Backpacking Across Europe
Start writing a post
Lifestyle

8 Things I Learned From Backpacking Through 6 Cities In 5 Countries In 12 Days

A guide to traveling abroad for the young college explorer.

60
Canal
Jordan Moran

Like most things in my life, my trip to Europe started as a joke that got taken seriously and went too far. By the time plane tickets were booked and hostels secured it was quite hard to tell my travel buddy I was semi-kidding when this whole thing started. But that joke is how I ended up pulling an all-nighter planning a trip through Amsterdam, Brussels, Munich, Vienna, Prague, and Berlin and also how I ended up touching down in The Netherlands just six months later.

1. Airfare can be cheaper than you think

A major deterrent before this trip, besides being far away from home in a foreign country, has been the cost of airfare and how expensive it seemed. However, while researching this trip I came across a site called STA Travel, a booking website that gives discounts to student travelers. It was really helpful when comparing prices and will actually give you a chart of days that it might be cheaper to fly if your travel plans are flexible.

Also, airfare can change in price depending on where you're flying to and from, so make a list of potential cities you want to visit if you're backpacking and see how plane ticket prices compare in each city. If you can map out a route that still takes you to each city you want to go with the cheapest plane tickets then you've got the start to a winning trip.

2. Hostels are your best resource

Youth hostels are a great place to stay and act as your home base for the trip. Plus, they can be really cheap if you pick the right one. Many hostels will also give you recommendations of fun things in the area. The hostel my friend and I stayed at in Vienna actually gave us a whole map of the city and directions on how to get around the next day.

Hostels also will provide breakfast at a cost, and I swear, it's worth the additional cost. These breakfasts are typically the best meal you'll have that day and buffet style so you can fuel up for a day of sightseeing. Plus, European breakfasts have an array of cheese and bread available—who would say no to that?

One last thing: if you think that you can be frugal and save money by taking overnight buses between countries, I'm speaking from experience on this one, DON'T DO IT. I promise you nothing is nicer than being able to have a place to put your backpack during the day and having a bed to sleep in at night. You might be saving some money by sleeping on a bus but it's going to be at the cost of your comfort.

3. Your backpack is more important than you think

Speaking of comfort, your backpack, if you are choosing to backpack for your trip, is key to being successful in your travels. When packing, keep in mind how heavy you're making it and how much you feel comfortable carrying around for 8+ hours every day. For the purposes of backpacking, less is more, so choose some basics when it comes to clothing that you can get away wearing multiple times without having to wash (this does not apply to socks) and pick those clothing items over your fancier garb. Also, deodorant is not optional to pack, you can make room for it.

When it comes to finding your pack, a good backpack is durable and made for this kind of thing. You can't just use your school backpack and think you'll be fine to travel. I recommend finding a backpack with padded straps that have steel wire in them, making them harder to cut if someone is trying to steal your bag. Also, try not to get a bag with many or any forward facing pockets so people aren't able to go into your bag without you knowing. And make sure your bag is waterproof because you really, really don't want everything you have to get wet if you get caught in the rain, which is almost inevitable.

4. Make sure the shoe fits

If you're one of those people that loves getting your steps in every day, then you're going to love backpacking. During this trip, I walked at least six miles every day and was really thankful I had a good pair of shoes which were a pair of Doc Martens I've had for over five years at this point. Needless to say, they were very broken in and comfortable to wear, plus they worked really well for the snowy cities.

If you're planning to go backpacking, make sure that your shoes are something you're willing to become one with like your backpack because again, you're going to be walking a lot for 8+ hours at a time. This is especially important because you never know when your friend is going to drag you up 30 flights of stairs at 10:00 AM to the top of a tower.

5. Trains, planes, buses, and more

One really convenient way to get around from country to country is to take buses. If you choose to travel by bus there are a lot of bus services that do international routes. One thing I learned, though, is that these buses will literally never be on time. They're going to be either very early or very very late. So I recommend getting to the station at least 15 minutes earlier than suggested and remaining calm if you think the bus isn't showing up. I promise it is, it's just coming from a different country to get you.

Also, subways are really useful ways to get around, just be aware that during midday it will get really crowded with students going to or coming from school. Another note is that subway systems there don't make you pay to access the platform, but you should still get a ticket because subway workers will sometimes get on to do a random ticket check and failing to have a ticket carries a heavy fine.

