They say you never forget your first…for me, my first time abroad was to visit a friend studying in Montpellier, France. I didn’t speak a word of the language, I had no set itinerary and I had no concept of flights that took longer than 3 hours.
In my many travels since, I have learned one road rule that stands above all others: your trip never turns out how you picture it.
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It was in Charles de Gaulle airport that I got this first lesson. I had an hour to change flights – which were, of course, half an airport a way. Before I tackled that hurdle, however, I needed to get through customs. The agent had no problem letting in a confused 18-year-old but I was dismayed to learn they no longer stamped your passport. I was convinced there must be some mistake, and that I couldn’t get out of the country without a stamp that proved I was allowed to be there in the first place. However, the agent assured me that indeed, they would be happy to allow all Americans to leave, regardless of their stamp.
I made it to Montpellier and a few days later caught the TGV with my friend to Paris. The hostel in Paris was nothing like I pictured it to be – there were no bunk beds, no screaming students, no partiers. Of all the Paris hostels we could have picked, I figured this had to be the most boring. However, that night, I quickly learned that our hostel kept up with one stereotype…which leads me to rule number two: always, always pack earplugs.