Bobby is a Principal with a background in History and Social Studies. He first traveled with EF Tours in 2010 to Rome and Paris, and now leads a student tour every summer. He believes that young people should experience life outside of their communities, and that understanding other cultures is imperative to solving global challenges.
Last year when I was preparing to embark on my 5th tour with EF, I resolved to be a leaner, sleeker and more efficient traveler. As my June departure date drew nearer many of these goals came to mind—packing lighter, taking better pictures, and keeping a more detailed travel journal. While I cannot say that I kept every travel goal I set, I did adhere to most of them and I do believe they helped enhance my trip. This year, I want to take it a step further; to move beyond practical tips and get to the heart of what traveling is all about – experiences.
This coming spring my students and I will be exploring Paris, Florence and Rome. While my travel goals may be specific to a particular country or city, you can also enjoy similar experiences during your travels, no matter the destination. With that said, this year I resolve to seek out the following experiences:Sitting for a Portrait in Montmartre
Montmartre is one of my favorite areas of Paris and has long been home to some of the world’s greatest artists, including artists like Monet, Picasso, Dalí and Van Gogh. Today, the district is still a magnet for aspiring artists both young and old, and like anything in Paris—espresso, crepes, steak frites—the quality can range from average to amazing. Finding the right portrait artist is a bit like finding the right barber; it takes time, and personality is equally as important as ability. My strategy is to stroll through the area and sample the work of several artists, watching and listening to how they interact with customers. It’s likely I’ll have this portrait tucked away in a special place for years to come, so this is not a decision to be made lightly. A final bit of advice—if one artist is considerably cheaper than another, there may be a good reason for that. Shelling out an extra five euro may save you from looking like a cartoon.
Taking an Early Morning Run Through Paris
As the sun rises in Paris you can literally feel the city coming to life all around you. The beautiful European style streets, the smell of croissants, the sound of the Seine moving through the city – there is no better way to experience this than to take an early morning walk or run. Ask the hotel clerk if there is a nearby trail, or if they recommend a certain neighborhood. If running isn’t your thing you can have a similar experience by simply enjoying your morning coffee outside your hotel. Either way, watching a city stir and awaken in the early morning hours is a special experience. It will give you a whole new perspective on the people and place, no matter where you are.
Taking a Moment to Reflect in St. Peter’s Basilica
Finding a quiet moment in St. Peter’s is much easier said than done. It is one of the largest churches in the world, and often filled with tourists and churchgoers alike on a daily basis. Moving quickly from one piece of art to the next is very easy and tempting, but if you have the opportunity to visit the cathedral I challenge you to slow down and take the time to reflect on the building’s great history and grandeur. Regardless of your religious beliefs, taking a moment to pray, meditate or reflect in a building designed by Michelangelo and Bernini is quite breathtaking. While the main altar is often inaccessible due to the sheer number of people, you can find a bit of solitude in one of the many side chapels.
Eating Something I’ve Never Had Before
This is something I try doing each time I travel, and something that I’ve actually done with some measure of success. I have had chicken tikka masala in London, chicken curry and lentils in Paris, and Margherita pizza in Rome. There are new food opportunities all throughout Europe, though finding them may require a bit of exploration outside of traditionally “tourist” areas. One of my most memorable experiences was eating at a local pub in London while watching cricket with some locals. We were visibly confused, so a gentleman sitting nearby turned to us and explained how the game was played. I now vaguely remember what a wicket is. The point being, that seeking out unique cultural foods can lead to more than just an amazing culinary experience; it can lead you to some of your most memorable travel experiences.