Trust the Locals recently conducted an interview with Amy, an American abroad, to learn about how she travels throughout Europe and beyond. Amy is an actor from St. Louis living in London, England. The above photo was taken when she was about to drink beer in Belgium- hence the excitement!
TTL: We hear that you’re the “planner” in your family when it comes to organizing a trip. What logistics do you usually plan ahead, and what do you leave open? Or is it different for every vacation?
Amy: The first thing I generally book is primary travel (i.e. flights to wherever I’m going), and then I figure everything else out based on those flights.
TTL: Where is the furthest you’ve traveled from “home”?
Amy: I think Dubrovnik, Croatia is as far as I’ve been from St. Louis, where I’m originally from. If we’re going off of London, where home has been for the last six years, then that’s actually St. Louis!
TTL: If you had to pick, what would you say is your favorite place in the world?
Amy: THAT IS A TERRIBLY DIFFICULT QUESTION, and one that I feel like changes all the time. At the moment, I think I’ll go with the north of Spain.
TTL: What’s your biggest travel mistake? Or something important you’ve learned from your travels?
Amy: My biggest travel mistake was going to Italy and expecting it to function like Germany. Growing up in the US, I didn’t really understand at first how wildly different each European country- and in most cases, each distinct area of each European country- is from each other. I went to Germany when I was 19, and thought, oh! This is how Europe works. Okay! And then I went to Italy, and basically had a meltdown because I was not prepared for the way Italians do (or in many cases, don’t do) things. It’s not bad or wrong, it’s just different… and you can’t force a country to operate on your time zone. You have to adapt to theirs. Once I calmed down and paid attention to how everyone was doing stuff where I actually WAS, things improved massively.
TTL: What websites or resources do you rely on to help you plan a trip?
Amy: Skyscanner.net is my number one resource for checking out flight prices and getting a feel for good days to travel (if my dates are flexible), and what prices airlines are offering if my dates are fixed. However, I generally try to book flights through the airlines themselves. In my experience, that puts you in a better position if anything goes wrong with the flights while travelling.
I also love TripAdvisor for checking out reviews on hotels and things to do, and getting a plan for what I’d like to do when I go to a place.
Airbnb also has neighbourhood guides that I like to check out, because one of my favourite things to do when I travel is to just wander through interesting areas, ideally eating and drinking things while I go.
TTL: Coolest museum, attraction or activity you’ve done/been to while traveling?
Amy: Also a tough call! I’m going to go with taking the Hurtigruten ferry from Geirangerfjord in Norway (a UNESCO-protected fjord and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever ever been) to Ålesund. We took the ferry to catch a flight home, but we didn’t set out to go that way. When we found out we could spend a few hours cruising the fjords, we knew we had to do it. There are 14 ships in the fleet, and they go all the way from Bergen in the south of Norway to Kirkenes, up above the Arctic Circle.
I also want to mention Skansen, an open-air museum in Stockholm that brings the historical, rural culture of Sweden to life. We went in early January, it was absolutely freezing and snowing like crazy; it was super quiet and we had an INCREDIBLE time. It’s really magical, especially in the snow and the quiet. Apparently, though, they have a huge Christmas festival in December*. I’m gonna have to go back for that!
*The Christmas festival includes a market, live music and workshops for decorations and candle-making. It usually begins on the last weekend of November and runs through December. They also have a Christmas service on site.
TTL: If money wasn’t an issue, and you could hop on a plane tomorrow, what would be your destination?
TTL: Have you had any experiences where a local tip led you to a hidden gem or an “off-the-beaten-path” spot?
Amy: I always like to ask for recommendations for places to eat and drink when I’m somewhere new. That usually helps me find a place that I wouldn’t have thought to go to. Even better is when you have friends in the area and they can take the wheel for those decisions. That’s how I have wound up drinking way too many wonderful beers in a basement bar in Prague and eating the most incredible food you can imagine in the north of Spain. Actually… if you can find a way to have family in Spain, I can’t recommend that enough!
Photos by A. Schwartz