All paths lead to Maastricht

I spent my final week in Europe in the city I love best with the people I love most - Maastricht. Eight exchangers planned to meet back in Maastricht after our individual summers of backpacking. Most of us had intercepted paths once or twice along the way - but everyone came back to Maastricht with stories to share. I came rolling into Maastricht after an overnight stop in Cologne, Germany:   We all meet by the Maas Lake and spent our first afternoon outside in the sun cheering as each new face made it to our meeting spot. Over mint lemonade and stroopwaffles we laughed, cried, and lived through the adventures of each other. Pat rocked up with painted toes: Pat's blue toenails are Read more

Alternative Culture with Berliners

Traveling solo is the least lonely way to travel. With each new city come new faces, new friends, and new adventures. In Budapest I met Cassy and Mitch form Australia. Then, I ran into them in Prague. In both cities, we had a wonderful time and decided to meet up in Berlin. Around 4am we met a group of Berliners and decided to all take our photo in a photoautomat - an outdoor photo booth popular throughout Berlin. Six people in a small photoautomat, especially when one person is approaching 7ft tall, proved impossible. Instead, we opted for a photo with the photoautomat. At 4am, you never expect plans to actually happen (or even be remembered) but partly out of politeness Read more

Returning to Berlin

I've said it before in my Paris v. Berlin post, and I'll say it again. To travel to Berlin is to be inspired - creative minds flock to Berlin. I made sure to again return to Berlin and explore all the history, innovation, and art in every form. Everyone, from every walk of life, can be found on the streets of Berlin. The sidewalks are shared by blue-haired punk-rockers, young German yuppies in suits, dreadlocks, piercings, covered in tattoos, the elderly in grayscale simple clothes, fashionistas, big thick framed glasses. It is an organic city – filled with thinkers and alive with new opportunities. Berlin is a city in transition, a city regaining an identity after its long, turbulent history. Read more

Czech out Prague

The day I arrived to Prague happened to be the same day a major heat wave engulfed the city. With relentless high temperatures and air conditioning but a luxurious dream, shade and cool places became the main tourist attractions. I chose my hostel based solely on its name - Czech Inn. The most clever punny hostel name of all hostels to ever exist! After booking the hostel, I discovered that it is considered one of the finest hostels in all of Europe. Indeed, upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by the upscale bar area, luxury showers, and overall trendiness of the accommodation. Though, no air-conditioning. On my first day I planned a big walking trip of the city but could only Read more

Caving in Budapest

Budapest - the city of caves, stalagmites and hotsprings! After a big night out in Budapest I ambitiously started my day early and took a long walk through Heroes Square, the museum area and Central Park as well as to the Opera House and a second hand book store. I was exhausted by the time I arrived back to the hostel mid-afternoon. My intention was to take the rest of the day easy, which was really an unrealistic luxury at my particular hostel. Every hostel has a unique culture, and my hostel in Budapest (Carpe Noctem Vitae - highly recommend!) was all about having a good time. So, instead of relaxing, I found myself on a bus on the way to a cave. Myself, Read more

Budapest Thermal Baths and Ruin Bars

There are bits of travel books that I simply skim over, some parts I skip entirely, and some that I circle, highlight and sometimes even accidentally break the book spine by reading that page so many times.  The section on Budapest Thermal baths had coffee stains and crinkled pages because it was this section that I poured over when reading about Budapest. Budapest is known as the 'City of Spas' and this reputation dates back to the 16th century with the Turks constructed public baths throughout Budapest and other parts of Hungary. These baths are built over hot springs that bring mineral rich waters into the pools. Many Hungarians believe that these waters have medicinal powers to help ailment such Read more

Mizzou Collides with Budapest

Traveling long-term includes a conscious decision to push through exhaustion and continue forward with exploration, socializing and general traveling fun. When on short-term trips, you have the capacity and energy to travel 100% all day every day because you know that you can crash when you get home. Long-term travel is a different case - and I figured that out on my eighth day in Bulgaria. Besides my illness in Spain, I sacrificed no moment to sleep in or to excessively relax. Yes, I maximized my time in each location. But also, yes, I wore myself out. I had to spend a full day sleeping at Dilyana's apartment to recuperate. The next night I caught a night train back to Read more

Koprivshtitsa, Bulgaria

Dilyana said that the "spirit of Bulgaria" can be found in the small town of Koprivshtitsa located in the Sredna Mountains. The town was the center of the April Uprising in 1876 in which the Bulgarians carried out an insurrection against the Ottoman Empire. This time period is known as the Bulgarian National Revival, and Koprivshtitsa was the center of it all. The town now represents traditional Bulgarian architecture, way of life, and is the home to many monumental works of art and culture. The boy with us is Dilyana's friend, Gueorg, who is now a member of the European Commission. I had the privilege of helping him edit his English cover letter that he then used to be hired! He Read more

The Black Sea: Nessebar

  The city of Nessebar dates back 3,000 years ago with architecture reflecting the many different masks the city wore over the centuries. It is a UNESCO world heritage site.  Charming, traditional and serene - Nessebar earned a big heart around its dot on my tattered travel map. For my journey around Europe I hardly spent anytime shopping besides looking for one, elusive item: an apron. My mom's birthday was to take place while I was abroad and with her recent gluten-free cooking hobby, she had requested an apron for her birthday. First off, an apron might be one of the most difficult items to explain to shop owners with broken English and I with very limited foreign language skills. Second of all, Read more

Ten Unofficial Cyclists Rules

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Part I | 5 Comments

Einstein thought of the theory of relativity while riding a bike.

I just hope I won’t crash into someone while riding a bike.

Screen shot 2013-01-25 at 11.49.51 AM

Bicycle Rules in the Netherlands
  1. The rustier the handlebars and the louder the breaks, the better.
  2. Spend more money on a bicycle lock than the bicycle itself. Emotionally prepare yourself to have your bike stolen or lost. Scoffing at the stupidity of losing your own bike? Take a look at a typical bicycle parking lot:parkingbikes
  3. As a bicycle rider, you rule the road. Bicycle to car collisions are uncommon in Holland because strong legislature is in place to protect cyclists rights and safety.
  4. As a pedestrian, cars will stop for you. Bicycles will not.
  5. Know that cobblestone roads are the norm, and are not desirable for cycling comfort. Expect soreness.
  6. Bicycles have one gear settings here, so you will look like a fool going uphill. Struggle with dignity.
  7. The bells sound nice, but have a more startling effect than a car horn. With great power, comes great responsibility.
  8. Always ride on the right side of the road, no sidewalks EVER and do not ride through shopping avenues during the day.
  9. When purchasing a bike, expect to lift and sort through a giant pile of discarded bike parts before finding your perfect match – the effort only makes your purchase of rusty old metal and squeaky tires that much more special!

    Screen shot 2013-01-25 at 5.49.17 PM

    This was in a middle of a courtyard, so we had an audience as we lifted and knocked over and tripped over bicycles.

  10. Leave humiliated and sweaty after your quest for the perfect bicycle. But before you go, make sure to have the seller take a super cheesy touristy photo for you! Because you’ll never see them again. Unless of course, you find 1/4 prices train tickets online.

    bikeseller2

Yes, yes you did.

Now, I just need to learn to balance groceries, a potted plant, a pet puppy and a statue on my bike as I ride full speed downhill, then I’ll be Dutch cyclist caliber. But for now, you can catch me cruising around town carrying a smile, because I LOVE MY BICYCLE.

A WORD OF CAUTION

Nobody wears bicycle helmets here, but accidents do happen – and subsequently hilarious social media moments. Feel better Tayler!

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An Insight to Dutch Culture

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Part I | Leave a comment

This summer was my first visit to Asia. Naturally, I stuck out, felt foreign, could not speak Chinese and was pitiful at using chopsticks. Cultural differences were everywhere, and therefore obvious to identify. Disparity between Dutch culture and American culture is much more discreet, but also hugely present.

Last night, I was talking to a Dutch student (who was somehow rocking red corduroy pants, cheers to his bold fashion decision) for about 15 minutes. For anyone listening, our conversation probably sounded like two friends chatting. As one of the two active participants in our discussion, I felt an awkward undercurrent of disconnect between us. I wasn’t making puns or doing anything strange, I was on best normal behavior, possibly even I was charming? He was charming, I was having fun, then he dropped this line:

“You don’t get my humor.”

WHAT. I had laughed! Yeah, I didn’t understand your joke, but I courtesy laughed! How could he call me out like that?! So blunt, honest, RUDE!

“You don’t get my humor.”

He’s right. I don’t get his humor. Conversation somehow continued after that mortifying direct statement because he wasn’t being rude, he was just being Dutch. The Dutch are direct and going with this directness is all part of adapting this culture. A culture that I haven’t quite figured out, and continue to faux-pau my way through these first few days.

I learned some Dutch. It has the opposite effect of making friends. From other travel experiences, people often giggled at my terrible pronunciations but appreciated the effort. When asking for directions on my first day, I was pleased to use my much practiced phrase, “Halo! Spreekt u Engels?” which is absolutely ridiculous because nearly every time the person would respond in perfect English. Even my “dank u!” is matched with a perfect pronunciation of “You are welcome.” The Dutch see English as the more efficient way to communicate, and I’m just wasting their time trying to speak Dutch. That is fair, and  I am very fortunate how well educated the Dutch are to speak such great English.

 

Screen shot 2013-01-25 at 11.35.33 AM

I’m getting the impression that I look like this to the Dutch when I attempt to pronounce a phrase in the language.

Dumbledore always said, “help is always given at hogwarts to those who ask for it.” The same applies in the Netherlands. The Dutch are ready to assist, and have always thoroughly answered my questions. Conversations are all business first, then maybe chat after. If I ask for directions, I better have a map and pen out and ready for use. Help is efficient, serious, and sometimes oddly condescending. The Dutch only sometimes seem condescending and rude to foreigners, because it is just a different way of communicating.

Think how often conversations start with “Hello! How are you?” in America. We probably waste ten seconds exchanging polite updates on personal well-being when the whole purpose of the interaction is something like a quick purchase of a latte. It would feel rude if a barista did not greet us, but rather just told us the total. In the Netherlands, you say the total, you pay your money, and you continue on. This is how directions go. They give me directions, I say thank you to the back of the Dutch person walking away. It feels rude to me, but it makes sense.

I failed my driving test twice. But really. It was actually really traumatic start to my 16th birthday. Here in the Netherlands, there is only one rule to the road. BICYCLES. Everything revolves around the bikers. I stepped out in front of a bicycle rider on my second day here. I’ve never heard such an angry bike bell.

Paper or plastic? No bags are given out at the grocery store checkout, and people get creative with how they transport produce out of the store. Some people bring their own shoppers, others use old boxes from the store. And for us foreigners, we stuff what we can in our pockets and walk home holding a cucumber and bread. Next time, I’ll be sure to bring my own bag!

The local grocery store is filled with posters of a giant hampster with big blue font reading “Hampsereeeen!” That is not a typo, four consecutive eeee’s. Checking out at grocery stores are again, all about efficiency, so it is a bad ideeeea to makeeee small talk with the hampstereeeen employeeee.

Oui Oui!

 

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Recommendations | 2 Comments

Few transportation moments rival walking down the aisle of an international flight, looking around at all the people who you will share oxygen with for the next eight hours, and wondering what their stories are. For me, there is always a sense of excitement that we are a group of strangers traveling in a massive aircraft that flies over seas and land. When the plane touches down, everyone will catch connecting flights and be on their own way. But, for the next eight hours, we are all together, sharing one common goal: to make it through the LONG flight.

My flight from Chicago to Amsterdam on KL612 was (somehow) a very enjoyable eight hours, and KLM will forever be my preferred airline to fly with.

The acronym KLM means Royal Aviation Company in Dutch. In English, the company is generally referred to as KLM “Royal Dutch Airlines.” Founded in 1919, it is the oldest airline in the world operating under its original title. The main airline hub for KLM is Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. (Why, yes! I did read the in flight reading material provided by the airline!)

My great experience with the airline started the night before my flight when my mom and I logged onto the airlines webpage. We had a good time moving my avatar from seat to seat, strategically trying to determine the best row to sit in. We finally decided on an aisle seat with one other person sitting by the window, but no middle passenger. Our strategy worked, and I ended up sitting with an open seat!

We also checked out the in flight food online. When you move your cursor, a spotlight would fall upon the dish. Airline food is typically less than gourmet, I appreciated KLM’s theatric presentation of their airline food. Bravo!

In typical Rich Payne travel fashion, I arrived at my gate 4 hours before my flight. To play it safe!! “Always play it safe with airports, Reagan, you never know about security.”!!

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The shameless parent send-off shot before going through security. Love this big guy!

Boarding the plane was well organized by the airline, and flight attendants greeted all guests and maintained a strong presence helping people to stow luggage. Just a few minutes after the flight took off, I was served a bag of almonds and first beverage. Nearly immediately after my first ginger ale was gone, I was served another one. And then a meal. And then a wet towelette. Then another snack. Another drink. Breakfast. Coffee. I’ve never been so overwhelmingly showered with airline food and service. I opted for the vegetarian pasta – the best airline food I’ve had. The meal was complete with bread, cheese, a salad, desert and crackers. Breakfast was a muffin with yogurt and a fruit cup – all very delicious!

I think the real credit of why this airline is so great is due to their online entertainment options. Flight attendants distributed earphones, and I was patiently waiting for whatever preselected uniform movie to play on my personal screen. It was surprising to see people holding remotes down the aisle, and after a good five minutes of searching for my remote, I finally found it under my armrest.

On the TV I found a menu of a huge variety of entertainment options. The TV category had about 10 genres to chose from, with a huge variety of popular shows under each genre and in multiple languages. Under the movie category, I saw many familiar titles that had won awards a few nights prior at Golden Globes. They had game options, children’s shows, music, a huge selection of movies and televisions, travel television, and even an on-flight Dutch language tutorial!

I ended up watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower (CRIED), Bend it Like Beckham, An Idiot Abroad (British travel documentary series by Ricky Gervais), 30 Rock, New Girl, a travel documentary on Amsterdam and took some Dutch lessons. Ik spreek een heel klein beetje Nederlands!

The on-flight reading material provided fantastic travel tips and included fascinating articles on topics from around the globe. I much preferred this Arts & Culture type magazine to the typical Sky Mall. WHICH BY THE WAY my mom has Sky Mall delivered to our house.

Overall, I had a fantastic time flying with KLM. We even arrived to Amsterdam 20 minutes early! I hope the Dutch are proud of KLM, because as a foreigner traveling to the Netherlands, this experience started my trip off with a very impressive display of quality and a positive impression of the country.

Where can you find my photos?

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Albums | Leave a comment

Previous travel photos can be found by going to My Travel Maps –> Previous Travel.

Click on each city to see photos from that trip! For my trips with multiple destinations, all photos are in one album. If you’d like to browse photos outside of the slideshow setting, simply exit the slideshow to access individual photos and quickly find the specific destination photos you are looking for.

Previous destination photos include glamour shots of me with braces, some absolute gems of my sister Robyn in a beret, Morgan posing like a supermodel, my mom with a perm-gone-wrong and 6’5 dad towering over crowds. Enjoy some of the best Payne family moments in the Europe Trip album!

In the China and Japan albums you can find my attempts at taking @rTzY photos. Leave comments with any photographing advice you have! I will forever be a ‘point and shoot’ camera user, but am interested in learning more about composition, lighting, ect.

Photos from this adventure can be found here, under albums. Check in weekly for uploads.

One, two, three say CHEEESSEE!

Reagan

The Trip Planning Stage

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Part II, Recommendations | 1 Comment

Trip Planning Collage

Travel books can be large and heavy – two enemies of packing. Cutting up travel books lightens the load, minimizes unnecessary weight (eliminate sections you don’t need) and helps you stay organized. The internet is a great resource if you are looking to save money by not purchasing travel books, but I’d HIGHLY recommend investing in the very affordable travel series by Rick Steves. Check the ‘Recommendations’ section, I’ll (soon) have a post about why Rick Steves is such a great resource!

I plan to focus my backpacking in eastern Europe, hitting some of the “road less traveled” destinations. If you can’t see the cities I have highlighted, I’ll be adding an interactive map of my destinations once the trip route becomes somewhat more finalized.

THE EURAIL PAAASSSSS! You can’t buy this while in Europe, it is for visitors only. For visiting students, it is an absolute STEAL. The pass runs a great student rate, and you can purchase different types of passes to fit your journey. I will be adventuring with a two month unlimited ride pass.

Courses

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Part I | Leave a comment

I am enrolled in:

  • Human Resource Management
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Project and Production Management

Laura comes to Chicago! What to do with 48 hours

Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Recommendations | 2 Comments

Travel storytelling is easily one of the best types of conversation. My best friend Laura recently returned home from a semester long adventure in Germany. From Facebook photos and brief conversations it sounded like she had a study abroad brochure worthy experience, but I wanted details. To hear defining moments, and to laugh at those ridiculous mishaps that every traveler experiences abroad. I wanted to hear her best meals and feel fierce food envy, and to learn the stories of the people she met.

