One thing I for some reason forgot to mention earlier was the Parisian man at the metro station.
I was trying to figure out which direction of the RER would take me to line 14 of the metro, using my map of the metro station. Almost immediately after pulling out my map, a middle-aged man who spoke only a little English and who reeked of stale cigarettes approached me to offer assistance.
At first, I was rather startled and a bit afraid. I had just been accosted by people who claimed to be customs. They had badges and spoke the proper lingo, but they were in civilian clothing and seemed to only check my bags. Maybe they were customs. I don’t know. Anyway, having already been startled by who claimed to be customs I was beginning to wonder if I had a sign on my back reading, “Ignorant American. Please pester.” But, the man was very helpful. He happened to be taking the same RER so showed me the way. Then, when I reached the correct stop, he hopped off (risking losing the metro) and pointed me in the right direction. He was very helpful and kept giving me a thumbs up and saying, “okay?” over and over.
So, from my short time in Paris I was able to determine that Parisians are helpful. At least, that would be my first impression.
But now, some travel advice. Pack as lightly as humanly possible. Even if it means having to re-wear and wash frequently. I took a giant suitcase, which did not fit through the metro turnstiles. Neither did it fit well on the train from Amsterdam airport to Amsterdam Centraal. And I could not lift it on my own for storage on the train from Amsterdam to Paris. And, my current hostel doesn’t have an elevator and my bag weighs about 50 pounds.
Here is what I’ve learned: take only a few things to re-wear and wash, pack in a backpacker’s backpack when possible, carry an extra outfit in carry-on, only use carry-ons if at all possible. Remember, on airplanes you get a carry-on and a personal item. You can fit a ton of stuff into those two bags. It is true, you might tire of wearing and washing the same things. But, it is better than getting your middle caught in the metro turnstile because you have to awkwardly figure out the best way to squeeze your too big bag through.