&B host, made us a multiple course breakfast every morning. Lello from Mondello helped us get a ride back to the city when we found out the bus had stopped running for the evening. A Mondello beach waiter told us the best places to go and eat and a complete stranger walked us to the bus ticket stop when we couldn’t find it. Friends are everywhere; you just have to be willing to make them.

          2)   List It Out

To-dos, favorite things, groceries – if you can list it, I’ve probably written it down also. This became so important during my daily life at CIMBA. Writing down the things you needed to do, read, and plan for day-in and day-out are essential in this fast-paced four weeks. It helps with school, travels, and the basic necessities in Paderno.

MEMORY: My friend and I would spend hours in the computer lab every afternoon doing homework, planning for travel and making list upon list of things to do, see, and remember. Crossing things off those lists would result in high-fives and a greater sense of accomplishment than what we started with.

          3)   Have a “Yes” Attitude

Attitude can be a deciding component in your study abroad experience because not everything will go as planned. You will have to stay up late to finish the next day’s reading. You will miss a bus, pay too much for a taxi, stay in a sketchy hotel, and eat too much pasta. But (and this is a huge but) your attitude makes the difference. If you learn to laugh at yourself, adapt to the situation, and know that every problem is an opportunity to learn a new lesson about life. Say yes to gelato runs that are a twenty-minute walk away. Say okay to sitting in an airport for five hours and bring a book and great conversation topics to pass the time. Yes – you can handle whatever comes your way. Because “yes” goes a long way in turning a not-so-fun situation into your favorite memories.

MEMORY: Hotel Manhattan. Sounds regal, right? Well this Brussels hotel was not anything like the pictures on booking.com. Walking into the non-smoking hotel with the receptionist puffing cigarettes was the first sign of the experience to come.  We walked into our hotel room and instead of making a big deal about the lack of décor or basic hotel amenities, we just laughed. We had clean sheets, a balcony, and a bonding experience unlike anything my travel buddies and I had had before.

          4)   Not All Tourists Are Tacky

Each weekend we had the opportunity to travel and in that time, my friends and I went to three countries, two coasts, and tried to act like locals the whole time. But as travel guru Rick Steve’s once said, “Tourists go to touristy places because they have the best of everything, they are touristy for a reason so go there and enjoy, but don’t stay there too long or you may become tacky.” We followed his smart words and went and saw the highlights, but made sure to find the local places too.

MEMORY: The second weekend we got a tour of Amsterdam from a friend of a friend who lived in the Netherlands. He took us through the city and showed us the squares, the tourist highlights and to one of the best pancake diners I’ve ever been to. After dinner, he walked us off of the beaten path to the “locals” part of Amsterdam filled with inviting people, great energy and a night full of fun.

          5)   Be Sentimental

The time here passes by too quickly, so truly take hold of it. You will meet incredible people, do unforgettable things, and at times you may forget how fortunate you are. Take a minute, take a deep breath, and really think about where you are or what you are doing – and do this often. A grateful heart sees the beauty of the moment. Capture your memories through pictures, daily journaling, and sending postcards to yourself or your loved ones in every city you go to.

MEMORY: My friends and I stumbled upon a lemon festival in Monterosso on the first weekend of travel and taking part in the local fun and festivities was a “wow moment.” Getting to toss lemons in the fountain and enjoying a drink of fresh lemonade with the community was something I can truly be sentimental about.

After all of this studying, traveling, and living like a European I have fallen in love with this rapid and adventurous way of life. I cannot wait to travel to Europe again, soon. To travel, to write, to study in Italy has been an inexpressible joy that has completely changed my life; I’m a wannabe Rick Steve.