But, instead of sharing all this with Laura, I went with a highly literate and convincing text inviting her to Chicago:

  – .*~.-ViSiT mEh iN cHiCaGo?!?!.~*.- oK sEe YoU oN tHuRzDay?!?.~.*-.*

 Somehow, the excessive punctuation and classic “s to z” substitution worked in convincing Laura because two days later, we met at the intersection of Adams and Clinton outside of Union Station in Chicago (you see – Laura interned in DC this summer, and my name is Reagan, so we have a very presidential friendship. We plan on getting each other an American flag lapel pin for Christmas.)

A true friend is when after 6 months of absence, laughter and conversation falls into the same stride we left off on.

Laura took a 4am train from St. Louis to Chicago, and I wanted to pick a restaurant that made her early trip worthwhile. The best Chicago has to offer and a great environment to sit and catch up for hours was the goal.

 After some serious google searching, I found just the spot, here we are at lunch:

 

 

A la 95th floor of the John Hancock building. This photo was in no way edited and no green screen was used. That is our view. Welcome, to the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building.

As an American returning home, Laura saw “hamburger” on the menu and decided on that. Her first hamburger back in the states! I realized I was about to leave and ordered the same. My last hamburger in the states! Cheers to good company, good food, and breaking a new years resolution on day three.

Laura is a gifted traveler and lover of life. The best way I can describe our conversation is “stream of consciousness.” I’d ask the first thing that came to mind, and she’d share travel stories at the forefront of her mind. Laura would take off into the most hilarious, thoughtful, insightful, downright crazy and overall entertaining travel recollections. We’d laugh, casually look over our view of Chicago, then laugh some more.

I’m leaving for Europe in less than two weeks. When I return, I’ll have my own study abroad adventures to share. I can’t wait to again sit down with Laura, share my experiences, and have my first hamburger back in the states with her.

Travel tips for when your best friend spontaneously visits you in Chicago for 48 hours (an oddly specific scenario)

1. Hostel International Chicago

http://www.hichicago.org/
  • Great location near Millennium Park. A cheap overnight payment saves on travel time and cold metra rides to head out to the suburbs to sleep.
  • We had our own double bed room and a community bathroom.
  • Free breakfast in the morning. Laura and I talked to a student from Australia for an hour at breakfast. Great place to meet people and share ideas about what to do in Chicago.
2. Signature Room at the 95th for LUNCH
http://www.signatureroom.com/
  • Very affordable lunch menu, great view. One of the best restaurants Chicago has to offer, especially for out of town guests.
  • Opt to have lunch at the Signature Room instead of visiting the Hancock Observatory- the observatory costs $15 and is often crowded with tourists, long lines, other photo-takers obstructing view ect.
  • The Signature Room on the 95th takes reservations (avoid any traffic and wait time) and meals cost about $14-$22, lunch and the view.
  • Near to the Watertower Place, Topshop,  Michigan Ave. and other great shopping options
  • Within walking distance of Millennium Park
3. Cosi on Michigan Ave. (across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago – very near the Bean)
  • For around $10 you can get a s’more plate (see below)
  • There is a two man table at the front window of Cosi. The BEST people watching in Chicago. Get a s’more plate, snag that table, and enjoy!
4. Second City Improv
  • Second City gives some tickets to hottix.com and those tickets are sold at a discount. The show Laura and I saw on Thursday night was sold out on the Second City website, but hottix had tickets available, and at half the price! SCORE.
  • Some of my other favorite Improv and experimental theater options include IO – Improv Olympics and the Neofuturists. Both very affordable.
Day 2 Shenanigans with Laura
1. Always eat breakfast at the hostel (if available)
  • People are taller in the mornings. We are fresh woken up, ready for days to start. Good morning sunshine! Laura and I met some fun Australians at breakfast who were eager to hang out for the day (we declined because we wanted to continue catching up, but could’ve been very fun under different circumstances!)
  • When traveling alone, I plan on using breakfast as the place to find friends to adventure with.
2. Buy a day pass for the CTA
  • Costs $5.25 with unlimited rides. Worth it.
3. Chinatown for Dim Sum
  • It is a decent journey out to Chinatown. But, I really think one of the greatest aspects of Chicago is the diversity between neighborhoods. What better illustration of this than Chinatown?
  • Dim Sum at The Three Happiness is very authentic and delicious. Great for a light lunch or dinner feast, depending how you order.
4. Belmont – stop on red line
  • Always a favorite. Laura and I had many fun times here on St. Patricks Day and had good laughs walking around familiar streets.
5. Wicker Park / Bucktown
  • We took the blue line to Damen and enjoyed thrift shopping and boutique browsing.
6. Portillos
Comment on this post with any other Chicago destination suggestions!
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