This weekend gave the Study Abroad students at LCC a reprieve from being students and a chance to be tourists again for three days. And it felt pretty dang good. All 29 of us got on a bus and spent two days in Tallinn, Estonia and Riga, Latvia; I also managed to ride the coattails of master planner and fellow study abroad Abby Korthals to squeeze in a day trip to Helsinki, Finland on the side.
It was exhausting, it was fleeting, it was fun, and like every other event this semester, it taught me a lot. Unlike daily life at the LCC, however, this trip had less to do with the serious, relationship- and culture-driven aspects of travel and more to do with the whiz-bang tourist level of travel. Some of those tourist lessons are jotted here.
1) Your study abroad advisor may suggest an amount of money to bring. If you just need to stay alive, that amount is fine. If you want to do anything besides that (like shop, visit a museum or eat a real lunch), you might want to bring a little more.
2) Some hostels are for resting. Some are for partying. If you can figure out which one yours is beforehand, do so and plan accordingly. There’s sure as heck nothing wrong with a hostel that sits right above a salsa club, enticing you to party all night. It’s just nice to know it’s coming, if only so you can get some sleep beforehand and go party all night.
3) Passport stamps aren’t really a thing anymore. Sorry. Dry your eyes and move on.
4) Unless you want dozens (or hundreds) of strangers with passports and cameras crashing your wedding, don’t get married at a public landmark. Cathedrals are beautiful, but they’re also on all the tourists’ maps.
5) Speaking of cathedrals, if you’re going to take pictures, do it discreetly. For the love of God. Or at least for the love of the other people around you. Because God may love you no matter what, but some of his all-too-human worshipers think you’re freaking. annoying.
6) The only creatures castle walls attract more than tourists are pigeons. Move slowly, lest there be a lot of mutual panicking going on.
7) Read the travel guides you’re given, especially if you’re in Eastern Europe. They’re hilarious. And they’ll tell you about every night club in the city, in case you’re interested in making that your scene.
8) Yes, you will look like a maniac if you bolt off the ferry the second it reaches port. But if it helps you snag the first taxi out of the port at 18:30 to catch your international bus at 19:00, swallow your pride and run like mad.
9) Pancakes are the cheapest food.
10) Go to the top of every tower. Their views are the best reminders of why you just endured hours and hours of travel and trekking to see this part of the world.