30 things I learned while traveling abroad

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We learned that, given enough alcohol, we will eat haggis.

We learned that, given enough alcohol, we will eat haggis.

Our trip to Ireland and Scotland was very educational. I learned some things about myself. Scott and I learned some things about each other. And I definitely learned some things about traveling in these countries. Here are 30 things I picked up, in no particular order.

  1. We are not good with maps. We got lost. A lot.
  2. The Irish are quite possibly the friendliest people on Earth, until they get behind the wheel of a car. Then they’re crazy.
  3. Even after touring the beautiful Blair Athol Distillery in Pitlochry, Scotland, and seeing all of the care and skill that goes into making some of the finest Scotch in the world, I still don’t like it.
  4. Given enough alcohol, we will eat haggis.
  5. Renting a car in Ireland is not expensive if you do so in advance. Buy all of the insurance they recommend.
  6. Get the smallest car that will hold you and your luggage; they aren’t kidding when they say the roads are narrow.
  7. The names of the streets in Ireland change names frequently. Street signs are randomly placed every few blocks. Allow lots of extra time to get where you’re going, because if you’re anything like us … see #1.
  8. If you are on a road with three lanes, make sure you know which direction the middle lane is going before you get in it.
  9. Roundabouts are the toughest part of driving on the wrong side of the road.
  10. Scott was a very good driver, especially considering he was driving on the wrong side of the road from the wrong side of the car and shifting with the wrong hand. Don’t tell him that I said that, though, because I was gasping and telling him to slow down most of the time.
  11. I’m not a very good passenger, especially when there’s nothing to grab onto from the passenger seat. I may or may not have put the parking brake on — while he was driving — out of the need to have some sort of control.
  12. Those little white triangles painted on the road are yield signs.
  13. If you’re a pedestrian in Ireland, look both ways twice when crossing a road because the traffic will be coming from the opposite direction you’re expecting.
  14. Don’t stand in the middle of the road to take a picture; the drivers won’t slow down for you.
  15. The VAT taxes are very confusing. In Scotland, you have to request refunds while you’re still there. In Ireland, you can send receipts in after you get home, but there are a lot of rules. Get and register a VAT card from Horizon before you leave home and use it whenever you can. Some of the larger shops, such as the Blarney Woolen Mill, will refund the tax at the time of purchase. Make sure you check out at the Horizon card kiosk at the airport, though, or they will charge it back to your card.
  16. If you see something you like, buy it then. Don’t assume you’ll see it again. Unless it’s a scarf, then odds are you will see it again.
  17. At restaurants, the check is called the ticket, and you have to ask for it when you’re ready to leave. If your waiter or waitress asks, “can I get you anything else?” three times and you say, “no, thank you, we’re good,” each time, that does not mean “please bring us the ticket.”
  18. Tipping is confusing. You don’t tip at pubs or at some restaurants. You do at others. There does not seem to be a standard percentage, although we were told it was generally less than what we would tip in the U.S. We found that any tip was greatly appreciated.
  19. If you check into your hotel room and the electricity isn’t working, there’s a little slot near the door where you’re supposed to put your room key. Keep in mind that if you’re trying to charge a phone or camera, you’ll have to leave one of your room keys in the slot when you leave the room.
  20. Set everything out when you’re packing so that you can see it all at once. Use eBags packing cubes to keep your suitcase organized.
  21. After you pack, take out half of the clothing. You don’t need it, and that leaves more space for the things you’ll buy when you’re there.
  22. Pack Febreze; it will come in handy when you run out of clean socks. Spray them the night before they need to go back into the suitcase.
  23. The nicer hotels usually have washcloths. Less-expensive ones do not. Tip from a woman I sat next to on the plane: Buy a pack of cheap washcloths and just leave them in the room when you check out.
  24. Filet is pronounced fill-it. Tree tur-ty is a time of day.
  25. I love Irish wisdom. “Live every day like it’s your last, because one day you’ll be right,” and, “where there’s a will, there’s a relative,” are two of my favorites.
  26. The Loch Ness Monster is pretty easy to spot if you look out the right window.
  27. If you’re looking for Wi-Fi, find a pub. Make sure you check in on Facebook at every pub you visit so that your friends and clients will think you spent all of your time in pubs.
  28. Don’t bother straightening your hair.
  29. It really is spectacularly beautiful, and the locals are glad you’re there.
  30. Once you visit these countries, you’ll want to go back.

We hope to return to both someday and spend more time getting lost together.

© 2014 Mandy Gauldin

5 thoughts on “30 things I learned while traveling abroad

  1. Great list!! I would say that some of your tips are good for most of Europe, like the electricity in the hotels (coming to the US soon I think) and the tipping.


  2. Pingback: a tribute to outlander | Tales from the Empty Nest

  3. Pingback: travel tuesday: yes, I ate haggis. | Tales From the Empty Nest

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