I want to continue to inspire others to travel with kids who aren’t their own and be travel mentors, so I decided to start taking guest posts about other Niece/Nephew Projects! You’ll hear their stories, tips, ups and downs. Over the next week you’ll be seeing Aunt Michaela and Niece Laura’s story here on Ottsworld! And if it inspires you to do something similar, let me know about it – and maybe just maybe you’ll even want to write about it!
Packing and Travel Tips From a Teenager’s Perspective
By Niece Laura Potter
The first thoughts that raced through my head when my Aunt Michaela told me I was being given the chance to choose anywhere in Europe to explore over the summer were, “OH MY GOSH, IS THIS REAL?!?!?!?” I’ve always been so fond of the idea of traveling and seeing the world beyond pictures on Google Images. Being given the opportunity to see a new country for the first time opened my eyes to the reality that I can travel and can have those experiences that others have across the oceans.
The Destination Decision
However choosing a destination to travel to wasn’t easy. I knew one thing for sure: I wanted to see a place in Europe where English wasn’t a common language. I chose Croatia. I wanted to dive right into the culture that another country had to offer. I wanted to learn how to communicate with others with the little Croatian language I picked up.
Laura Potter’s Photography
That being said, I must say that the most enjoyable part of the trip was the overall experience of living in another culture. Sure, I could say it was the breathtaking views all around, but the cultural experience by far was something that not everyone gets to have in their lifetimes. Most families I know choose to vacation to “safe” and familiar locations such as the Caribbean islands and London or Paris, which is totally fine and great, but picking a place where I had to adjust to another culture was truly eye opening and a wonderful experience. I found that I recognized the difference in cultures a lot more. When walking down the street lined with restaurants and bars in Zagreb, I noticed that many of the people sitting at these places were staring at us as we walked by. In America, we are taught from an early age not to stare at others. I found it quite humorous that in Croatia they didn’t have that same sense not to stare at others!
One of the most challenging parts of the trip was before we left…I had never packed for a long overseas trip before. For my birthday, I received a large travel suitcase and a smaller carry on. I thought to myself, “Oh, this is a great couple of bags to travel with”. Then, my aunt dropped a bomb on me and told me I would only be using the carry on throughout the entire 2+ weeklong trip. I was so surprised and honestly didn’t think I’d be able to do it. However, I was able to manage traveling lightly and successfully brought with me almost everything I needed for the trip.
As a teenage fashionista, I have a wide variety of clothes that I enjoy mixing and matching. However, my advice to another teen preparing themselves for a trip to a new part of the world is to consider the most important things: appropriate clothing and comfortable footwear. I had to choose the necessities over the accessories; the walking shoes over the strappy sandals.
“Comfortable shoes are a must!”
Chances are, you’ll likely be walking almost constantly, visiting museums, sightseeing, and going on fun adventures.
Since I was so limited as to what I could bring, I had to choose just a few of my favorite pieces of clothing. In the end, I was happy with the choices I made on what to bring. Because the climate in Croatia during that time was supposed to range from the seventies to nineties, I brought lots of airy clothes to prepare for the warmth.
Depending on where you travel in the world, you must be prepared for the type of clothing you’ll be wearing, whether it be for the climate or for religious reasons. I suggest preparation for religious reasons because often times Americans arrive at sacred mosques dressed like they’re going to the beach, when it’s custom to cover up and dress respectfully.
There is one thing I wish I packed, but didn’t: pants. When my aunt Michaela and I drove to Plitvicke National Park to hike and see the beautiful waterfalls, we unfortunately hit treacherous rainfall and the temperature dropped to the fifties. I was unprepared for that cold and wet day, but the rest of the trip yielded beautiful weather.
Life Changing Packing Lessons
I embarked on my trip with my aunt and uncle a year ago, but it doesn’t feel as though that much time has passed. After experiencing life from a new point of view, I see some things differently.
Before the trip, I used to bring anything and everything I thought was important on a day-long excursion to New York City. Now, I see how ridiculous it was that I thought I really needed several options of lipstick colors to wear. I only bring my camera, phone, ID, MetroCard, credit card, and some cash when traveling into New York for the day. Thanks to my Aunt who taught me how to travel light!