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.

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