6 Countries, 16 States, and 13,648 Miles Traveled…in 6 Weeks.

5 12 2012

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I’ve had several people in the last few weeks ask me what I did all summer. Why this topic is coming up in December is a mystery to me, but perhaps it’s a warm-up question used by my friends to gear them up for similar inquiries to seldom-sighted relatives sitting across from them around the Christmas tree.

I’ll tell you exactly what I did all summer–I asked myself the same question nearly every week:

“Where am I again?”

You see, my husband and I traveled through 6 different countries, 16 states, and logged a total of 13,648 miles traveled (over 4,000 of which we drove) this summer.

Were we on tour, as my bank thought?


Oh, then we must be writing a travel book, as strangers asked me?


We’re simply intrepid young souls, gallivanting around the world on a delayed honeymoon…and visiting our families at two opposite ends of the country…and moving to Texas…all in the course of a month and a half.

Ambitious? Or suicidal? You be the judge.

Of the hundreds of humorous and maddeningly frustrating little adventures we had over the summer, several important insights about travel emerged. I’d like to share what little wisdom I’ve gleaned with you, my friends. You never know when it might be useful in your own travels–be it to your grandma’s home over the river, or your cousin’s mansion through the woods.

Tip #1: Pack light & get yo’self some wheels.

We seem to have  a strange condition when we travel to our parents’ homes in Minnesota and Florida: we always come back with a packed car, even if we only bring 1 suitcase and a dog crate with us. There’s probably a scientific name for this–but for the sake of this article, we’ll just call it “Delayed Parental Unloading of the Junkitis”.

Follow our advice and bring as little with you as you can when you go vacationing. Save room for the antique swords, football helmets, old yearbooks, and plethora of American Girl dolls your parents are sure to unload on you.

And when you’re venturing out of the country? Think wheels. Thank goodness we had friends who insisted we borrow their small rolling suitcases for our trip to Europe. I thought we’d have to replace those little wheels, they spun around so much.

Oh, and don’t pack dumbbells in your luggage. Rookie mistake.

Tip #2: When lost, let the female beg for directions.

This tip works best in Paris, according to my inexact scientific calculations. City of Love, my foot. More like “City of Confusing and Inadequately Marked Transportation and Historical Site Signs”.

Well…I guess they can’t fit that on their little French-only travel brochures, can they?

People usually responded with more warmth when I (usually frantically) asked for directions. Perhaps it was my charm…or my worried expression…or the fact that I took French in high school and only butchered half of the words in my request…who knows? Ce la vie.

Tip #3: Don’t talk to people on trains.

They don’t like you. Especially if you’re an American, traveling through Europe. That’s all there is to it.

The Swiss especially hate you. I’ll never feel comfortable drinking “Swiss Miss” hot cocoa in the same manner again.

And if you’re in America? Don’t worry…hardly anyone rides the train here.

Tip #4: Always bring bottled water.

We spent our entire summer lugging around plastic water bottles with us and using them for everything–hydration for our dogs, water for brushing our teeth in the car, and distracting toys to make little swirling tornadoes as we conquered the asphalt.

After nearly passing out at the exorbitant prices of liquids in Venice (where you can enjoy a nice $8 cola or a $10 bottled water), we pooled our rapidly-decreasing euros and bought a giant 2-liter bottled water that we lugged with us the rest of the trip. It was too big to fit in my purse, so we took turns hefting it around like the Midwest hoosiers the Europeans probably thought we were. We refilled it at public fountains all day long, and even snuck it with us into restaurants, taking secret swigs from it as our waiters turned their backs on us.

My husband, filling up our infamous water bottle in Florence, Italy.

My husband, filling up our infamous water bottle in Florence, Italy.

Tip #5: Don’t read travel books and blogs at length.

I never realized how many things there were to do in the city I grew up in until I started researching it online and in travel blogs. Suddenly, it was as if a whole new world opened up to me–the possibilities for fun were endless! We could spend years in just one city, squeezing every possible experience out of endless combinations of sites and events! It was so exciting!

Yeah…until I started making lists of all the things I wanted to do in all the cities and countries we visited. Suddenly, my summer turned into pages and pages and pages of destinations. It’s a mathematical impossibility to squeeze everything out of a city when you’re on vacation. Researching it so thoroughly beforehand only made me regret all the things we couldn’t do.

Tip #6: Flip flops are the universal vacation shoe.

I spent my entire summer in the same trusty pair of Rainbow flip-flops. After I researched long-lasting, comfortable, and durable footwear for a summer filled with walking several miles a day in Europe, as well as time spent on beaches, in hills and woods, and in cool and hot climates.

Months of meticulous research on travel and shoe forums. Weeks of walking laps around my apartment to test out pair after pair of shoes. Dozens of blisters and band-aids. It came down to 2 carefully-chosen pairs of winners and a last-minute decision to toss in the flip-flops for the Europe trip. I spent only half a day in one pair of shoes, walking miles through France, before switching to the flip flops…and never taking them off again for the rest of the summer.

And my feet never felt better.

There you have it, friends. Six travel tips that will change your vacationing life.

Now, to daydream about our next vacation….