May 1, 2009 at 8:45 am
If I had known how much preparation goes into planning an international vacation, I’m not sure if I would have decided to jet off to London and Paris on a moment’s notice. However, the plane tickets are booked and the Eurostar train pass is purchased, so it’s full speed ahead and damn do those hi-speed trains go fast!
I have 9 days left until my departure and the last two weeks have been a crash course on how to travel. For instance, make reservations early. I kept putting off making reservations until I had time to read the guidebooks and suddenly it was less than 3 weeks before departure and OMG I NEED TO FIND A PLACE TO SLEEP THAT IS NOT A PARK BENCH. I spent a whole day in a panic trying to find a hotel that wouldn’t bankrupt me or give me bedbugs after reading that the Paris hostels were maybe not the best. Similarly, I kept putting off buying my train ticket through the chunnel from London to Paris until I could figure out my itinerary and suddenly there were almost no cheap seats left.
I’ve been spending what little free time I have reading the guidebooks, browsing a bazillion travel sites, and finally reading everyone’s comments on my vacation entry about three weeks after y’all left them. I feel like I can tell the right bank from the left bank now and have a list of things I’d like to do and see, so I’m feeling better and not like I’m going to gnaw my fingertips off in anxiety. I just have to figure out the public transit systems, alert my bank that I’ll be in Europe so they don’t freeze my accounts when I hit a London ATM, buy a money belt, buy packing cubes, buy an electric plug converter and about another million things which I have carefully written out in a list so I will not freak out about them. Not freaking out here.
Thank you to everyone for all your tips. As my mom said, “You have so many more resources available than I did when I traveled around the world. I went in so blindly.” It’s true. I booked my hotel online after reading reviews and didn’t have to speak a syllable of French. I’ve looked at Tube maps online, gotten kindly invitations to grab a pint from readers, and even though I have a lot to do before I go it’s only because I have so much information available and KNOW I have a lot to do instead of just flitting across the ocean and freaking out AFTER I’m able to do anything about it.
The only piece of advice I am totally turning up my nose at is the “Don’t wear sneakers” suggestion. I have bizarre feet. Most shoes are uncomfortable. If I’m going to be walking miles and miles across Europe I’m going to damn well wear my running shoes. I don’t care if this is the equivalent of tattooing the American flag on my forehead. I refuse to bleed in my shoes like Cinderella’s sisters (Grimm fairy tale version). There is also no way I’m going to try to find a pair of comfortable non-sneaker walking shoes a week before I leave and simply HOPE they do not cut into my skin and leave me with blisters. So, thanks for the advice on the shoes, guys, but I gotta’ go my own way on this one. Walk a mile in my shoes with my feet and you’d understand.