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Orionite Abroad: Maximizing mini trips

Michelle Manera

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Michelle Manera


Traveling for six months is expensive, and exploring outside your host city obviously contributes to that cost. But side trips also count for a huge percentage of memories you can take home from studying abroad.

Five friends and I took advantage of our last week before school by taking a three-day trip to Scotland.

Our city of choice was Scotland’s capitol, Edinburgh, because of its proximity to Brighton, England and its culture.

After choosing a city, we needed to figure out how to get there. European travel varies greatly. We considered a double-decker bus at first but it would have been an 11-hour bus ride for only 20 pounds less than the 1-hour plane ride.

It’s important to research transport prices with each new journey because you never know when there will be a deal. Cheaper flights out of lesser-known airports can be deceptive because it costs so much to travel to those airports. We chose to take a taxi to the second-largest airport in Gatwick, England. It cost the same as a bus and train because there were six of us

After choosing our transportation, it was time to choose a hostel.

Let me be the first to say that hostels scared me because of all the horror stories about theft. But it’s good to be scared — it made me more alert. But, honestly, I never felt unsafe in my hostel.

We chose one with lockers next to our bunks and that was within walking distance of the city center and its attractions, to save on transportation costs. We were in an all-female dorm and the other women all had the same concerns for safety.

We had a cheap breakfast at the hostel and visitors our age told us where to go for fun.

We had fun with free galleries and museums in Edinburgh that showcased Van Gogh and Monet as well as encapsulations of an entire culture in a building. We also enjoyed a hike up Arthur’s Seat, which is a dormant volcano overlooking Edinburgh and the castle it is known for.

The castle charged an expensive fee, but it was one of the only entrance fees we had to pay. Make sure to ask the hostel’s front desk about cheap activities and splurge on one or two experiences that you know you won’t forget. I’ll never forget seeing the castle, which houses the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny.

We also got lucky and just happened to be there when they were celebrating the anniversary of the Queen’s ascension with a full Scottish band and military ceremony.

Honestly, luck is often what makes traveling cheap and fun. You can show up and find out you’re going to eat lunch at the birthplace of “Harry Potter,” or you can get lost and find yet another beautiful view of the city.

Keeping your mind open and excited is just as important as researching the city you wish to travel to. Above all, don’t put off or choose not to go on side trips because of money. I fell in love with Scotland and already can’t wait to go back to explore it more, in addition to the next cities I will be visiting in the coming months.

Michelle Manera can be reached at [email protected] or @michelle_manera on Twitter.

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Orionite Abroad: Maximizing mini trips