· I set my phone's clock to 24-hour military time. This took some getting used to as, before doing this, I had no idea how 24-hour time worked. Guess what? Three days into my trip I was a pro. 08:00? Time for breakfast. 13:00? Time for lunch. 23:00? Time for bed.
· I finally taught myself how to understand Celsius vs Fahrenheit and I can confidently say that Celsius makes more sense to me. Know what freezing is in Celsius? Zero. In Fahrenheit it's 32. Know what the boiling point is in Celsius? 100. In Fahrenheit it's 212. It's as if Fahrenheit was created specifically to confuse people like me.
While those two things may seem rather inconsequential, it really does help when it comes to setting hotel air-conditioning units, knowing how to dress before heading outside, and especially figuring out when you need to be at the train station. That's probably the most important benefit as trains in Europe operate on the 24-hour clock and, while many things are done to help American tourists, adjusting time to 12-hours is not one of them.
I must also say that a personal highlight of this trip was finally having my first flight on a Boeing 747. I have been obsessed with those huge beasts ever since youth, when I saw my first Lufthansa jumbo parked right near the highway that cuts through DFW Airport. I remember pointing, screaming, and turning around to my parents in the car like, "ARE YOU SEEING THIS?!"
While Virgin Atlantic does indeed operate one of the world's youngest fleets, the 747 I flew to England (the famous "Tinker Belle") was built in 1994 and is definitely showing its age, but not how you might expect. The livery was new, featuring the thin "Virgin Atlantic" font and the flight attendants were young and attractive. I had bought a ticket in Premium Economy, and though the seats are nicer than in Economy, they could use an upgrade [Ed note: and they're getting it...at some point].
The plane primarily showed its age during takeoff. As this jumbo lumbered down the runway, I heard some interesting creaking and I swear I heard the plane say "Jeez, this again?" It kind of reminded me of what my grandpa sounds like when he gets up from a chair. Regardless, the plane is powerful, has an amazing safety record, and I would gladly fly her again.
It may be true that I'm becoming less and less of a Newbie Traveler, but there are literally hundreds of countries I've yet to explore and the adventure is just beginning. There will never come a day when I can say, "okay that's it. I've seen everything." It's just not possible and that's what makes traveling such a unique, wondrous activity. Life shouldn't be one long stretch of the same thing day in, day out. After all, there are mountains to climb, islands to explore, and Belgian chocolates to eat!
Read back on the entire "Newbie Traveler" series right here.
[Photos: Andy Miles]