In the United States, when we’re out and about together, most strangers seem to think we’re anywhere from 14 to 28 years old and questionably romantically involved. In central Europe, people seemed to think we were either 12 or 30 and very likely a couple either way.
In reality, we’re two 5’1” 18 and 19-year-old pop slingers from Richmond, Virginia. We are indeed (platonic) “partners” and embraced the title given to us by check-in personnel, customs officers, and really most people we met during our three-week graduation trip last summer. After slinging many a pop and planning out logistics, we spent a day-long layover in London, flew to Berlin, took the train to Prague, Munich, Salzburg, and then met family friends in Oberterzen, Switzerland, and flew home from Zurich.
Throughout our trip we did a lot and learned a lot. To stay away from being another relatively impersonal “travel tips and tricks” post, below are some of our observations and experiences. These are the five rules we made for ourselves so we could make the most out our trip and keep the good vibes rolling.
Take care of each other
Traveling can introduce unexpected challenges, and so it’s important that if you’re traveling with a partner that you be conscious of how the other person is responding to given situations. We are in fact both fully functional adults, but we are not immune to the stresses associated with long days and language barriers, and so it was important to check in and see to each other’s needs. Sometimes as well, we found ourselves immediately in need of help: traffic customs in places like Prague where cars would spontaneously drive up onto the sidewalk and practically drag pedestrians into harm’s way, and we found that we couldn’t have even made it to our hostel in Munich without our manager Nils’ remote help with navigating the S-Bahn.
Move or die
Illness and exhaustion while traveling are real, but you want to make sure you’re making your time count. While it’s important to recognize the difference between sleepiness and potentially more serious ailments, we found it important to keep moving, both to expand our walking tours and to keep our spirits high. While part of this is regular hydration and nutrition, a good deal revolves around a positive mindset. In Salzburg, one day we decided to walk to a park in a neighborhood on the other side of town. It was quite the trek. Still recovering from being sick in Prague and Munich and adjusting to the slightly thinner mountain air, we periodically repeated our slightly melodramatic mantra “move or die” to keep our spirits up. We made the mostly uphill walk through the quiet Austrian neighborhood, taking in the houses nestled into the mountains and beautiful views of the Alps.
Take 3 self-timer pics a day
Traveling as a pair, photos of both us were often hard to come by, especially in destinations off the beaten path. We both have short arms and usually dislike the selfie aesthetic anyway, so we had to get creative and make good use of the self-timer feature on our phone cameras. Phones were attached with hair ties to fences, trees, street signs, Jumex cans, set against walls, handbags, rocks, bottles of wine, and once carefully placed in a potted plant. While unorthodox, we had control over our photos’ compositions and didn’t have to bother other travelers to take a picture of us. The primitive engineering we employed gave us both pleasant pictures and fun memories of each location!
5€/day on ice cream
Ice cream became our favorite pick-me-up for long days, serving both as a way to sample local shops and flavors and to give that sweet sugar high necessary for longer walks. Whatever your fix is, you should be able to indulge but you’ll want to set a reasonable limit. Don’t forget to check out the local grocery stores for their ice cream selections, as well as inexpensive and healthy foods for picnics. In Salzburg, we frequented Fabi’s, a little frozen yogurt shop in a yellow building with decorative window frames in the main square. One day while eating our fro-yo at one of the tables outside next to the farmers’ market, we saw lots of tourists taking pictures of Fabi’s and were puzzled, to say the least. It took us an embarrassingly long time to realize out that Fabi’s was actually located in the ground floor of Mozart’s birthplace. Go figure.
Farmer’s market peaches and Fabi’s frozen yogurt with mango sauce in Salzburg, Austria
Millennial travelers have been branded as tech-obsessed and aloof, so we both came to love journaling as a way to document our travels without losing sight of our surroundings. With this, we grew an affinity for “heisting” the free postcards, maps, pictures, and plants that we could paste in, creating a physical record of the things we enjoyed most about our trip.
Looking over the Walensee, journaling in Oberterzen, Switzerland
Journaling also came to be a way that we could take breaks in our busy days and enjoy some quiet time. Sometimes we would literally spend entire meals just journaling silently, which essentially qualified as our alone time.This helped us to keep up with long days and to keep from irritating one another in stressful or confusing situations. Ultimately staying mindful of ourselves and each other was successful; we didn’t really fight and actually developed mild separation anxiety by the time we got to Switzerland and faced the option of sleeping on different floors.
A quick picnic/self-timer photo op by the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral)