After graduating from college in the United States, I had a one year period to work before my visa expired. Instead of saving the money to try my chance in a big city or coming back to my hometown to open my own business, I decided to make a huge trip in Europe to expand my horizons, my soul and find creativity and inspirations in the place where it all began. While I start packing only two days away from my flight, I’ve decided to make my first post about this trip, which is how I’ve planned for this adventure since the day I had the idea until this very moment.
You can find millions of posts about how to backpack through Europe, however, it’s you that decides how and where to stay. I didn’t want to travel through twenty countries in a month. I wanted to go to the cities I’ve always wanted to go and spend at least from four to five days there. I’ve worked a lot for this moment so I want to spend the days there like it’s worth it. To actually see and live a little bit from that place before heading to the next one.
The first step is obviously planning where to go. That can be a little bit frustrating when it comes to Europe because everywhere you see it’s only a few hours away from that other amazing place, which is also another few hours away from that great country that you didn’t really plan to visit but since it’s close, why not? To edit that part you have to ask yourself how much money you have and how are you going to those places? There is the famous Eurorail pass, which you can get a train-bus-subway all included ticket from one country to the whole of Europe in a certain limit of time. I bought the Global pass for 25 days, which made most of my trip possible through an exact amount of money, which also makes it easy to see how much you will have left after transportation costs. This pass also comes with an amazing cellphone app that shows all the trains from Europe, where they are going and what time.
The second step is choosing where you going to stay. Most of the people choose hostels for obvious reasons, which doesn’t mean they are super uncomfortable and disgusting. Depending on your spirit, you are welcome to stay in a room of 20 people or share one with only four. The difference of prices are not that much, so I’ve decided to stay in pretty amazing hostels, in good locations with rooms that afford from 10 to 6 people. Prices also change through seasons and places, like Paris and London are obviously more expensive than Germany, Italy and Turkey. But since Europe is famous for its hostels, plenty of hostels nowadays are extremely well maintained and have a pretty reasonable price. Airbnb is also a pretty good choice if you are traveling with friends and if you are alone and really don’t care about comfort, a lot of people travel through couch surfing. In my own opinion, traveling through 55 days you do need to think a little bit about comfort because you are going to be tired.
The third step of course, is deciding what to do. If you have your places chosen, how you are going to get there and where to stay, it’s time to decide what are you going to see. This can also be a little bit tricky because I’ve ended up choosing too much time to stay in certain places that don’t have that many things to do or one day less could be enough. So do some researching before deciding to stay five days in Brussels, for example. However, if you have your pass and the fact most of the hostels in Europe you only pay upon arrival, it’s pretty easy to call them and change the dates of your stay. It’s not something I would recommend but have a little bit of sense when choosing how long you will stay. Despite that, you are free to see whatever you like.
Since I’ve been to Europe once, I’m skipping a lot of museums. Yes, they are necessary, but don’t get too excited. By the end of the trip, you will be tired and you will go to a museum and feel nothing or simply don’t care about what you see. So try to go to the most important ones and put a gap of days between them. Also, study the map of the cities to check where things are. Some places like Paris, Berlin, and Brussels have several things to see in only one place, so you can save yourself a lot of time if you plan to see all those areas before moving to the next one. Otherwise, you will go to different locations in one day and lose a lot of time. If you are a control freak like I am, it can help you a lot to make an itinerary of things to do in which days of your stay. If you want some help with that, the Citix60 guides are great books that show alternative places in cities like Amsterdam, Paris, and Berlin. Also, googling “what to do in __” is okay!
The packing process is also very tricky. It’s not as easy as to put your things in your bags and go. First, print all your receipts and confirmations of flights, train, hostels, whatever you reserved online and put them in a case. Second, get travel insurance. You never know when your appendicitis decides to pop out or if you are going to break a bone in your trip. You can also get the flu or a stomach poisoning and need to see a doctor, or even a parent dies and you have to cancel everything and go back home. Expect nothing but be prepared for everything! Do some research in which company to hire and get one! And third, go to your drugstore and buy medicines for allergies, headaches, shaving products, and whatever you think you need. It’s great to be prepared and organized when you make a trip like that because you don’t want to have your day ruined by little things that like when you are half world away from home, so don’t be silly.
The last step, of course, is to write. Make a post on your blog, buy a Moleskine and carry around your trip. Trust me, it’s worth it! A great part of this trip is about spiritual experience for me, especially creativity. So I’ve been writing about those things since the beginning of the year and I’m planning to keep doing while I travel. Not mentioning it’s great for the memory since I don’t remember a lot of things of when I went to Europe eight years ago.
Please, leave a comment if you have any questions. I’m traveling in two days so I won’t post anything here for a while, but once I come back I will write the second part of this post. In case you are interested, the cities I’m going to are: Rome (Italy), Athens, Santorini and Mikonos (Greece), Istanbul (Turkey), Berlin and Frankfurt (Germany), Prague (Czech Republic), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Brussels and Ghent (Belgium), Paris (France), London and Oxford (UK). I really hope to have some money left to check Edinburgh, which is a dream since I’ve watched Hallam Foe (2007) and the last Harry Potter book as written there. So wish me luck and see you guys soon!