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Well, I'm back in America. I've been abroad about 3 months & I'll give some impressions now, then I'll post more insights or observations as I usually do. First off, even though there are cool things in America, I think I prefer the environment of Europe much more. Socially, architecturally, pretty much everything. Lack of loose gun laws are a little bothersome, but then those can always change & you can potentially break them if you really need to.
Right off the bat, there's a big difference between Eastern Europe & Western Europe. That difference is hard to put words to, but I might phrase it as "lack of bullshit" or "more genuine." Across the board, people are more upfront & you usually can better tell what you're dealing with (ex: a good-looking woman actually IS a good-looking woman & not a good-looking man, which is not always the case in Spain- I opted to cut things short before we got going & realized my bullshit stories need work). In a lot of those countries east of Germany, you can talk straight about culture clash & they actually seem to favor Donald Trump. Budapest was my favorite in those parts.
The western part of Europe was interesting, but I'd likely only go for the southern parts (much cheaper & seem to be more lively). Seville was my favorite there. Didn't see all the sultry, voluptuous, passionate women that those parts are famous for, but maybe they're in different areas (I didn't manage to get to Southern Italy). It was comfortably warm there, but that's in winter- I don't know if the summer would be so workable.
Weed isn't quite so prevalent there (at least if you don't know people). Had some, but have resolved to not generally smoke with dudes (had some fruit try to date-rape drug me in Spain- yet another issue I had with the western half). Booze is good- the Czech beer matched its good reputation. Had some Belgian & Dutch beer, as well (I forget which one I liked the best- I thought it was the Dutch, but it didn't taste even close when I tried "it" again).
As for tobacco, they're not NEARLY as reich-ish about smoking over there as they are in America. It's not rare to see people smoking at all in most places & found that it's VERY common for people to roll their own (seems to be cheaper that way- they even have filters to keep the ends from getting all f***ed-up & the tobacco getting in your mouth). Not impossible here, but they are SO much more aggressive here with the anti-smoking bullshit.
That was another thing I noticed: the Europeans didn't instantly freak out whenever someone had a different opinion than them. Americans very frequently have a body-snatcher mentality. I know I argue things from time to time, but the things I tend to argue are AGAINST things like that & the conditions that promote it. Other than that, I strongly leave people to their own choices- not feeling like it's a privilege or an extra from me. The Americans have NOT been this way, in my overall experience.
Overall, it was a good trip with a few hiccups (make sure you don't loose your bank cards & don't even bother with Budapest hookers or strippers- they find ways to jack-up the price, which is already almost double what's normal). I wouldn't have made them if I'd known what I was doing, but this trip had a great sharpening influence. It's tough to not over-pack when you travel in the colder places during winter, but I made do. Here are some tips:
For bags, the Condor Collossus & the Rapid Dominance messenger bag worked out well together (a trick to make a shoulder bag carry like a backpack is to put the strap around your back & to throw the bag over your head so the strap wraps around your shoulders). Neither is waterproofed, but they both do well in the rain. A trick that I learned about was to mix mineral spirits & 100% silicone caulk (both found at the hardware store), then paint it on & let it dry overnight. A Crew Line rolling duffel (which I sent back to America with a lot of my stuff) was good, had a separate section that zipped open where my suits fit nicely
That trick with the mineral spirits & the caulk would work on clothes, but it's probably best left for the bottoms of your pant legs & maybe a hat for breathability & not getting assorted problems. Water-repellent pants are great, a cargo shirt & a brimmed hat to go with it would make easily transported raingear. I went with The Tasman by Outback Saddle Supply (be careful with this coat: it's an excellent design, but the fabric is heavier than the other coats & it starts off a bit long- get it shortened to the point where it's a little below the tops of whatever boots you'd wear for rain or snow or you'll get a ring of wetness that travels up your leg).
Some type of boots for rain and/or snow wouldn't be a bad idea, but they might get hot (I have a pair of Kamicks, but Muk Boots have a good reputation & they make a short one). The Darn Tough merino wool socks performed VERY well- I've worn down socks in single trips as long I walked in Europe & these are pretty much exactly like I got them! It's $20 a throw, but I can't see how it's not worth it to not have to buy more & have problems as you're walking. If you're about to develop blisters, put a piece of duct tape on the raw spot before it becomes a blister & it won't get worse (you can wrap some around a lighter & fold up at least one corner to make a tab you can grab onto & pull). Tailored shoes are supposed to help immensely with this problem, but I've never had any.
