7 Tips for a Solo Road-Trip

Last weekend I took a road-trip to Statesboro, GA to visit my best friend for her 21st birthday. As with any southern college town there was definitely fun to be had. The drive itself, however, had a few bumps along the way. I’ve compiled some useful tips to keep in mind the next time you set off on a great adventure by way of your trusty automotive.

Athens exit

1. Bring a car phone charger

With how advanced technology is these days you are bound to be using your phone the entire trip. No, that does not mean I am encouraging you to text/snapchat/iMessage/instagram your entire drive (please don’t). Between the GPS and Pandora, your phone may die… leaving you stranded… in the wilderness… to be attacked by bears and ax murderers.

2. Study your directions in advance

For some strange reason I decided that it was a good idea to plug an address into my google maps iPhone app and not even bother to read all of the directions prior to my departure. Statesboro is four plus hours through the-middle-of-nowhere, Georgia from my house. Google maps is fairly reliable, but especially since I was driving alone, this was not the wisest decision. This became a serious issue when I got to Statesboro with a dead phone (see 1) and had absolutely no idea where my friends birthday was. This brings me to tip 2.

3. Don’t be afraid to stop and ask for directions

There were two instances during my trip in which I was forced to surrender my pride and ask for directions. After driving around several roads that sounded like the street I was looking for (which I couldn’t quite remember since my phone had died and I hadn’t written down the directions) I stopped at a gas station to charge my phone and try and find my way. Luckily some nice boys inside happened to be headed to the same birthday party as me and let me follow them there. Lesson learned: asking for directions isn’t so scary and you may meet some cute boys along the way.

The other moment in which I asked for directions was during the middle of my trip. My gas light had been on for 10 miles. I asked a little girl driving a golf cart on a dirt road (in what I thought was a town) where the next gas station was. It wasn’t for another ten miles. This obviously gave me tip number 3.

4. Fill up your tank… all the way

Most people have this one figured out. I guess I overestimated my car’s horrible gas mileage, but the half tank I started with just didn’t suffice. When you’re driving to a new place you never know how long it will be till you see the next gas station. And when you see one and you know you’re running low, STOP even if you have to turn around.

5. Keep an eye on the speed limit

This tip is pretty obvious as well and luckily I didn’t have any mishaps regarding it. Speed limits along highways tend to fluctuate and drop suddenly. Cops are out to get you. It’s a fact. So keep your eyes peeled and be wary of small towns. You don’t want a $50 drive to turn into a $250 one.

6. Watch out for road kill… especially while it’s still alive

One thing I learned while driving through Georgia is that animals love country roads. I nearly hit several squirrels, turtles, and even a deer. This may seem normal to you South Georgia folks, but I’m from Atlanta. I almost cried.

7. Make a mix cd for the drive

You don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel. And you can keep it as a memento of your crazy drive to wherever it is you decided to go. It’s always nice to be a little old school.

The best roadtrips are taken with friends, but I hope these tips help when you’re forced to drive alone. Be sure to take some time to enjoy the scenery and alone time. Some great ideas can be born when all you have to do is drive. It’s a long road ahead.

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10 Trips to Take in Your 20s

This makes my heart smile

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Champions League Finale: Bayern Munich

I was lucky enough to visit Munich, Germany the weekend of the 2013 UEFA Champions League Final. While I definitely did not consider myself a soccer fan prior to my trip, I was excited to embrace such a key aspect of European – and German – culture. Despite the actual final being in London, the energy in Munich the day of the game was absolutely overwhelming. Being from the south, I thought that I knew everything about sports fans and team loyalty, but the passion exhibited by the Bayern Munich fans is unrivaled by any SEC football fan I have ever met. While the culture creates a different tailgating atmosphere than is present on saturdays in Athens, Ga, the beer gardens around every corner provide for a unique game day experience.

http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-5736265542

photo by Tim Wang

The morning of the game was spent waking up early to a quick breakfast and trip to the closest beer garden. We then wandered into Marienplatz (Mary’s Square) in the heart of the city to join the influx of Bayern Munich fans. Red and blue flags, scarves, and face paint filled the square and the energy was impalpable. After walking around for a while we finally found a bar with enough room for our group and made some local friends along the way.

Throughout the whole game, we joined the entire crowd in the teams chants, made up a few of our own, and even got the entire crowd to join us in our own Atlanta Braves chop. What truly made me love the people of Germany was their unashamed love for their country, their team, and anyone who shared it with them, completely barring any age requirement.

The festivities continued after Bayern’s victory. The streets were filled with honking cars, waving flags out their windows. The sidewalks were filled with cheering fans and an amazing sense of community. Crowds poured from every nook and cranny into Marienplatz and onto the statue in the middle of the square. The most passionate fans began burning the opposing teams paraphernalia. While eventually some police crowd control began emerging to pull people off of the statue, it was obvious that this was a victory for the city as a whole and for anyone who chose to share in it.

Champions League Final

“Bayern Munich Champions la la la la la laaa la”

 

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Mike’s Bike Tour: Munich

During a weekend trip to Munich I went on Mike’s bike tour with 35 of my traveling companions. The excursion had been recommended to many of us through other friends who had been to Munich because of the entertaining tour guides, large distance covered on the tour. At no point during the tour were any of us bored with the historical information and our tour guides were absolutely hilarious. We still managed to learn a lot and see a lot of the city. I’ve composed a list of pros and cons to evaluate the experience.

