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The Blue & Gray Press | May 22, 2018

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European Union Through the Eyes of an American

Sometimes the fact that I live in Europe still seems unreal. Back at the University of Mary Washington, I might consider taking a day trip to D.C. every once and a while. Here, I can fly to Paris or Barcelona for the weekend.

The entire European Union could fit into the United States two and a half times, so everywhere here seems so close together in comparison. It’s difficult for my American brain to relate to my Spanish friends who have driven to France and Italy on family vacations the same way my family drove to New York and Florida when I was younger.

With the whole of Europe open to me, I admit I might have gotten a little travel happy. One of the first things I did upon arrival in Spain was find some travel buddies and start planning trips. After bargain hunting online and, perhaps, over estimating our stamina, my friends and I booked trips for every weekend for two months plus two weeks of straight travel for spring break.

My first traveling experience was to Paris, France last weekend. One thing I learned is that, although it is possible to travel very cheaply around Europe, you get what you pay for. In order to get the cheapest flight, I booked with an airline that flies from an airport about an hour away from the city I live in and only flies into small airports on the outskirts of cities.

Consequently, I had to take the metro to the bus stop, a bus to the the city near the airport, another bus to the airport, a plane to the airport an hour away from Paris, a bus from that airport to a bus stop in Paris and finally the metro to our hostel. Then I had to do it all over again to get back home. It was inconvenient to stay the least.

In spite of this, I had probably one of the best weekends of my life in the “City of Lights.” With a couple of minor bumps, including getting lost and missing the last metro, therefore having to take a taxi back to the hostel, we managed to fill our short visit with as many landmarks, museums and delicious foods as was possible.

What I’ve discovered is that the key to making the most out of any experience is to find balance. When you only have two days to see a city with as much to do as Paris, you have to accept that you can’t do everything. It’s important to have a plan and to know how to be able to do what you really want to do. At the same time, you need to be flexible and able to let things go if you must.

In a way, traveling is a lot like life, the only way you will be happy is if you know when to make things happen and when to go with the flow.