I’m a big believer that you learn the most when you’re outside of your comfort zone. Whether it’s a different route to the office in the morning or spending a month exploring Europe, there’s so much value in experiencing the unknown. Fortunately, I was able to go the month exploring Europe route this past summer rather than just rerouting my walk to work. Over the course of four weeks I ventured through Ireland, Spain, Italy, England, and Scotland. Even though I spent just about every penny I saved over my four years of college, it was worth it a hundred times over.
My journey didn’t start out on the best foot, but the excitement of arriving in a foreign country quickly wiped my mind of the lack of food, courtesy and the aisle seat I paid for during my flight. Stepping out of the airport in Dublin was easily one of the most exciting moments of the trip. It’s such a basic moment, yet the giddy feeling you get when you realize you’ve got a month of adventure in foreign countries is second to none. Over the five days I was in Ireland I pretty much did all the touristy stuff: Guinness Factory, Jameson Distillery, Trinity College, etc. etc. By the time I got done with all of the walking from the day I was so dead I typically couldn’t hang for long when I went out for some Guinness in the evening.
That wasn’t the case for the next leg of the trip, however. When my flight landed in Ibiza, everybody on the plane started clapping. Definitely the first time that’s ever happened, but I knew it meant I was in for a treat. I knew Ibiza was the clubbing capitol of the world, what I failed to account for was how damn expensive it was! Every club was around 50 euros to get in and then another 15 euros for each drink (yea, even a bud light). A bit steep for a college grad like myself. So I set one night aside to really go all out. To keep it simple: THE NIGHT WAS F$#%&@! WILD. I quickly figured out why Ibiza earned its reputation. Since I only went out one night I had a ton of other time to do stuff. To keep myself busy, I rented a Vespa and rode around the entire island in a pair of excruciatingly short pink shorts. From Es Vedra to the beaches of San Antoni, Ibiza had just as much to offer geographically as it did socially.
My next stop was Madrid. Let me start by saying it was easily the most beautiful city of the entire trip in my opinion. I actually had a friend living in Madrid that I knew from working in Europe last summer so it was cool having a local show me around. Just like Ibiza, they party pretty hard. I’m still amazed that just about every club there stays open till like 7 A.M., it’s absolutely insane. In addition to partying all night, they also really like tapas. I think its safe to say I had enough jamon and queso for the next few years. What I loved about Madrid was how welcome I felt, despite the fact I only know a handful of Spanish words. They could’ve brushed me off as an ignorant American (which I certainly was in some aspects), but instead they welcomed me to their country. Faith in humanity restored *prayer hand emoji*
Once I left Madrid I headed to Rome. While it didn’t disappoint, I definitely regretted not spending an extra day or two here. Nonetheless, I hit all the major spots: Colliseum, Fountain de Trevi, the Pantheon. The major highlight of Italy, however, was the food. For every other country, I was pretty frugal with what I spent on food because I wanted to spend my money doing things. Italy was the one place I cashed out to eat… good decision Trav. From pizza to chicken parm, I certainly tacked on a couple pounds in the few days I was there.
Following Rome, I hit London. Arguably my favorite city in the world, I was stoked to be back for my second time. One of the reasons I think I like London so much is because, of any city, it feels the most like home (so much for the whole out of my comfort zone thing lol). In terms of diversity, it’s much like NYC, LA, or SF in the sense that there’s a wide range of cultures mixed together. For the first time throughout the trip, I didn’t feel like everybody could tell I was a foreigner. Even though I got to hit all the major tourist spots, my favorite part of London was getting out in the evening to shoot. There’s something about sneaking around, hopping fences that will never get old to me.
After London, I stopped in Edinburgh, Scotland. Edinburgh has a really punk rock feel to it that made it quite unique relative to any of the other countries I had visited. It really made me take a step back and appreciate how different each place I had visited was. Each city had its own characteristics that I not only enjoyed, but also disliked. In discovering about the world around me, I discovered even more about myself.
If I can leave you with one, cliché, piece of wisdom it’s this: memories are so much more valuable than possessions. You hear that so frequently because it’s true. Take every chance you can to explore this beautiful world; you’ll find so much inspiration.
Words and photographs provided by Travis Volpe
See more of Travis's photographs and follow his adventures here.