Today we are taking a break from a place to visit or a celebration to see and are talking about weekend travel and how to make the most out of your study abroad, teach abroad, or living abroad experience in Europe.
One of the things I love about living in Europe is that everything feels so close. Instead of having friends that live in different states, some of my favorite people live in Italy, France, or the Netherlands. It is also great because living here you can take weekend trips to Paris or Rome or Berlin if you manage to find the right flight (and if you are traveling on a budget, the right price). This makes exploring more accessible when you only have 10 days to see Europe—which I am sure is wonderful in its own way but isn’t seeing truly Europe in my eyes. But having the ability to “do it all” is not necessarily always a good thing.
Something we have talked about before is how travel can be tiring, and going away for a weekend (or multiple weekends in a row) might just be the epitome of this as you are probably running to leave as soon as you get done with school/work on a Friday and want to get back as late as you can on Sunday. When you travel like this, you can fit in almost two whole days of exploring, visiting, and (potentially) partying. And even if going out dancing is not your thing, you are probably going to rest less than you would at home purely because you are somewhere new and want to take advantage of your trip.
So, how can we balance these two realities? It is even possible to be able to enjoy weekend trips and go to school/work on Monday morning feeling like a real person? It might take some planning, but here are my top five tips to weekend travel:
1.) Understand your Schedule
Before you even start looking for train tickets or the cheapest flights, consider your schedule. Consider questions like: Do you get out of school a little early on Fridays? Or: Does it work better for you to leave early Saturday morning? When you are able to understand what you have going on and how your life is organized, it will be easier to plan something that works well for you and fits your schedule.
In addition, it is important to know yourself. Think about if taking weekend trips will motivate you and make you feel alive or if they will burn you out and one trip a month is enough. We have this idea that frequent travel—or travel for work—is really sexy, but it is also dirty (how many other people have sat where you sit or touched what you touch), boring, and down-right exhausting.
Pro-tip: Don’t travel every weekend at the beginning as it is a lot. Try and feel what works for you.
2.) Research your Options
While living in Europe it is easy to get caught up in the idea that you should visit the most famous/biggest cities. However, seeing a city like Rome or Paris in a weekend is hard, if not impossible. And if you can easily get to smaller cities, it might be worth it to go there instead (always thinking about your schedule, of course). See what kind of flight or train deals you can get by searching without a specific destination in mind—on a lot of sites now, like Skyscanner, this function is easy!
In addition to being easier to see in less than two days, smaller cities tend to be less stressful and less expensive. This means that you will probably be able to see more of where your visiting while enjoying the cities with less worries about common tourist traps and things like pick-pocketing. A final bonus is that food will probably be better too (unless you are eating really nice food).
Pro-Tip: Decide what you want to see and where you want to visit but be open to trying something off your list.
3.) Consider Going Somewhere Closer
In line with the previous tip, think about going away for the weekend but in the same region/country you are living in. Especially when you will be in Europe for a short period of time, it is easy to get caught up in needing to take advantage of everything and spend a lot of time abroad. However, there are oftentimes places close by that are worth visiting and they will probably cost you a fraction of the price and emotional energy.
For example, I didn’t visit Córdoba until the last month I was living in Granada—and they are only about two hours apart! For seven years I prioritized places that were far away and friends who lived abroad and thought that the places that were ‘close by’ could be visited later on. However, I almost missed out on this adventure (and only went because a friend insisted we go) and that would have been a pity as it was such an easy weekend trip and I really enjoyed the city.
Pro-Tip: For a lighter weekend away, check out places close by. And don’t wait until it is too late!
4.) Organize Yourself for when you Get Home
When you know you are going to have a crazy weekend running around a new city, try to plan for an easier week when you get home. While this will probably look different for everyone, think about actions like going into work a bit late on Monday morning or picking up ready made food for lunch and dinner or making fewer plans during the week. Figure out what will be stressing you when you get back and try to give yourself a bit of a break.
This also means setting yourself up for success with your workload. If you have lots to do/study, try and take advantage of the travel time to get a few hours in. By being productive while you are traveling, you will not only feel better about your situations but it also allows you to be more flexible when organizing everything else going on in your life.
Pro-Tip: Plan to be tired when you get home and try to make it a bit easier on yourself.
5.) Take Care of Yourself
My two tips for tiring travel apply to weekend travel as well: eat well and sleep/rest enough. It is not always easy to remember to take care of ourselves when we are enjoying everything around us but it is important if you want to be fresh on Monday morning to think about how you treat yourself during the weekend. Now, this might look differently for you but try to remember that you won’t have a weekend after your holiday away.
Pro-Tip: Invest (time or energy or money, etc.) as you need to in order to make sure the trip doesn’t make life too hard going back home.
Those are our top five tips for making the most of your weekend travel while living or studying abroad in Europe. What do you do to take advantage of your time here? Let us know in the comments!