Currently living in Irvine California, Mahwish Ahmed is passionate about life and living life to the fullest. She enjoys picnics during spring and summer with friends and family and traveling around the world when time allows. She loves learning about each city’s or country’s culture by experiencing the food, learning the language and spending time with the locals. She stores ticket stubs, bus tickets, pamphlets, receipts, and postcards to capture the key moments of the trip in a memory box. She has Thailand, Singapore, Australia and Africa as countries on her bucket list.
Tell us about a favorite trip you’ve taken.
In the beginning of this year, I traveled to Europe for 6 weeks during the winter season with a few friends. Our first stop was to The Netherlands where I spent most of my time. It was the first time where I had seen so many bicycles riding alongside cars.
Over the weekends, we traveled to the neighboring countries like Belgium where we explored the Town Hall, St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral and other landmarks. Most of the weekend in Brussels was spent trying different varieties of waffles, chocolates, and fries.
While Brussels weekend trip was all about sweets, my weekend trip to Paris was focused around shopping not only for myself but family and friends. The best part about Paris was watching the Eiffel Tower light show which was magical because it illuminated the skies.
I went off on my own to London for four days to meet up with my family during my trip where I met my extended family that I had never met before. It gave me an opportunity to learn further about my heritage and meet my distant cousins, aunts, and uncles. I explored the city which had changed tremendously since my last visit fifteen years ago.
The last country on the agenda was Switzerland. I spent 2 days exploring a small town called Schaffhausen and Zurich. Schaffhausen is a magnificent city with many building from the Renaissance era and home to the largest waterfall in Europe, the Rheinfalls.
Exploring various towns, cities, and cultures across 4 different countries in 6 weeks is a memorable trip and the best one yet.
What attracted you to visit Europe?
I had planning a trip to Europe since college because it is a continent which has an amazing culture, history, fabulous food and relaxing atmosphere. From a chic trip to Paris with some of the best shopping and cuisines available, to world’s largest flower garden (Keukenhof) in the Netherlands, magnificent architecture found in Brussels, and visit to one of the most powerful cities- London, I was able to visit so many people and countries that are close to each other yet very different in traditions and cultures.
When did you travel there and who did you go with?
I traveled in the beginning of 2016 in the winter months and went with a few friends from the United States.
Please share your memories from the trip.
There are many memorable moments from the trip. During the first week in the Netherlands, my friends decided to book a trip to Paris leaving Saturday morning at 7:15 am by train. On Friday evening prior to our departure, we had a late dinner and I slept past my alarm in the morning. When I woke up, I had 30 minutes to pack and walk over to the train station which I had never visited before. I panicked. Quickly packed and ran to the train station while on the phone with the rest of the group. I made it just before the doors to my train were closing.
During that same adventurous weekend in Paris, France we bought the weekend pass to travel unlimited by train. At one of the train stations, two of my friends could not swipe their train ticket and kept on getting an error message. They pressed the help button to talk to someone to explain the situation but the person on the other side spoke in French and hung up. We were all puzzled, called him again and he said something in French and hung up. So, I pressed the help button again and in a loud and firm tone, said, “ticket not working”. As soon as I said that, he buzzed us in through the gate. We all laughed and in subsequent situations, we applied the ticket not working strategy.
During the second week in the Netherlands, while driving to a restaurant in the evening for dinner, my friend and I both lost internet connection on our phones (where we both had international data package). We heavily relied on Apps for navigation but had to stop and ask people for the directions but it was difficult as most of the people did not understand English. It looks us some extra time but we finally made it to the restaurant. Lesson learned was to have paper maps as a backup.
What other places have you visited?
I have visited Germany while driving from Switzerland to Germany. Within the United States, I have visited all major metropolitan cities along the east coast and west coast. I have been to New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, and Dallas.
What advice would you give to a first-time traveler?
Be open to trying the local foods and asking the locals about things to do. I do not rely on websites and travel guides on places to visit but always ask the hotel concierge or locals at a restaurant or a grocery store about the sites to see and foods to try. You not only get to interact with the locals and learn their culture but find out about the top secret spots and best foods to eat. Also, I would recommend downloading a translating app, like google translate, on your phone. It definitely helps with signs, menus, and brochures while traveling and is very easy to use.