Home at last! Well, back in Manchester to be more specific, but I hadn’t realized how much like home Manchester had become until I spent three weeks living off of nothing more than the contents of my backpack. It was a long, strange trip indeed. So what have I learned now that I’ve “seen the world”?

Europeans are OBSESSED with Nutella! I can’t even emphasize this enough. We saw places with Nutella jars that are literally bigger than my head.

Americans are really loud. You can spot American tourists from a mile away. Literally. Maybe not all of them are, but enough of them are that it almost makes me embarassed to be an American. Almost, but not quite. Moral of the story: don’t be loud and obnoxious when you travel. Please.

Being bilingual is extremely useful, and Americans don’t put enough emphasis on that. Do you know how many people we met that spoke at least two if not more languages?? A whole bunch. I never realized how many people learned English until this trip. It makes me extremely thankful that English is my first language, because it’s  such a complicated language that I don’t know how other people learn it! And yet everywhere we went, there was someone who at least spoke a little English.

Early flights SUCK.

Trains are a much more efficient method of transportation. You don’t have to go through ridiculous security lines, they’re generally pretty fast, your ears don’t pop (unless you’re going under the English Channel), you can see all the pretty scenery, they usually have their own cafe car, and they’re way more comfortable than planes. America needs to get on this.

There are very few problems that can’t be helped by a cup of gelato or a glass of wine.

Don’t plan every minute of every day. Allow yourself time to get from one place to another at a leisurely pace. While a trip like this might be designed to see as much as possible in a small amount of time, recognize the fact that you won’t get to see everything and just enjoy what you do get to see.

As long as you know how to say please, thank you, hello, excuse me, and “I would like…” in the language of a given country, you can get by just fine. Oh, and “Do you speak in English?” is also extremely useful to start off a conversation.

If you want to get to know a city, find a local food stand, buy lunch, and go sit on some steps or a fountain in a busy square. From this vantage point you can observe the heart of a city.

Europeans really liked to pick on the Egyptians back in the day! In every major city we went, they had an obelisk stolen from Egypt. I’m not even kidding. We found them in London, Paris, Rome, and I think there was one in Madrid. It looked suspiciously like the others we had seen. But I mean really, what did Egypt ever do to Europe?? Just because you set up your own fancy monarchy does not give you the right to go stealing ancient crap from foreign lands. Gosh.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you see and do. It’s about who you see it with and the memories you create. Thank you to those of you who I travelled with, and those who I met up with along the way. You are the ones who made it worth it.

And finally, to quote the cliche and very wise sentiment, “There’s no place like home.”