Hey everyone! My name is Austin Tiffany, and I am a PhD student at the University of Cambridge and am guest blogging this week. Originally from Texas, studying in the UK has given me the opportunity to travel around Europe. I don’t think I would consider myself a travel expert, because it seems that with each trip, I encounter a new challenge and completely new, rewarding experiences. For this post in particular, I want to talk about a trip I took with a couple friends to Morzine, France. You probably haven’t heard of it, and that’s exactly the point
I could give you instruction on how to get to this town (definitely worth a visit in my opinion), but instead I want to talk about going on holiday in small towns. At some point in our lives, we have been encouraged to go down “the road less travelled”. The journey there is not supposed to be easy, but the experiences are completely worth it.
If you’re going to a small town worth visiting, odds are the town will not have an airport. You can navigate public transport (which is doable and worth it if you are on a very tight budget or travelling alone), but if you are with friends it is worth renting a car. The perks are numerous – getting to stop whenever you want on long drives. We visited the Aulps Abbey, which was destroyed by Napoleon. Beyond random stops, you simply have more freedom to explore more areas around your destination.
Mesh Know: if you are under 25, be warned. The world of renting cars is not made to work in your favor. Be prepared to pay more than the advertised price, thanks to a “young persons surcharge”. Additionally, we were informed at the rental kiosk (not online) that we needed to place a 500 euro deposit on a credit card – debit cards and cash were not acceptable. If that was not inconvenient enough to be thrown on you at the last second, the credit card name must be under the same name as the registered driver. Either have a friend with a credit card who feels confident to drive, or be prepared to pay for additional drivers.
From experience, car rentals have been the most frustrating, but necessary, parts of trips. Once we got out of Geneva and headed for the Alps, we never regretted our decision to hire a car. With that behind you, there are other small tips that can make your time so much better.
As I mentioned before with the Abbey, stop. See something picturesque? Get out of your car and take pictures. See something even halfway intriguing? Explore it. Or if you are in a rush, take note of it and stop on your way back. It makes the drive that much more memorable, and you may end up learning a lot.
While playing tourist around Morzine, I (desperately) tried to immerse myself in the language. To be honest, I am utterly pitiful at languages other than English, but I tried all week to pick up and use French words whenever I could. Most often, locals will generously and graciously accept your attempt and are willing to help you out. In the least, it is a kind gesture to the locals and their culture, keeping you from looking like one of those annoying tourists who have no regard for local language and customs.
Trying out a new language? Great job! Now try out some new experiences. Travelling gives you the opportunity to explore new things and new sights. In the Alps, we did both at the same time. I have never been one for heights and fast speed, but we all decided to zip line above Alpine valleys. 240 meters above ground and 100 km/hr through the Alps was a thrilling experience that, let’s be honest, I can’t get either in Texas or England. The goal was to not pass out or embarrass myself with child-like screams, and I can confidently report I did neither. Instead, it was an experience I would have never thought of doing before but will remember for the rest of my life.
Next time you plan a trip, I encourage you take a road less travelled (and be prepared for the car rental companies), take your time, learn the language and try something new. You will not regret it a bit.