6. Passports to pass go

Here in the States, your driver's license is like an access card to any place you need ID. When you're traveling, that thing is basically useless and your passport becomes king. You're going to need your passport in a lot of situations that you wouldn't think about, like when checking into your hostel. Also, if you're traveling between countries on a bus, it might get stopped and you'll have to show police officers your passport and stamp of when you came into the country.

I recommend not doing what I did and having my passport buried in my backpack the first time I checked into a hostel. I had to dig it out and it was already past midnight so the guy at the front desk was not pleased. From there on out, I made sure to put my passport in an easier to access pocket on my bag that faced inwards so you could only get into it if the backpack was off. Have your passport handy, but only handy enough that you and you alone can access it. Whatever you do, don't lose that thing, or the rest of your trip is down the drain.

7. Comment dites-vous?

There's going to be a language barrier. And that's fine, just go with it. Honestly, even if you think you've got the language down from taking classes at school, nothing compares to having to communicate with a native speaker. Your foreign language skills might come in handy when it comes to getting around by being able to read street signs or understand a subway system, but besides that, be ready to have some interesting conversations.

The main thing is to keep calm about any gaps in language and make the best of it because after all, traveling is about meeting new people and experiencing new things, including awkward conversations.

8. Your trip is what you make of it

All in all, what I learned the most from my travels is that the experience is what you make of it. If you get stuck in the snow really early in the morning while being freezing cold, yes, that's really going to put a damper on things, but once you warm up and get a sandwich from a really nice Belgian lady in her deli, you're going to feel a lot better. There are going to be missteps, things that don't go to plan, places you want to go to that will be closed, and you're going to feel a little (or a lot) homesick. But it'll be fine, just take a deep breath and keep a clear head. Live in the moment and love the unique experience you're getting.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Student Life

Top 10 Reasons My School Rocks!

Why I Chose a Small School Over a Big University.

93852
man in black long sleeve shirt and black pants walking on white concrete pathway

I was asked so many times why I wanted to go to a small school when a big university is so much better. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a big university is great but I absolutely love going to a small school. I know that I miss out on big sporting events and having people actually know where it is. I can't even count how many times I've been asked where it is and I know they won't know so I just say "somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin." But, I get to know most people at my school and I know my professors very well. Not to mention, being able to walk to the other side of campus in 5 minutes at a casual walking pace. I am so happy I made the decision to go to school where I did. I love my school and these are just a few reasons why.

Keep Reading...Show less
Lots of people sat on the cinema wearing 3D glasses
Pinterest

Ever wonder what your friend meant when they started babbling about you taking their stapler? Or how whenever you ask your friend for a favor they respond with "As You Wish?" Are you looking for new and creative ways to insult your friends?

Well, look no further. Here is a list of 70 of the most quotable movies of all time. Here you will find answers to your questions along with a multitude of other things such as; new insults for your friends, interesting characters, fantastic story lines, and of course quotes to log into your mind for future use.

Keep Reading...Show less
New Year Resolutions

It's 2024! You drank champagne, you wore funny glasses, and you watched the ball drop as you sang the night away with your best friends and family. What comes next you may ask? Sadly you will have to return to the real world full of work and school and paying bills. "Ah! But I have my New Year's Resolutions!"- you may say. But most of them are 100% complete cliches that you won't hold on to. Here is a list of those things you hear all around the world.

Keep Reading...Show less
Lifestyle

The Ultimate Birthday: Unveiling the Perfect Day to Celebrate!

Let's be real, the day your birthday falls on could really make or break it.

42394
​different color birthday candles on a cake
Blacksburg Children's Museum

You heard it here first: birthdays in college are some of the best days of your four years. For one day annually, you get to forget about your identity as a stressed, broke, and overworked student, and take the time to celebrate. You can throw your responsibilities for a day, use your one skip in that class you hate, receive kind cards and gifts from loved ones and just enjoy yourself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Featured

Unleash Inspiration: 15 Relatable Disney Lyrics!

Leave it to Disney to write lyrics that kids of all ages can relate to.

63912
The 15 most inspiring Disney songs

Disney songs are some of the most relatable and inspiring songs not only because of the lovable characters who sing them, but also because of their well-written song lyrics. While some lyrics make more sense with knowledge of the movie's story line that they were written for, other Disney lyrics are very relatable and inspiring for any listener.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments