10 Things I Learned Traveling While Young & Single

Jenna Michele Wedding Photo

Photo Courtesy of Jenna Michele Photography

This past summer I married an amazing man who loves God, plays along with my ridiculous silliness, and deals with my impatience. He gets my sarcasm, wears bow ties, and indulges in chocolate desserts with me. Basically what I’m saying is he is awesome and I love that we’ve started our life together.

During our engagement period, we were discussing his job search and his relocation to Orlando after we were married. And in the midst of our cheesecake, the most dreadful thought came up. What if his new job requires him to start working during the month of July? The month of our wedding. The month of our epic 12 Day Mediterranean Honeymoon Cruise! He asked me if I had to choose, would I be willing to forgo the trip in order for him to get the hypothetical job?* And with that question it became official. My life would never be the same again. This is something I knew for a while, but it became more and more real as we were preparing for our wedding last spring. In order for our marriage to be one where we truly love one another through self sacrifice as Christ has called us to, then I must give up some things that have been the norm for me for years. One of those things is my grandiose travel adventures. I’m not regretting marriage at all, it’s just a major change in my life. So with that said, here is 10 things I learned from traveling while I was young and single.

*Side Note: Luckily, the hubs new job did not require us to forgo an epic European honeymoon. Whew. Crisis adverted, but still adjusting to the life changes of marriage.*

London Olympics10. The world is a relatively safe place. I’ve toured around places like the Louvre in Paris alone and all around London alone. London was even during the 2012 Olympics… and at night post sporting events. I felt safe and I’ve gone completely unharmed (and even managed to keep my wallet) in all of the 29 countries I’ve visited. Don’t let movies like Hostel and Taken keep you from seeing what the world has to offer!

9. Withdrawing money from an ATM is much easier and cost effective than using a currency exchange. ATMs are a great way to get foreign currency. They are all over cities (unless you are looking for one like when I was in Venice, then it takes forever for you to find it) and they are safe to use. Most banks will charge you an ATM fee of like $5 and then you get the market exchange rate when you withdraw the cash. I like to withdraw as much as possible to avoid future fees. You can also look into getting a credit card with no international fees. Delta’s American Express card and the Capital One Venture cards are both recommended by my overseas friends.

Backpack8. Backpacking really is the most efficient way to travel. A few years back I realized that I can travel with far less clothes than expected AND I’m obsessed with clothes and making sure I’m not wearing the same outfit twice in my pictures. Despite all of this clothing OCD, backpacking hasn’t been a problem. I actually even enjoy traveling with just my backpack since I can hop on and off trains a lot easier this way. I’ve learned how to bring staple clothing items – like cardigans and solid tees – and accessorize with different scarves and necklaces to make the outfits look varied. For our honeymoon, I actually brought a real suitcase with me and walking around the Venetian cobblestone streets and the crowds of summer was the biggest pain in the butt. I wished I had just my small backpack with me instead!

7. History makes so much more sense once you’ve visited a location. I can explain the breakdown of Yugoslavia in depth courtesy of my trip to Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia. The art of the Renaissance has come to life through visits to the Vatican and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Travel really is the best teacher of history. Trust me, I’m a real life history teacher. 🙂

Turkish Coffee6. Everyone in the world seems to enjoy coffee… except for me. Every time I reveal the secret of not liking coffee, it feels like heresy. Heaven forbid that you tell anyone within the former Ottoman Empire that you don’t want to drink their strong Turkish coffee. Don’t let the Italians know that their espresso isn’t appealing to you. And certainly don’t let the Costa Ricans know you don’t want to enjoy their freshly made locally grown coffee. Straight up heresy.

5. You learn how to navigate around any city with public transportation. I am confident that I can navigate any subway/metro system that uses letters similar the Phoenician or Latin alphabet (I am certainly not confident in anything resembling Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin, etc.). Traveling alone or traveling with a few friends has forced me to learn how to read a subway map to perfection. Sit by the map while on the train and it will help you navigate while underground. My newest subway trick is to take pictures or screenshots of the map on your phone so you can peruse it while underground without craning your neck looking all touristy.

IMG_72724. The United States’ portrayal of a country (especially their food) is never quite right. I love Disney World. EPCOT is my favorite park in particular due to their dedication to foreign food. The food in EPCOT’s World Showcase is awesome… but it isn’t quite the same as the food in the actual countries. You can’t compare having couscous and chicken in the actual country of Morocco to EPCOT’s version. It just isn’t the same. Trust me.

3. You develop a more global understanding of the world (rather than just a U.S. centric view). Through travel, I’ve how people live in other countries. Believe it or not, not everyone in the world lives a mile away from a Target. School systems vary around the world like the intense secondary system in Germany and the differences between the British universities and colleges. One of my favorite ways to learn about another country is to talk with someone from that country. Discussing the tensions between Northern Ireland and England with a guy from Ireland is significantly better than reading about it.

Hagia Sophia2. Confidence and independence is gained through experiencing the world. As I mentioned before, I love my husband. I am excited to visit all sorts of places around the world with him. But, I don’t feel like I need him by my side to guide and direct our path to be comfortable in some place that isn’t my home. In fact, I think that he would be more lost without me on the trip (I’m a major planner and great with directions. Have you ever heard the saying opposites attract? Well, it is somewhat true in regards to our travel styles.) I look forward to having him stand next to me as we stare at detailed mosaics in places like Hagia Sophia for years to come. But if sometime I end up in a city that isn’t my home and my husband isn’t with me, I think will be able to make it around fine and feel pretty comfortable while doing it. I just prefer to have with me to share in the experiences now. 🙂

IMG_08801. God has purpose for your life (which sometimes may bring you overseas), regardless of marital status. Because I was single for most of my 20s, I was able to travel and experience all sorts of cultures that I’m not sure I would have experienced if my life situation was different. I was also able to spend quite a few breaks from school overseas sharing God’s love with other cultures. God clearly led me to different organizations from the Mission of Hope in Haiti to working for TEAMeffort Youth Mission Camps in Puerto Rico and taking students on trips to Ecuador with Cru High School Global Mission Projects to help others learn about the grace God extended to us through Christ. If I married straight out of college (as was my childhood dream), I am certain that I would not have experienced all the cultures I did during my 20s. Despite my decade of relative singleness not being what I originally envisioned, it ended up being a major blessing that I wouldn’t have changed for anything.

So travel far and travel often friends. Take advantage of what the world has to offer!

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