Discovering Europe…with a little help from my friends

Discovering Europe…with a little help from my friends

Yes, I’ve cried on friends’ shoulders, shared laughs, graduated, shopped, worked, participated in weddings…the normal life stuff.  But ten years ago I never would have anticipated that I would be crossing Europe with my friends, and it would be thanks to them that I can experience Europe in a way that far and away surpasses your average tourist experience.
I’ve lived in Bologna, Italy, for three years, which is a big university town.  Here I have been lucky to meet people from all over the world.  Among my best friends are a Russian and a Serbian, and between the two of them we have heard a lot of Cold War and Bill Clinton jokes, which I am more than willing to suffer in exchange for the unique opportunity to see the world through their eyes once in a while.  And even the Italians that I am drawn to seem to have the traveling spirit and have spread all over Europe.
So, luckily, I seem to have a friend wherever I want to go.  And my mission is to take advantage of this as much as possible.  In the last month I have been to Austria, Germany, and within Italy I have visited Venice, Treviso, Cassano D’Adda, Dozza, and Rome.  Exhausting, but awesome.
My friends have brought me to these cities in different capacities – as tourists themselves, companions, hosts…and each trip was a pleasure.  I have the karma gods to thank for this, because, well, let’s face it.  Traveling with friends can be overwhelmingly awful as often as it can be wonderful.  I’ve had my share of the awful – from my friend loosing his pre-paid credit card on the way to our vacation in Stockholm, leaving me to underwrite his trip.  Or the evening a friend and I chose different adventures for the night, and thinking he would get home before me, he took the keys to our shared apartment from my purse without telling me, and never arrived at home, leaving me to search for an available hotel room in the wee hours of the night on foot in Hamburg, Germany.
But, despite my past challenges, I can still whole-heartedly recommend traveling with friends.  The lighthearted, more outward focused energy between friends usually leaves us more emotionally open to meeting people during our adventures, which I believe is the true spirit of traveling.  Traveling with friends can be a nice break from traveling with your family or significant other in that it allows you to escape the normal role you play within your family unit.  And when you visit friends in their cities, you couldn’t ask for a better way to experience a new city.
I only hope you can learn from my utter failures and keep in mind a few of my tips:  Try to travel with friends that have at least an equal amount of travel experience as you, and friends that you have traveled with before (at least a little bit) – i.e. don’t go to East Africa with someone you’ve never even left your own city with.  The more they love to travel, the better.  And if you aren’t completely flexible in every way along with your friend(s), the more you have in common economically, habitually, and with your goals/interests, the less conflicts you will have.  Which, in the end, I guess is just basic logic.
Logic??  What’s that???
Stay tuned for my series of posts about my trips this month with my fabu friends.  And the pics!!  Oh, the pics.  Several thousand of them.  But don’t worry, they’ll be edited. 🙂
A presto!


  1. Eliza Waters says:

    Great post! Traveling with friends can be a dicey thing, to be sure. Like you, I’ve had both good and bad. It is a true blessing to find an easy traveling companion. Can’t wait to hear of your upcoming adventures.

    • mfryan says:

      Agreed! 🙂 I’m sure you have some stories of your own! 😉 I hope to get the first pics up soon. I’ve been traveling so much there’s no time to write! I guess that’s a good problem to have… 😉 (PS-I’m writing from the train!)

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Your posts take me back to an exciting and carefree time in my life. I loved my travels. No responsibilities except for myself. I enjoy seeing many of these same and new places through the lens of your experience. Brava! Can’t wait to see what you have for us next!

  2. A lovely post – what city do you think was your favorite during this trip? I completely agree with you that staying with a friend in their (new) city is the best way to travel. You have a place to stay and a temporary local to guide you! I think the best travel advice I´ve ever received is simply to say yes: you´ll only regret the things you didn´t do, the food you didn´t eat, the people you didn´t meet!

    • mfryan says:

      Yes, I totally agree! Actually, I take that advice on a day to day basis and I’ve never regretted it. If I’m invited somewhere by a friend, I always make every human effort possible to go, no matter how tired or broke I am. 🙂 I’ve been living in Bologna, Italy for three and a half years, and it has been one big adventure. 🙂 Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what my favorite city is…it is all about the experiences, you know?

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