A Condor Multi-Wrap or something similar is very useful, but you can always go with hats & scarves. I liked that that was very portable & if I ran into wind or it got cold, I could cover most of my head with (might be better to do with a hood on, for obvious reasons). One thing that doesn't seem to be in the instructions is that you can do it "Biker/Dave Canterbury Style" by putting it flat on top of your head with the end going down the back of it, then pull the top of it down over your ears (over the bottom part)- keeps your ears from getting cold without looking like a terrorist.
You can fill up empty water bottles in the bathroom before you go out (or when you're on a train/bus/etc...). There are the folding variety that are kind of like bags- these can be tricky to dry out (might blow into them to make them expand & leave them to dry like that). It's important to dry your water containers out, because in at least a few days it'll start to stink intensely & might make you sick to drink out of it (you'd need to soak it in soap & water). Water is heavy & it certainly adds up when you have it in the shoulder bag on like a backpack (seriously cuts into your shoulders).
The food there is generally VERY good, but a lot of it is hard to get past 10PM (except in Spain). Look for 24-hour places before you pick where you're staying. You can probably do this on your phone (type in something like that or "convenience stores," just like you would for movie theaters/supermarkets/hostels/train stations). Ordering a second meal for "take away" is a good idea. So's a can opener (maybe the folding army-style ones are a good idea). A hobo knife is a GREAT thing to have, since you often need a spoon- I bought a Victorinox one (I believe IN Switzerland) & I took the two halves, put them on the corners of a bandana, then rolled them to the middle & folded the ends over- a hair tie can be used in place of a rubber band at that point. Wet-naps are an obvious thing to have & I'd also suggest a travel toothpick (especially if you have f***ed-up teeth like me & need something to get the food out of the craters).
Speaking of the phone, I'd suggest to bring your charging cable & the adapter you need (I had one that did all sorts of outlets, but I lost the European one- the smallest of the three, it just had two round prongs)- the American & Australian ones on that are huge, but maybe there are smaller ones I don't know about. I'd also strongly suggest the Waka Waka solar charger (it's also a light & it's coat-pocket portable)- seems you might need a different sort of cable for charging IT in the wall, though. Anyone that knows what kind, please let me/us know.
Soap isn't too tough to find, I brought CampSuds which is good for washing out bottles/canteens (it's not something you can likely take on a plane, being liquid). Q-tips are surprisingly rare in hotels & hostels, so I'd suggest bringing a bunch & rubber-banding them together. Packs of tissues are useful, since there might not be any toilet paper in the stalls (good to keep one on YOU & at least one in a bag). Speaking of toilet paper, a way to not get splashing is to put a layer of toilet paper down on the water- this is an important trick & so is to plain watch your dick against the bowl.
Nail clippers are useful & so is something like Burleigh Balm (good for pretty much any skin issue, including chaffing from anything & burns/scalds from hot food or drinks). I would suggest sunglasses, even in winter, since the sun can always be in your eyes when you're walking around or on the bus. Celox Rapid Ribbon is a good idea, considering that shit can happen & you or someone else (hence non-latex gloves- didn't bring) might be bleeding severely. An extra bandana is great, since you might need a hand towel, a snot rag, something to keep your hand from getting burned or cold (carrying food or drinks back to your place), or something to put hot pots/cups when cooking- pretty sure I used mine for all of this.
A few Ziploc bags & rubber bands wouldn't suck to have, but you can always buy that in-country like the q-tips or the non-latex gloves. A little multi-tool shouldn't be much issue (I didn't take a bigger one because the weight was a pain in the ass- I have an idea for a different kind...) A Swiss Army Knife was surprisingly useful, but not something you'd generally be able to have on a plane- you use the CORKSCREW, of all things! The bottle opener comes in handy, as it's pretty much all corks & pry-offs over there. That was unexpected.
Oh, to cap things off, the women in Budapest were f***ing gorgeous! So many of them are Hayek-like it's not even funny. I thought all the curvy women were in the Mediterranean- how wrong I was!