July 2004

The cyclist's European Survival Kits

Giana Roberge

When traveling to Europe there are a few key items that will make the trip much easier and keep the homesickness at bay. There are also things you can do to make the travel easier and maintain good health and reduce the impact of the trip.

* An excellent quality rain racket (like the Lands' End Gore-Tex rain jacket) -The Lands' End jacket folds up very small and lives in the bottom of my duffle until I need it. The jacket should be long enough to cover your kidneys and backside as this will help to keep you healty.

* Layers, layers, layers - Even for a staff person layering is important. The Craft base-layers are a great way to have a little bit of warmth without being too warm. They look nice under a button-down and wick away any sweat that might build up while in the car or working.

* Comfortable shoes - Typically there is rain in Europe at least a few times a week. Good shoes are a huge asset when it comes to working outside. Also, there are usually no elevators in Europe and any luggage you have inevitably needs to be carried to the top floor or parking is a kilometer away. In any case, 1 find myself walking more in Europe than I do in the States.

* A towel - Towels in Europe are so small that they barely dry your face. Bring your favorite from home.

* Your own soap - The soap in Europe is not like what we are used to in the U.S.

* Coffee or tea - I only drink decaf tea and coffee. I bring a plastic Ziploc bag with both. I also bring a travel bodum-style mug from Starbucks. There is no 'to go' in Europe, so if you intend to take anything warm to drink with you, this is a necessity. There are no decaffeinated warm drinks available in most of Europe.

* Bring Euro currency on the plane. When you arrive in Europe it is incredibly helpful to already have money in hand. All phones, cabs, parking tickets, etc. only accept Euros and frequently will not accept U.S. credit cards.

* Get a map of where you are going before you arrive. This will give you something to look at on the plane and help once you arrive. Often, the rental car employees do not know or will not tell you how to get where you are going. If you arrive prepared, the stress level is lower.

* Leave copies of your passport and all credit cards with someone at home. This way, if anything is stolen you have the numbers to call and also the numbers in hand to cancel them.

* Phone jacks and electrical plugs for the countries you are traveling to. Don't bet on being able to purchase these overseas, they are rarely available.

* A few good books - You never know when you will have have spare time and books in English are not available. You can trade them off with your travel companions should you finish them during the trip.

* A warm hat - Staying warm in Europe is crucial to maintaining good health. I always keep my fleece beanie in my pocket. You never know when the wind will shift or the rain will pick up.

* Emer'gen-C - I begin taking the Emer'gen-C (vitamin C supplements) two days out and throughout the plane trip. I continue to use them for the first three days after arrival and then again before I leave for home. The extra vitamin C helps boost the immune system.

* Aspirin on the plane will help reduce the fluid buildup in your legs.

* Pack lightly - Remember... no one in Europe knows you nor do they care how many times you have worm the same shirt. Over-packing when traveling to Europe becomes a real drawback as everyhing there is smaller (the cars, the hotel rooms) except the stairs (elevators are rarely available).The smaller the duffle, the easier for you to manage carrying your luggage.

* Bring your toothbrush, hairbrush, towel and any contact lens requirements on the plane with you. A quick washup when you arrive at your destination airport makes a tremendous difference in how you feel when you get to the hotel.

* Get your phone cards in the United States if you need to call the US and will not be using your standard calling card number. This will be easier in the United States as most cards in Europe are for mobile phones only.

* If needed, bring a small translation book in your carry-on bag.

* Have a pen with you at all times. English numbers are universally used in Europe, and if nothing else you can write these down when asking for directions or understanding how much something costs.

* Enjoy your last shower in the U.S., the showers in Europe for the most part are low pressure and in a very small space without a lot of coverage. You have to be very clever to be able to take a shower and not douse the whole bathroom.

Most of all, bring lots of patience. Things rarely move as quickly or as smoothly as in the United States. Going te Europe is an adventure and can be enjoyed if you arrive healthy and with the right attitude.

source : Team Speed Queen Newsletter

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