Reflections and Lessons Learned
Thanks for reading about my trip to Europe! After reflecting about it and going through all these posts about it, I have come up with a few conclusions and lessons learned about the whole trip that will stick with me, and hopefully may help you in the future! I also have the total step metrics for the whole trip!
Total Step Metrics
Before we get to the lesson learned, here is the grand total for all of our step metrics for the trip!
274,919 steps; 122 miles; 12,342 cal; 48h 37m time
That’s a lot of walking! I guess that could be considered the first conclusion…there’s a LOT of walking involved when touring Europe!
Reflections and Lessons Learned
1. There is more to the world than American culture, the English language, and the country of the United States.
I’m so glad to have a broader perspective of the world now after having taken this trip. I realized that other countries do things different ways, they have other customs, they don’t have all the expectations we have, they don’t work the same speed as we do, and they don’t have the same presuppositions as us. Just because we do something one way in America and we get used to it doesn’t make it the best way or the only way. I also learned to appreciate the nuances of different languages and listening to others communicate through languages other than English. How amazing it is that on this one planet, there are so many languages, all of them used to effectively communicate with others!
I recently came across a great video by Rick Steves which mentions these concepts and elaborates about why leaving America makes Americans better. Check it out below:
2. Taxes in the U.S. are way better than most European countries.
Most European countries (and many others) pay a LOT more in taxes than we do in the US. It really expanded my perspective when I was hearing our coach driver talking about French tax rates, as well as my research on the topic. See the chart below. We are 25th on the list!
3. Two weeks is a great length for a vacation. One isn’t enough, and I want to go home after two.
Just a general observation I had about my preferred vacation length. However, it really does depend on how much is scheduled on the trip. I’ve been on vacations where I was bored by day 3 because we didn’t have much planned. But on this trip where we were always on the go and always seeing things for the first time, I was ready to leave by just a few days into week 2. It’s all about planning things out!
4. Check a bag and leave extra room in it if you intend to take back souvenirs, especially liquid ones!
We didn’t check any bags, which meant our carry-ons were essentially stuffed full as we left home. It would have been nice to have some extra room in our suitcases to be able to take a bit more things back home with us, especially our liquid souvenirs. It was nice to have a limit to our souvenirs, though, which prevented us to not take too many home. But it would have been nice to get a bit more than just a postcard from each place we visited.
5. Always look at the carry-on luggage rules for the airport you fly back from!
Heathrow had an odd rule about requiring carry-on liquids to be in 1 bag that I have never seen before in the US. I’ve also heard stories of other airports doing different things. So it’s probably a good idea to go online and at least read through the rules and procedures at the airport you are flying back home from. This is especially true if you have any carry-on bags!
6. Always carry change for the toilet and tips.
When traveling around Europe, it was always a chore to try to find somewhere to use the restroom. The highway rest stops weren’t quite as bad–for our trip only Switzerland and Germany had pay toilets. Though if you did use the toilet at a rest stop, you would receive a voucher for which you could use on any purchase at the station. However, when in any of the big cities, essentially all toilets were pay toilets. There were some public toilets that had turnstiles to get in, but if there were no public toilets nearby, that meant going into a restaurant or cafe to use their toilet. Generally, the custom goes that the restroom is for paying customers only, so if you use the restroom, you would need to buy a coffee or water or generally anything from the place before you go. Some places would simply take a €1 or €2 coin, but customarily, buying something is necessary.
Change is also useful to be able to leave tips. The European tip culture is not at all like the one in America. We day 15 – 18 percent in general. In Europe, sometimes the service charge is included in the price. If it’s not a tip of 5 – 10 percent is normal. In most places, 10 percent is a big tip. That usually meant a tip of €1 or €2 was plenty. Another departure from American culture was the lack of the ability to leave a tip via credit card. Here, we get a receipt that has the tip amount and a total line, and we can simply write our tip and then write the new total. Over there, they will charge your card, but there is no opportunity on the receipt for a tip. So you either need to tell them you’d like to leave a tip of X amount before they run your card, or you need to give coins. Rick Steves mentions that it’s better to hand your tip to the water or waitress than leave it on the table.
7. Always carry tissues or toilet paper.
Not all toilets had this available…enough said.
8. Google maps is your friend
It was way easier to try to find metro stations or places of interest using Google rather than a huge map. It even navigated us, told us the hours of business and sometimes had the menu available.