Big Picture Observations, Random Notes, and Travel Tips on Two Months in Europe

Big picture observations

1. America and Europe are more similar than different. The media likes to play up transatlantic rifts. Our similarities are so intense that any cultural contrasts become even more interesting.

2. Immense history in Europe. I saw countless buildings older than the age of my country.

3. Reform is critical to Europe’s long term relevance

4. No anti-Americanism from the locals against me. This is a myth invented by people who don’t travel.

5. A lot of really impressive people. Talent is indeed spread around.

Travel tips

1. Travel clothes do work — dry quicker, absort moisture. They’re not a rip-off.

2. A notebook and pen — I had no idea how critical this would be

3. Wi-fi locator keychain — good investment; didn’t have to take out laptop all the time

4. Save on airfare, splurge on other things — Ok, 30 hour flight to Ireland. In the end it was worth the $200 savings.

5. Simply can not eat food at major tourist destinations. Always find a back road or a residential hood.

6. Money belt — Mine was too small, so I didn’t use it regularly. I put key documents in a cargo pocket in my shorts that zipped closed with an extra velcro seal on top.

7. Buy water bottles at supermarkets and don’t expect many free fountains

8. Go to tourist sites. There’s a reason everyone goes to them. Just buy tickets in advance or get the timing right.

9. Manage photos on the road. I have over 700 photos and over 40 videos. Throughout the trip I uploaded to my computer, labeled, organized, etc. Upon my return I spent 30 minutes, organized into a slideshow, and burned CDs for people. Really easy.

10. Backup your computer on your iPod. Peace of mind.

Random notes

1. Europeans seemed skeptical of the need for such an intense response from Israel against Lebanon

2. Staying with locals gives about a 20x cultural experience than staying at a hotel, but it can also be constraining. I think it’s worth it.

3. It’s interesting how true certain stereotypes turned out to be. Italian drivers or hand gestures, Irish accent, British political debates, and so forth.

3 Responses to Big Picture Observations, Random Notes, and Travel Tips on Two Months in Europe

  1. excellent summation Ben – see ya the next time?

  2. gil says:

    haha, just found your blog on google. Hope you enjoy your trip.

    About anti-americanism, it’s mostly a myth invented -not by non-travelers- but by stupid-full-of-crap people like O’reilly and his folks from FoXnews. Don’t ever believe what you see on TV.

    About money belt : best way to look like a tourist and being ripped off by thiefts. use a backpack and keep an eye open, always !

    Go to tourist sites..well, you’re right (partly) if it’s a tourist spot, there must be a reason, but please people, don’t spend all your holidays trying to see as many tourist places as you can. You can buy a lonely planet or watch tv for this. From your previous entries, I’ve seen that you are mostly interested in the human side of your trip. That’s good, and tourist hotspots have to be avoided sometimes (I have in mind all those people following street signs in Venice, IT just for the sake of doing tourist stuff….terrific)

    about lebanon : it’s always a difficult and interesting debate (like Iraq, N. Korea or anything else). but please don’t forget that if Lebanese-American are 1st US Citizen and secondly Lebanese citizen, in Europe, because Lebanon is a *neighbour* of Europe (Paris-Beirut is the same distance than ‘Frisco-Houston), it’s a totally different p.o.v. We also don’t have an pro-israeli lobby as strong as you have in the US (nothing racist, I’m 1/4 jew :) ). Being closer, things are emphasized in *old europe*.

    Cheers :)

  3. PRoales says:

    Now after all your travels, and all your thought on the EU, America and the world over the last few months I would be interested in hearing your opinion on the essay/book: Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order

    link to amazon.com

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