After spending a month away from home I compiled this mini travel guide in hopes it could be useful to someone/it is guaranteed to be useful to at least one person as I plan on reading it next year (you’re welcome future self).
Traveling is awesome. You get to see new places, meet new people, and most exciting of all…try new foods! For me, the key to feeling comfortable in a new place is feeling prepared.
While I was all over trying suppli (deep fried risotto balls), in Italy during my time off track, they’re not something I would want to eat before a race. When I’m competing abroad I tend to stick to what I know in terms of pre-race meals (aka. pasta).
My basic groceries were all available in Belgium although some things proved difficult to find. Example: at one grocery store we went to there were at least six different kinds of speculaus (cookie butter) and not a single peanut butter (I wasn’t that upset TBH). While I managed to find peanut butter elsewhere, I was VERY happy that I had brought about 20 SoLo bars with me as energy bars don’t seem to be “a thing” in Europe and I couldn’t find any! The closest I came was a box of four granola bars which were TINY and cost about three times as much as they would have back in Canada. (What is this, a granola bar for ants?!).
- Adaptor for wall outlets
- Cash: cute market places usually only accept cash. Same goes for the races that actually make you pay (50% of the races I ran were free!)
- Food storage containers. I brought three different sizes of tupperware and they have been heroic. No one likes to be hangry on the train at 10pm after a meet. Cook at home and bring left overs.
- Running shoes nearing the end of useful life so they can be ditched in Europe creating space for shopping purchases/chocolate
- SoLo bars!!! I was really surprised by the lack of energy/protein bars in stores – if they’re part of your diet, bring ’em. I brought about 20… I might have a problem/I’m nice and share
- An unlocked phone – data plans in Europe are crazy cheap and having access to maps, email, and #Instagram is a nice bonus when you’re in transit
- Allow yourself to take a break. This is probably the main reason Jack and I have such an awesome time traveling together. We aren’t afraid to make a dinner in, have a couple hours in our Airbnb, or just stop being tourists for awhile. At first I felt guilty for not being out exploring ALL THE TIME, but I realized I enjoy traveling way more then I’m not hangry and in need of some decompression time.
- Grocery shop. Our go to items are: fruit, veggies, eggs, cheese, salami, coffee, milk, yogurt, cookies (Jack has an addiction which cannot be denied), bread, peanut butter, and oatmeal.
- Research your dining out options. My biggest travel pet peeve is paying to have a food experience that isn’t AMAZING – especially when you’re somewhere that’s known for cuisine. With a little online research you might be amazed by how much you can learn. Yes, sometimes it’s more fun to just stumble into the perfect restaurant after a long day on your feet – but I don’t think it’s worth the risk of mediocre when you can find (and deserve) great! (Side note: sometimes Google does not accurately update restaurants hours and you’re just gonna have to wing it anyways #BestLaidPlans)
- If you like games, buy and bring Codenames. I put all the pieces in a giant plastic bag which fits in any backpack and it provided hours of entertainment on the train, at the beach, before races, when you have to wait an hour for a shuttle bus to show up… etc.
- *Free* walking tours are an awesome way to learn about places, gain the lay of the land, and get the inside scoop on places to go and food to eat. Guides work for tips so you’re basically guaranteed an engaging and fun couple hours!
Overall, it was an incredible trip made possible by the two of us balancing my passion for planning with Jack’s ability to go with the flow. We got lost in Venice, spent a somewhat unplanned yet fantastic day in Bolonga, hiked the Cinque Terre, marvelled at Roman history, and capped the adventure off with a night in Paris.
I’m already looking forward to planning our trip back…
Ciao & grazie for reading!