As you may know, I occasionally host guest contributions on Small European Country (see some general guidelines for submission here). And I am happy to present you with a guest contribution by WD Fyfe. All the pictures in this post are from Pixabay.
Most tourists don’t want to be tourists. They want a more unique experience than that. Yeah, they want to see all the sights, eat the strange food and check out the local culture — that’s natural — but they also want an adventure. Something different. Something that says, “Our trip was totally cool. We didn’t waste our time and all that money doing the same old crap every other tourist does.” Actually, it’s easy to have a brilliant vacation if you just follow a few simple guidelines. I’ve customized these for a Small European Country but they work anywhere.
WARNING: These guidelines only function for the average urban vacation. If you’re taking the 8 Day/12 Cities bus tour of the Rhine Valley or backpacking the Bumsweat trails of Borneo, different rules apply.
Before You Go:
Learn “Hi,” “Good-bye,” “Please,” “Thank you,” “What time?” “How much?” and “Where’s the toilet?” in the language of your destination. Or you can just practice pointing, gesturing, grunting and looking like an idiot; that works, too. In a pinch, grabbing your crotch and wiggling your ass is universally recognized as a sign of distress.
- Pack one suitcase — only one. Make sure you can lift it over your head. If you can’t, keep taking stuff out of it until you can. Alternatively — stay home!
- Make a list of all the things you want to see and do. Wait 24 hours. Cut the list in half — no cheating. Wait 24 hours. Cut the list in half again. Now you have a workable schedule that will maintain your girlish laughter through your entire holiday. The Singing Weavers of Nantes aren’t going anywhere; you can catch them next time.
- Watch YouTube street scene videos of your destination. Ignore everything but the people in the background. These are Europeans. Notice they’re not wearing lederhosen, berets or wooden shoes. Nor are they wearing vulgar t-shirts, socks and sandals or pajamas. Use your head! Dress appropriately or expect to get charged the ignorant jerk price for everything.
- Tourist is not a job — enjoy yourself.
When You Get There:
- Lose the gigantic bag and all the junk that’s in it. Unless you’ve got some kind of obsessive compulsive disorder, you don’t need all that stuff. Yes, women normally carry more crap than men, but nobody needs binoculars, a first aid kit, bug spray, two guide books and a roll of toilet paper just to look at the Brandenburg Gate. And, BTW, if you have a selfie stick, go out in the alley and beat yourself to death with it.
- Shut the hell up! The people around you live there. They don’t need a 102 decibel running commentary about how awesome or awful their country really is. If you feel you must rattle on like a hyperactive child, pretend your trip is a for really special secret that you can only whisper to your invisible friend.
- Don’t sweat the details. If you’re getting scammed, robbed or beaten up, definitely complain. Otherwise give it a rest. Ripping into the waiter is not going to change the V.A.T, the sauce or the level of service. (It will, however, increase the jackass population in Europe by one.)
- Europe is not overrun with gypsies, tramps and thieves; however, they are available. If you insist on waving wads of cash around, strolling the darkened alleys of Barcelona at 3 a.m. or leaving your wallet, pants and purse on the beach chair while you have outrageous sex in the bushes, you will get robbed.
- Treat religion and alcohol with respect. Both can sneak up and bite you on the ass.
Change Your Attitude:
- Never comparison shop. You’re in Europe: the way “we do things back home” is irrelevant. It’s like going to a furniture store to buy a boat or asking Lebron James to do your taxes. Go with what you’ve got, even if you don’t totally understand it. That’s why you came here in the first place.
- That European culture you’re so desperately looking for is happening all around you. Quit running at breakneck speed to the museums, art galleries and historical monuments, trying to find it. Relax, and like a timid animal, Europe will come to you.
- You are just as exotic to the locals as they are to you. No European expects a half-educated, monolingual North American cowgirl to know which fork to use or where the bargains are. However, with some polite ignorance and a whole lot of please-and-thank yous, they will come to your assistance. It’s surprising how much Europe opens up when you admit you don’t know what you’re doing.
Now that you’ve got these guidelines down to a science and you promise to do things this way for the rest of your life, I’ll tell you the quickest way to turn an ordinary vacation into something completely different.
Find a bar or cafe close to where you’re staying. Go there every day for a beverage, either first thing in the morning or last thing at night. These places are great. They force you to stop, settle down and smell the amaretto. However, more importantly, most tourists don’t do this (they’re too busy doing tourist stuff) so after about the third day, the people working there will take custody of you. You will cease to be a tourist and become their tourist. They’ll take a personal interest in the good time you’re having in their town. This works best in smaller places, but it happens everywhere. Remember, the local folks can tell you more about where they live than Trip Advisor ever thought of. These are the people who know where the puppet shows are. They buy clothes, go to local restaurants and know where to just hang out. They also have friends, aunts and cousins who sing in the local band or make jewelry or might be convinced to take you up-river. Not to brag, but I’ve been invited to an illegal Kachina ritual, had a personalized tour of the cliffs of Cornwall, sung “Hasta Siempre” with a band on stage in Havana, and danced with an hereditary Polynesian princess in a South Seas thunderstorm – all because I like a second cup of coffee in the morning.
Happy Trails! WD Fyfe
WD Fyfe has written for newspapers, magazines and radio, but never television (where the big money is.) He loves the art of travel, and if he ever wins the lottery, he will become a permanent vagabond. Right now, however, he’s content to live near the Pacific Ocean, type, eat and drink like a king, and watch Ice hockey and European TV. You can catch his not-so-serious view of the world at http://wdfyfe.net and his serious fiction at http://amazon.com/author/wdfyfe.