July 2018 – