As Christmas approaches and winter is settling in, now’s the time to hunker down and think about the European summer backpacking trip you’ve been planning (for years now?) and finally make it happen… NEXT SUMMER, YOU HEAR? No more delays, reasons or excuses. You don’t need thousands and thousands to see Europe, it’s such a misconception. You need some, sure, but budgeting for 6 months should give you more then enough.
So, we’re still 6 months off… simply thinking about Europe is nice. But doing some preliminary research to make the trip a reality? Even better.
There’s a fine line between over researching, over booking and removing the ability for natural spontaneity to occur whilst on the road. It’s important that things happen, you react to them, and that potentially changes your trip. This could be a little, or this could be a lot. We need room for that to happen.
So research is great – knowledge is power and all that jazz, but do it with an eye to spontaneity. What do I mean here?
I mean get a feel for Europe on a map. What countries border where? Start imagining your trip. This will only help because it stops becoming a dream of “one day” and a reality of “this is happening”.
I mean figure out if you want to catch a train or Bus around Europe and investigate what suits your budget (more on that in a second).
I mean see if you think you’re going to enjoy hostels. Or do you prefer Airbnb?
I mean think about what you are going to SQUEEZE out of Europe in your 1-3 month adventure (can you swing yourself another month? Is this possible?). Because the reality is, 3 months is indeed a squeeze. You won’t see even close to “everything” Europe has to offer. You’ll see a lot, but not enough. No worries though – because we can just come back again another time, right?
There’s a bunch of nice hotels in Europe. You could go ritzy and stay at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco and gamble your nights away in pure luxury. Hmm, we are backpackers though so get your gambling fix over and done with on the internet at Betway casino instead – try not to spend too much, we’re budgeting, remember?
Right, so ritzy 5 star hotels are probably out. All good though, backpacking can offer you travel experiences that the 5 star elite never get to have.
Budget hotels are possible – but maybe a bit boring. How are you going to meet new people?
Here’s my secret:
Hostels for socialising, partying, meeting new groups, interacting, finding new friends to see fun locations with (museums, European historical wonders, the local swimming hole).
Airbnb for sweet relaxing luxury, quiet time, reflections, writing, eating, thinking about how great your trip is, gearing up to head back into hostels.
Done. You’re welcome.
Don’t forget you can do a combination of both. Don’t feel like my devious titles with their “ors” in them mean you have to choose one or the other.
Still, some people love getting a RailEurope or EUrail European rail pass. See my epic post about that here. They get flexibility, easy and joyous travel (nice views from the train window). There’s perks, but it costs more.
Buses on the other hand are cheap (not to say they’re nasty) – but the style of travel is a little more cramped. Seriously cheaper though and worth considering for the budget conscious travellers. Nothing wrong with them. Look into it!
Many do – not consciously I think- the European “Tour of the Grand Capitals”. We go London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona (not the capital but hey, more fun than Madrid), Lisbon and then we fly to Prague and weave our way back to Berlin perhaps.
There is nothing wrong with this. The capitals are awesome. Every single on of those cities has a wealth of greatness and history and fun and adventure to offer you. But so do the smaller cities and towns of Europe. Herein lies the challenge (which by the way only you can solve). What “non capitals” or smaller places do you visit?
Set yourself a criteria. If you love beer, get Munich and Stuttgart on the list.
Love quaint Italian villages? Check out the Cinque Terre.
Mad about Cheese? There’s a number of places in Holland you need to visit outside of Amsterdam then.
Football fanatic? Head deep into Spain, Portugal or Italy.
So “squeezing” Europe into 1-3 months is indeed a challenge, and you’ll only get so much juice. But oh, the juice will be delicious.
Forget about creating the “perfect trip”. That can only happen when you just GO and have an open mind and be ready to accept and embrace and converse. Preparing is fun though, so do a bit of that too 😉