GIRLGO’s upcoming trip this summer, June 2020, to Europe and North Africa will be a one-of-a-kind trip, full of adventure, learning and girl-bonding. Some of our previous GIRLGO trip participants are returning again, some of them are bringing along new friends and family, and some are taking the step to travel for the first time. New for 2020, we have opened a few spaces for parents and guardians to join us, and in doing so, we are crafting a unique itinerary that will allow everyone to enjoy their summer abroad together, and independently.

But what should you expect when traveling abroad as a first-timer, or as a returning jet-setter? The advantage of traveling with GIRLGO is that we offer summer break experiences every year. This gives girls a chance to travel each year, broadening their horizon and level of knowledge on how to travel internationally. Our returning girls have a head start and impressive grasp on life abroad!

So let’s jump into some tips that are great to know!

Adopting a Traveler’s Mindset

The traveler’s mindset is a set of beliefs, expectations and conduct, that allows the traveler to enjoy the experience, to the max! When you have a traveler’s mindset, you are open to the journey, understanding that you’re leaving your home behind, and going into a new world of culture, people, customs, beliefs and laws. This includes knowing that people you’ll meet in most places you visit won’t speak English, the food may be different, the geography, climate, the amount of space in a dwelling. It will all be different! And that’s the beauty of travel, indulging in what’s different. While it is natural to compare your experiences abroad, to what you’re used to at home, it is wise to approach your journey with curiosity, free of judgement and ridicule for how different cultures live. Overall, have an open mind. You may experience a little culture shock, and at some point you may feel homesick. That’s all natural and expected. But it’s also expected that while you’re abroad, in the good graces of a foreign country that is hosting you, your conduct, speech, poise, dignity will reflect the respect we have, for the country by which we are now foreigners. It is important to have a resolve to abide by their way of life as a sign of maturity as a visitor and diplomat. It’s the GIRLGO way: we are American representatives, and girls traveling the right way.

The traveler’s mindset is simply embracing the unknown and inevitable mishaps that come with the territory of travel, approaching the experience with a spirit of adventure, and most of all learning along the way.

Jetlag

It is a good idea to try and adjust your sleep schedule a few hours ahead, for at least a week, before you arrive to Italy. Italy is 7 hours ahead of Central Standard time in the U.S., 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard time in the U.S. If you are used to going to bed at 10:00pm, try to go to sleep at 1:00 or 2:00 am. Of course, for those who work or have other obligations, this may not be possible. But any adjustment will benefit you greatly! Jetlag is strong and real! Upon arriving to Italy, you’ll feel boosted with high energy and eagerness to get the trip started. This is generally adrenaline. But by the second or third day, your body’s “circadian rhythm” will realize that you’re awake, when you’re normally asleep, and you’re asleep when you’re normally awake … and it’ll fight to try and maintain your normal rhythm! For you, this means that during our morning excursion to Civita, you’ll likely just want to take a nap. During our tour of Orvieto or Rome, you’ll feel sluggish. And during the wee hours of the night, you’ll feel energized, wanting to stay awake. Staying hydrated before you arrive and during the trip, eating well and making any adjustments will help you to adjust just fine.

Wellness and Fitness

For many of our excursions in a place like Europe and North Africa, walking and public transportation are a way of life. Sure there are cars and every other modern amenity. However, when we explore these places, we are experiencing it like a local, with some frills and some luxury… a little bit of both! In Italy, you’ll walk on cobblestone a lot. That’s probably very different than the asphalt and paved roads in other places. You’ll learn how the train system works, whereby we travel from town to town. In North Africa, there are winding roads, and not much order and delineation in the streets as you may be used to in America. But it’s a beautiful chaos! All of this involves a healthy level of active motion, and allows for you to get to know the place, on a deeper level that most come to appreciate. To stay well, we encourage breaks and stop for hydration when needed (while keep our schedule in mind). We have strategic rest days and time when there is minimal touring and activity. We’ve designed this trip, with you and your wellness in mind!

Weather

It will be hot, no doubt. It will be hot in Italy, and it will definitely be hot in Morocco. It should be mild in France, but it could still be quite warm. Plan for this, with cool, comfortable, breathable clothing and comfortable shoes. In Italy, especially in our home town of Orvieto, the temperature will be similar to home in the U.S.: hot in the day, mild/warm in the evening time. In Morocco, it’ll be hot in the day, and quite cool in the evening time, especially in the desert. It can even feel icy! We’ll have super heavy blankets to combat the coolness, however.

Dress/ Apparel

Italy, Morocco and France are all quite liberal and non-restricting when it comes to the apparel of women and travelers in general. Specifically in Morocco, local women are generally covered, but it is common to see tourists there with sleeveless tops, sleeveless dresses and shorts or skirts that show their legs. However Morocco isn’t the place to be too revealing in apparel, just in respect of not standing out in a negative way.

Food & Drink

Italy is known for pizza and pasta and you will get to taste some real gems while on your trip. For some, the Italian diet can become redundant and that’s why we’ve built in free days, for you to explore other types of cuisine that may be available. Unlike America, where all types of cuisine are available on every street, every corner, Italian options are mostly available in Italy. There are some Mexican, Japanese and American places to eat and drink, but not as much as you’re used to! In North Africa and France, the options will definitely be different than cuisine back home. But that’s part of the fun! It’s also one of the reasons we’ll enjoy a cooking class in both Italy and Morocco, to learn the secrets and unique methods they use, to make delicious food. If any trip participant has an allergy or preference against certain foods, we’ll accommodate your needs.

Currency

You use dollars, Europeans use Euros and Moroccans use Dirhams. The dollar is less than the euro, but the dollar is more than the dirham in terms of value. Of course, the cost of things could be relative. Here’s a little breakdown example:

  • The cost of a regular coffee is U.S. may be $3. In Europe, 1-2 Euro (=$1.50-2.75). In Marrakech, 7-15 dirham (=$.70-1.25).
  • When you go to the ATM and withdraw money in Italy, you’ll receive Euros. If you withdraw 100 Euros, upon looking at your banking app, you’ll see that about $110-115 was actually debited, after conversion. This doesn’t include any banking fees. If you withdraw money in Marrakech, you’ll receive Dirhams, and if you want to take no more than $100 from your bank account, you’ll receive 960 dirhams (or so).
  • We’ll visit and patron many markets, which are outdoor marketplaces that sells everything from food to clothes, home goods and souvenirs. These places rarely accept credit or debit cards.
  • It is always advised for shopping, food and emergency purposes, to keep cash in the local currency with you, as well as a credit/debit card while traveling.
  • Always alert your bank before your trip, of your travel plans, locations and dates, so that they know that you’ll be using your credit and debit cards abroad.

We’ll write and post another article about safety expectations, tips and best practices in Part 2, next week!

Have questions about preparing to travel abroad? Post below or send us a message on Facebook, or an email, and we’ll be happy to answer! All GIRLGO trip participants and their parents/guardians will be part of monthly virtual or live meetups, so that we can go over special topics, tips and other trip preparations, so that when it’s time to go, we’re all ready and set!