You’re Doing it Wrong: 5 Ways to Enhance Your Travel Experience

Tags: Study Abroad,2015,list,eric,travel abroad,WSA Europe

Every year, millions of people flock to Europe for vacation with the typical tourist mindset. They go abroad with pre conceived notions and assumptions. They fall victim to the tourist mentality, believing that they HAVE to do certain things to check them off of a cheesy bucket list. Rather than take risks, they play it safe. I have fallen guilty to these convictions in the past myself. Hopefully after reading this, you can learn from my mistakes for the benefit of your own travels. Trust me, the most memorable experiences are the ones you won’t expect! You just need to have an open mind and be willing to take risks!



Put away the camera!

Pictures every now and then are great. It’s wonderful to have and share travel photos with friends and family. But with the advent of social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, snapping photos has gotten completely out of hand… Are you traveling for your own enjoyment, or are you traveling to show off photos to make your friends jealous? Don’t experience your travels from behind a viewfinder. Its okay to take pictures, but put away the technology to live in the moment.

Forget your itinerary and get lost  

Of all my experiences while studying abroad, from top-notch museums to beautiful beaches, my favorite memory was a complete accident. I was separated from my friends, I had no phone, and I was alone at night on the streets in London. I randomly decided to enter a pub I’d never heard of and ordered a drink. A young English gentleman invited me over to a table with him and his mates, all soldiers in the Royal Marines who had just returned from Afghanistan. I spent the next 4 hours chanting, cheering, and drinking with some of the best men I had ever met. That I can assure you was never on my itinerary! Most travelers arrive at a destination, spend a few measly days, and then are off to their next stop. After all the travel logistics are factored in, you get only a few hours total of actual sightseeing. Take it from me- embrace the unexpected experiences!


My advice to anyone visiting a city in Europe; take a jog through the city streets. You can experience your travel destination from a whole new perspective, all while burning off all the wine, cheese, and desserts you indulged in the night before. Leave your Fitbit behind and get lost in the city. Run across bridges, through side streets, and past the outdoor markets smelling of fresh produce. During my times abroad, nothing brought me closer to the heart of a city quite like a morning or evening jog.


Eat where locals eat & eat what locals eat

One of the best ways to absorb the essence of a culture is through their traditional cuisine. You visit their historical sites, engage with their people, why leave out their food?  Eating great in Europe doesn’t have to be expensive. Some of the best places I had ever eaten in my life were not fancy by any means- and yes I’m talking about the French café whose cook who was smoking a cigarette while preparing my food. Fortunately, the meal was FANTASTIC. Don’t eat food that you’re familiar with. You didn’t fly across the world to indulge in burgers and fries. It’s also important that you find the REAL traditional restaurants, places where the locals eat. Rule of thumb: restaurants with large menus written in multiple languages are generally going to be the most touristy, so try to avoid those.

Talk to strangers

If you’re like me, you were probably taught through your adolescence never  to do this! Sorry, but you’re going to have to break this rule if you want to integrate into another culture. Your guide book is great, but it can really only reveal so much. The best guide book you can use while abroad is the locals. You don’t need to interrogate them, but politely asking for advice such as places to see or eat can hugely affect your travel experience. Occasionally, you may encounter a bad apple who wants no business with a tourist. But for the most part, if you are polite, they will point you to some hidden gems. It’s always worth a try.


Rather than simply observing on your travels, try to participate. Learn how other people live. Break out of your ethnocentric mindset, and soak up the beauty of living in another world. It can and will change your life. It certainly changed mine!

Team WSA



Mary Reagan, Saint Louis University

Happy Backpackers

The trip to Budapest was amazing! I did not know what to expect from Budapest because my roommate just told me to go with her so I was up for anything, but it ended up being one of my favorite trips so far of my study abroad experience. The hostel we stayed at gave us an excellent taste of the Budapest night life while Bogi took us to places that I definitely would not have been able to get to on my own or had known about if not for her WSA tour. It was a great weekend and I highly recommend it.

Mary Reagan, Saint Louis University ~ St. Louis University, Madrid, Spring 2015

Read more Reviews

Spots are limited!

We keep our groups small, so save your spot now! Check out our Tripadvisor, App Store & Facebook travel love below.

Multi-City Adventures:

Andy Steves' Europe

Check out Andy Steves' Europe: City Hopping on a Budget!

Pick a city and go! All new budget guidebook from Andy Steves, Founder and Chief Backpacker of WSA.