I have arrived at the mature and knowledgeable traveler stage in my life. I can’t say I hope it lasts for a while, because once I return to the United States I believe the extent of my traveling will be to and from the next town. Still, all of my international voyaging has been doing me good. I have gained a new understanding of how traveling works and how to complete my trip stress and complication free. I’ve found that now when I visit new places I have a greater appreciation for the monuments and sport a deeply serene attitude. My traveling expertise has also begun to seep into other aspects of life – my weeks now all feel well-planned and exciting and my self-confidence has reached new heights.

Airlines are now not such a freaky mystery to me. It is actually very simple to find cheap flights, especially if you begin your search early (in fact, I would say timing plays the largest role in determining how much you pay for a ticket). I now know all of the baggage allowances for the various European airlines, who you can check a bag for free with, who lets you get by with a bag that’s a little too big, who doesn’t. I know which airlines serve food, I know what kind of restaurants are going to be in which terminal (one of the highlights of my trip to London was the airport BLT that I had been looking forward since day one). I also know what kinds of things to expect from the cities I visit, even if I’ve never been there. I know how to find the museums that will interest me, I know how to decode hostel reviews.

And this is all stuff you will learn if you do a lot of traveling. For example, when I went on a trip last semester, my friend and I were stranded at the airport because bus service wasn’t running that day. When I visited Ireland last week, I knew the exact bus we would be needing, I spoke with driver to make sure we wouldn’t miss our stop, and we nabbed the best seats for the ride.

Like I said, traveling has now become much more enjoyable. I was in Dublin, Ireland for a couple days, and I firmly believe that it was the most successful vacation I have ever taken. We visited museums, walked all over the city, ate gobs and gobs of food, trekked over a college campus, and even made friends with a volunteer pharmacist. Leaving Ireland, I felt rejuvenated. And I have a big, beautiful stamp on my passport (“it’s even green!” remarked the customs worker) to always remind me of my success.

Vacationing finally feels like a vacation to me. It isn’t tiring or stressful or something to work at. It’s just fun.