Top Five Things NOT to Do in Europe

currently playing on my iPod: Mistaken for Strangers by The National

After gallivanting about the Old World, I have a handful of advice. Take it or leave.

But know this.

If you leave it, you might just make a sweet tween in Salzburg cry his baby blues out.

1. Don’t schedule the heck out of your visit.

*Leave big open holes for wandering. These times are forever my FAVORITES and they were totally unplanned.

*It will stress you out and you’ll forget you’re on vacation. And that’s just lame. You paid big money for this. Enjoy it, dammit.

2. Don’t reserve picture-taking to the biggies like the Eiffel Tower or the castle on the hill.

*The photos I’ve worn out with looking are shots of doorknobs in Paris, cobblestones in Edinburgh, and the flowers in a graveyard near Zell Am See, Austria.

3. Don’t order safe stuff from the menu.

*Be daring. Bring Immodium and Tums, for the love of God, but order brave. Try that dish that has you wondering what part of the animal that actually is. Bring on that tureen of brightly colored somethingorother. Travel is about stories. And that lame-o chicken dish isn’t going to swing it.

4. Don’t stick to one transportation choice.

*Ride a train through the Alps. It’s gingerbread houses and weird door handles on the compartments and the excitement of wondering if you’ve boarded the right one. Hop onto a trolley. Brave a foreign cab. Rent a car. Yes. Rent a car. Learn to drive on the other side of the road as you attempt to understand Scottish road signs. Fear death as you zip through a head-high field of wheat and down a road not wide enough to be one lane but meant to deal with two-way traffic. Stories, people. It’s all about the stories.

5. And here we come to the poor young fellow in Salzburg. Don’t jump to conclusions.

*People in other countries do things differently. It seems common sense, but I’ve heard many tales (not the kind you want to tell) of tourists being rude to natives. I lived one. Where I’m from, if you stare too long at someone, it can be construed as aggression. Especially if the situation tangles with your less than awesome German. FAR LESS. To sum up, said boy only wanted to talk skiing, not insult me. So open your eyes, don’t assume the worst, guess the best, and attempt to respect the area’s culture and its people. When you do that, you might just befriend an Irish barkeep working near the Salzach River. You might find the best local spot for good eats. You might find yourself at an eighties themed nightclub with the nicest group of people you could ever hope to meet.

Bon Voyage!

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