Langley Times reporter Miranda Gathercole recently returned from a trip to Prague (in picture) and Ireland.

COLUMN: Lessons learned while travelling abroad

Times Reporter Miranda Gathercole recently returned from a vacation in Prague.

It was one of those online spur of the moment purchases.

While cleaning out my email late one night, I stumbled across a “last minute vacations” newsletter — and within 20 minutes — had booked my flights to Ireland, departing just two weeks later.

I was thrilled to be jetting across the world solo. So many of my friends have spent months backpacking through Europe and Asia, and I wanted my own two-week taste of living out of a suitcase.

But because I booked a somewhat all-inclusive trip, with my accommodations, transportation and even meals provided, I very quickly slipped into vacation mode, and naturally, turned my brain off.

It was great. I ate the local food, sipped on the local brew, took in the local lore, and made dozens of new friends in the process, including one girl from Calgary who convinced me to join her in Prague, Czech Republic the following week.

We booked our flights the night before leaving, found a cute little Airbnb apartment by the Vltava River, and arranged with the apartment owner to have a taxi driver pick us up at the airport.

We were both so excited as we got into the cab. The weather was amazing and hot, the driver was blasting feel-good summer music and the tourist brochures he left on the backseat showed us the river cruises and quaint restaurants that awaited us.

But suddenly, the driver took a sharp right turn, drove up across an overpass and down into an area of the city that looked like no place for two young Canadian girls. There were no cars or people around and the buildings, painted bright yellow and white, were covered in graffiti and thick films of dirt.

A sense of dread came over me as I realized just how vulnerable we were. Judging by my friend’s pale face, she was having the same thoughts.

We were in a foreign country in Eastern Europe that we both knew nothing about. We don’t speak the language, had no local currency on us, and were at the mercy of this taxi driver to deliver us to safety.

Eventually, our driver pulled up outside a rundown looking hostel, and threw our bags out on the sidewalk. We tried to explain to him that we had booked an apartment that was supposed to be across the street from the John Lennon Wall, but he was adamant, through his broken English, that he had taken us to the correct place. My friend finally bit the bullet, turned her data on her cellphone, and made a very expensive international call to our Airbnb.

Turns out the driver had the wrong address.

About 20 minutes later, we finally arrived at our accommodation, and it felt like we were in another world. Besides a run-in with a drunk Australian man dressed as Elsa from Frozen on the Charles Bridge, and a midnight battle with three massive black spiders the size of my palm in our apartment, our first night in the Old Town area of Prague was unbelievable. I have never seen a place with such beautiful architecture, and so alive with people, no matter what time of day or night.

The education gained from experiencing new cultures is incredible, and isn’t something that can be fully translated through a travel blog or a filtered Instagram photo.

Then again, there is something to be said for travelling prepared, and the next time I venture off to a foreign city, I think I will at least Google it first.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Washington State Department of Agriculture workers, wearing protective suits and working vacuumed a nest of Asian giant hornets from a tree Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Nest of ‘murder hornets’ found near South Surrey

String of traps set up along border to capture Asian giant hornets

B.C.’s parliament building, Victoria. (Photo: Tom Fletcher)
ZYTARUK: Votes come at a premium price. Time to pay the tab

Promises are rained upon the voting public much like confetti being blasted from the maw of a cannon, or particles of ash spewn from an erupting volcano

Loretta Hibbs (right), founder and president of Surrey-based City Dream Centre, with Kelly Voros (foreground), the organization's executive administrator. (submitted photo)
‘Pumpkin patch’ brought to Surrey inner-city schools where COVID cancelled field trips

Work done by volunteers with Surrey-based City Dream Centre

B.C.’s Court of Appeal is in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Judgment reserved in Surrey Six slayings appeals

Six men were killed in suite 1505 of the Balmoral Tower in Whalley on Oct. 19, 2007

File photo
Hundreds of Canadian chambers support Surrey Board of Trade’s call for pension fix

Up to 12 million Canadian workers don’t have pension plans other than CPP

Carolyn and Steve Touhey came across a pod of humpback whales while on their boat Sunday, Oct. 25. Photo supplied
VIDEO: Boaters encounter pod of humpbacks in Georgia Strait

Pod spotted between Comox and Texada Island

It’s been eight years since Gordon Spencer (pictured), and cousin, ‘Lil’ Bruce Mayo, were gunned down in a home in Langley, and Spencer’s widow is hoping someone who knows something will step up (file)
Eight years on and still no answers in Langley double murder

Wife of victim makes public appeal for people with information to come forward

Langley resident Sean Nugent, who died in 2019 shortly he saved a swimmer from drowning, has been awarded a posthumous medal for bravery by the Royal Canadian Humane Association (Courtesy Nugent family)
Langley man who died after saving swimmer receives posthumous medal for bravery

Sean Nugent rescued woman from Hayward Lake near Mission in July of 2019

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Most Read