Blog post by Nick Terhall
“Well hello there mate! Can you believe the cruddy weather and how ruddy late the tube is?!” Even now after being back in the States for a few weeks after my 6-week adventure studying at Brunel University in London, I still find it hilarious how consistent it was that almost any Londoner would complain exclusively about either the weather or the transportation system. While the weather was definitely chilly compared to what I was used to (Try consistent jeans and a sweatshirt during the middle of June), I found the subway system to be actually quite good!
Anyway, I’ll spare you the typical travel blog post that usually resembles a list of sights and destinations and instead focus on describing interesting observations and experiences that can only come from fully immersing yourself in foreign cultures, which should hopefully be much more interesting! For example, travelling in Europe and having English be your primary language feels almost like cheating. Even after visiting Barcelona, Spain; Prague, Czech Republic; and Berlin, Germany, the only time I really had to speak a language other than English was Spanish in Barcelona, and I thankfully remembered way more than I expected from high school!
Another fact that took some getting used to was the almost complete lack of public restrooms or water fountains. These simple (free) conveniences that most of us take for granted would usually cost a few pounds/euros/korunas to access! I quickly learned that spending a little money was much preferable to the alternative of dehydration. I also learned that the notion sometimes held by travelers that locals are snobbish or rude is entirely unfounded. I had some of the best experiences of my entire trip starting conversations with locals or other travelers I would run across. I had the good fortune of meeting students around my age from all around the world, including the UK, Spain, Holland, Italy, India, Germany, Ireland, and Australia (So many from Australia…I think they all flee their winter in droves)! Almost all of them were beyond friendly and I learned an astonishing amount about their way of life, their educational experiences, their hopes and dreams, and of course, their crazy travel stories.
Also, don’t sleep in an airport. It may seem like a good idea to catch a 6 am flight, but just don’t do it. It’s not worth it…especially when a group of German rockers decide to break out their boom box and have a jam session at 3 in the morning. I also started just looking both ways six times before I crossed any road because I never could get it straight in my head which country drove on which side of the road. Living for multiple days out of only a smallish backpack also made me realize just how little you can actually get away with bringing and how unnecessarily cluttered most of our lives are. I cannot describe how liberating it is knowing that I can carry everything on my back that I could possibly need while travelling. Besides, good luck fitting much of anything else on the small transportation systems of much of Europe! Once you figure out how to use one of the subway systems though, you’re completely capable of figuring out transportation in any other major city you’re dropped into.
If you take one thing away from this rambling blog post, please let it be this: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Play cricket with the Brits. Challenge the tall Australians to a game of Ping-Pong. Get off at a random subway stop just to see what’s there. Walk into a pub and order the fourth thing on the center panel of the menu, no matter what it is. Climb to the stop of the tallest hill you can see and find a giant statue of a horse at the top. Drink the natural spring water from a Roman bath. Simply put, live life and don’t get caught letting it pass you by.