First off, we’d like to apologize for being kinda flaky with the blog posts. It’s tough being abroad and realizing, mere hours before our deadline, that we have a blog to write. Sundays always sneak up on us. It’s been especially difficult since we’ve both been on Spring Break and have been eating ourselves into many different food comas in various countries (chocolate for Merilla, nachos for Rachel). Now it may seem ~pretentious~ to talk about the obstacles we’ve faced while traveling, but they have been plentiful, and it really can be exhausting. Here are some of the struggles we’ve dealt with over the past couple weeks.
That Goddamn Language Barrier…And Other Things
Arguably the hardest part about going to another country is that you usually have no idea what the hell people are saying. So we typically just laugh along if we don’t quite understand what someone is saying, but that gets awkward when they ask you a question and all you do is smile and chuckle. Also, it’s hard to pick up on the social cues and customs of a certain culture without either having been there for a while or doing research. For example, apparently you’re not supposed to wear shorts in Vienna, but that didn’t stop Merilla from praying for warmer weather, wearing shorts while walking around Vienna, and having to deal with stares from literally everyone she passed. She likes to think they were just checking out her legs but tbh that’s a long shot because it’s been three years since her last leg day.
Rachel has a slightly different experience when it comes to the language barrier. Since she’s living in Spain where, you guessed it, the official language is Spanish, she understands 20% of the conversations around her on a good day. So, when she traveled to visit Merilla in London, she freaked out when she could understand what everyone was saying. She missed snooping in on strangers’ conversations so much.
You’d be hard-pressed to find regular WiFi connections that are both public, unlocked, free, and don’t require a password while traveling around. Even many Starbucks WiFi connections, which are easy touch-and-go in the states, require you to sign up for their services. The worst offenders are the connections that have a name including the word “free,” and as soon as you click on it, you’re asked how many minutes of internet you’d like to buy for a ridiculous price. Also, when you see “free social wifi” which means you can only access Facebook, and we are sorry, but we did not travel all around the continent to look at your Fall 2016 schedules. Even restaurants have passwords on their connections forcing you to draw straws for which one of your friends will be the person who asks for the passwords. Why can’t they just put it on the menu? It would save you and the staff the awkward conversation. Luckily, many trains and buses have easy to use, free WiFi which makes traveling a whole lot easier. You don’t realize how thirsty you are for WiFi until you hike The Scottish Highlands, and the majority of the places you’re staying in after an eight-hour hike don’t have WiFi “due to their isolated location.” We millennials are spoiled. But also, we’re somewhat helpless without the internet.
Merilla had the joy of being scammed not once, but TWICE— in the same city, no less! First, she and her friends were tricked outside the Vienna Opera House into thinking they were getting cheap tickets to a concert in the Hofburg Palace. After reading TripAdvisor reviews of this company, they realized that the concert was actually in a small, town hall room that doubled as a nightclub. The building was technically connected to the Palace (barely) and had the word “Palais” on the door but was not at all like it was described to them initially. Through aggression, coercion, and even some fake sobs, they were able to get half a refund and treat themselves to a dinner but vowed to never again be swayed by sellers on the street. After that exhausting day, Merilla and her crew were ready to take their bus the next morning from Vienna to Budapest. Little did they know, the Vienna Marathon was that same day, which cut off all transportation into and around the inner city. So, they waited in town before realizing their bus was never coming. Reviews online gave the sketchy company (we won’t name any names but NEVER USE ORANGEWAYS BUS COMPANY IT IS A SHAM) a 2.4 out of 10, all reviewers saying that their bus never showed up, broke down multiple times, or wasn’t up to safety code. Yikes. They got a text an hour after the bus was supposed to leave saying that it would depart four hours later. Moral of the story: don’t trust nine-euro bus tickets from Vienna to Budapest.
And there you have it, folks! Traveling is obviously a great opportunity to take advantage of, but arguably one of the best parts is coming back home to your bed and the hidden stash of Doritos in your closet.
~stay weird y’all~