Well, here it goes…my first blog about my first travel experience abroad. It took months of intense preparation, but in the end, it was…not enough. Jk. While you can never prepare enough for a new experience, my preparation was pretty close to perfection. I hope you all as my viewers will be able to use the information below to aid you in your future travels.
I left at 5:45pm (Eastern time) and after an 8-hour plane ride, I arrived at 8:30am in The Netherlands. I took a Delta flight, and they provided me with the most pleasant experience that one could have in such a tight space. Had my trip solely consisted of the plane ride, I would have been satisfied. I had a window seat to gaze at the sky, sea, and land masses. I also had frequent food, wine, soda and coffee, movies, music, games, and a countdown to touchdown all at my fingertips. My seat neighbor was a friendly older lady who had practically travelled the world, so in between the movies and naps, she would tell me about some of her adventures. Overall, my plane experience was great. Well-done Delta!
After touchdown, I Facebook messaged some people who asked me to confirm that I arrived safely, and then I was off into the abyss. It took me about an hour to navigate the airport and train system. Note to travelers– do not question why border patrol is asking you so many questions. I guess after tiring plane ride, a huge time zone change, and no prior experience traveling abroad, it did not register to me that I would have to cross one more checkpoint in order to gain entrance into The Netherlands. I figured that I had already gone through the million and one checkpoints at the Atlanta airport. So by the 7th question, I had the audacity (sarcasm) to ask “Why are you asking me so many questions?” It was a genuine inquiry, and I think as an American we are programmed to be curious and to question the reasoning behind certain rules and behaviors.
“I am a border police officer, and if you do not answer I will send you back to the plane. That is not a good way to begin your trip,” the man rudely responded. His fellow police officer uttered something in Dutch and ended the sentence with “American.” ‘Great’ I thought to myself, this is not how I want to begin my trip. After that point, I adjusted my mindset to that of ‘I am in another country and I need to quickly assimilate to their cultural norms so that I can avoid unpleasant experiences like this.’ In the end, though, I feel that the American comment by the other Dutch man sort of gave me a “pass” because he quickly stamped my passport and then I was on my way.
After that, I collected my bag, and then walked to the connecting train station. It was huge and extremely busy. I went up and down an elevator about three times looking for the right platform only to realize that I was on the right one, but the screen updated with the scheduled trains as time progressed. For example, my train was at 9:45, but on the screen, I could only see up to 9:25, which led me to believe that I was lost. “IN AMERICA” (There’s a funny reason I bolded this phrase –you’ll see in future posts) the day’s schedule would have been posted. The picture above was taken on the train ride from the Amsterdam airport to The Hague (Den Haag). I’m pretty sure everyone could tell I was an American just by the size of my bags. Everything is super-sized in the U.S.
Here are some tips that you may find helpful…
- If you are an American travelling abroad, then I recommend that you register for the Smart Traveller program on the State Department site. I registered for this program to assuage my mother’s fears about me being “Taken” (yea she’s watched that movie too many times). I traveled to some major cities when I traveled abroad to Europe, and this was a good way to let the State Department know my whereabouts and to keep me updated about any threats in the area.
- Make sure your phone is “unlocked” so that you can use a European pre-paid Sim card that will allow you to make calls, send texts and use data
- Create an Itinerary with your travel accommodations (hotel, hostel, train, plane, tickets, copy of your passport)
- Suggested Packing List
- 1 white + 1 black undershirt
- Long sleeve shirts [The Netherlands and Germany are pretty much cold year-round (I’m from South Florida though…)]
- Short sleeve shirt
- GIRLS (Dresses are ideal because they don’t take up a lot of space, yet it’s still a full outfit)
- Jeans/ Khakis
- A belt
- A set of workout clothes
- Swimsuit (I brought 2 suits, but I did not have the opportunity to use any of them) Note to self: European hotels are not like American hotels, which most likely has an indoor pool
- Coat/Jacket (I recommend at least 2 – one for cold weather, and one that is water resistant)
- At least one nice outfit for formal occasions (I had to attend a lot of formal functions, so naturally a substantial part of my wardrobe was formal attire)
- Flip flops/ sandals of some sort (good if you’re going to a warm climate, but also good for hostel showers)
- Sneakers/ dress shoes/ boots/ballet flats
- Cold weather gear (depending on the season)
- TSA Compliant Toiletry Kit / 1-quart zip-top Ziploc bags
- Shampoo/ conditioner
- Coconut oil or hair moisturizer if that is a part of your regular hair regimen
- Toothbrush/ toothpaste
- Feminine products (one month’s worth)
- Brush/ comb
- Razors/ other shaving supplies
- EXTRA Contact lenses and solution – I’m supposed to change mine every 2 weeks. I went through about a pair a week due to some unfortunate situations lol
- Nail clippers
- Over-the-counter medicines
- A roll toilet paper (I was in NJROTC in 9th grade and my instructor was a marine. He once said that he never traveled anywhere without a roll of toilet paper, and that has stuck with since then. He was absolutely correct–you don’t want to be stuck in a bathroom when the toilet paper has run out
- Medications, if any
- $300 in local currency (SEE BANK HEADER BELOW)
- Vitamins (I brought Women’s Centrum with me. I wanted to ensure that my vitamin levels were stable [not that I have ever had a problem in the past), but I did not know what my diet would consist of on a new continent. Let’s just say it was a good idea.]
- Purse/ wallet
- Important documents (passport, visa, itinerary, plane tickets, ISIC card, etc.)
- Outlet adapter
- Who knew that there was a huge variation in outlets. I bought mine from Wal-Mart for less than 20 dollars. The good thing about my plug is that it had a USB port, meaning that I could charge my phone with the USB and my laptop using the regular port, simultaneously.
- Sunglasses/ extra eye glasses/ contacts
- Cell phone (I have a cell phone with an awesome camera, so I did not need to bring a camera)
- Laptop and charger (don’t forget, you’ll need an outlet adapter for the plug on your charger to work)
- Sheet (if you’re staying in a hostel)
- Bath towel
- Journal/ diary (you’ll be taking plenty of pictures on your travels, but it’s always nice to have something to write in. Of course I recommend writing a blog, but you may not always have your laptop with you)
- Water bottle/ Nalgene bottle (I had a plastic water bottle that had a filter inside of it. I emptied the contents when I went through the airports so that I could get through security. The filter was a lifesaver. )