Mike’s Bike Tours

Cost: €25 for a 4 hour standard tour

*Group rates available

Pros:

  • You’re taken to some of the coolest spots in Munich
  • You can cover a broader distance in less time
  • Your tour guide will speak fluent english… sexual puns and all
  • You end your tour at a beer hall

Cons:

  • You may face the embarrassment of not remembering how to ride a bike
  • Germans are very experienced bike riders and may get frustrated with your inability to steer in a straight line
  • If you are in a group of American college students your tour guide will most likely incorporate an excessive amount of vulgarity into the history lesson (depending on your personality, this may be a pro or con).

Mikes Bike Tour group pic

 

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Is Krakow a country…?

The answer is NO!

Prior to picking my study abroad trip and discovering that this foreign place I had never heard of was on the itinerary, I had absolutely no idea where or what Krakow was. For those of you that are as lost as I was, Krakow is a city in Poland. Unlike Warsaw that is still extremely effected by the damage done during WWII, Krakow remains a beautiful example of Polish history. The locals also like to remind the world that they have the most bars and pubs per square kilometer in Europe.

Besides those two perks of going to Krakow, Poland is not in the euro system and their currency (the Zloty) has around a 3:1 exchange rate to the U.S. dollar. In the four days that I spent there, I spent less than $100.

Polish children on a field trip.

Polish children on a field trip.

 

While it’s definitely beneficial to go on walking tours of the area and visit the many churches and Wawel (Vavel) Castle and Cathedral, there is plenty to see just walking around through the streets. The city is rich with traditions and legends that are incorporated into daily life even centuries later. It is also within driving distance from the Auschweitz concentration camp.

Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle

One legend that seeps into every aspect of their culture is the Legend of the Dragon of Krakow. This legend is pretty similar to most dragon oriented tales. A dragon was scaring the kingdom, and a commoner came to the rescue. In this case, a shoemaker filled a sheep with poison and left it by the dragon’s cave. The dragon then ate the sheep and drank the entire river in order to quench his thirst before he exploded. Today, a bone of the dragon hangs above the Wawel Cathedral to guard it and everything from mini figurines to the Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt incorporates the Dragon of Krakow.

Even though Krakow is known for their nightlife, it is much different from that of other popular European cities. It was almost homey in that it was filled with campus style bars with a casual atmosphere rather than high-class clubs. If you’re only there for a night, I would suggest going on the Krawl through Krakow pub crawl. The guides do an excellent job of showing you around to hard to find bars and it provides an excellent opportunity to talk to locals and other travelers.

https://www.facebook.com/krawlthroughkrakow

While Krakow may seem like a random city in Europe, it is an excellent place to visit in order to be exposed to true Polish culture and history. It is definitely a place I would like to visit again.

 

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Verona

After living in Verona, Italy for  four weeks, I can pretty much say I’m an expert on the main “must see” attractions for the city. What really makes it great, however, is the genuine Italian culture that is ever-present among the residents of the city. It is common to meet people who speak poor, if any, English and public transportation is filled more often with commuters and students than tourists. These things are what sets Verona apart from other popular Italian destinations.

There are many unique things about Verona that can only be seen when you have the opportunity to really get to know the city, but these are a few of the key attractions to hit when passing through.

Juliet's Balcony

1. Giullietta’s balcony

It is all speculation as to whether or not Romeo And Juliet (Giulietta e Romeo for the Italians) were actually real people or if the Montegue’s and Capulet’s were “two households, both alike in dignity” that lived in Verona. Regardless, Giulietta’s courtyard draws tourists from all over the world (including many little old ladies taking pictures on their iPads). Juliet’s courtyard is also covered in notes written to “Juliet” about relationship problems, something that I’m sure we all could use a little help on. Lucky for us, there is a committee of women that spends their day answering the letters. So if you want to travel to Verona you can pull an Amanda Seyfried in “Letters to Juliet” move, spend an afternoon sitting in Juliet’s courtyard and pour out your most heartfelt secrets to be stuck on a piece of gum on a wall and just maybe you’ll get all your questions answered by the love experts.

2. The Arena

The Arena of Verona is somewhat of a boasting point for the locals. Although it may first appear to be a smaller version of the Roman coliseum, the Arena is unique in that it is still functional and is currently in the midst of it’s 100th opera season. The arena also features artists such as Justin Bieber and One Direction… if that’s what you’re into. The Piazza Bra in which the arena lies is filled with vendors, restaurants, and le gellatarie (gelato shops). While the prices in this area are a little more steep, there are many restaurants with outside seating and a beautiful view of the lit up arena at night.

Verona tower3. Piazza Erbe

Even if you have just one night in the city of Verona, it is essential to spend it taking a passegiata through Piazza Erbe. The Italian tradition of taking an evening stroll is epitomized in the casual atmosphere found in Piazza Erbe. Locals and tourists alike gather outside bars with glasses of wine and aperol spritz (a local fruity drink) and enjoy chatting and batting off the many people selling roses.

Within Piazza Erbe is a tower that may be climbed for a small fee. The views from the top are completely worth every eurocent and really allow you to take in the entirety of Verona.

4. Castlevecchio

Verona, like most European cities, has its own castle to boast about. Castlevecchio, which literally means “old castle” was fortified to protect the wealthy family that lived within its walls. The walls and bridges surrounding the castle make for great photo ops and the museum inside details the history of the city.

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Let’s Hit The Road

After spending the past seven weeks meandering around Europe, I realized that there aren’t a whole lot of travel blogs dedicated specifically to college students.The truth is, I think I’m doing more traveling now then I may ever again. From a summer abroad, to away games to a week of spring break I plan on keeping you informed on how to do it on a budget while hitting all of the little known places to go and things to see. Let’s hit the road!

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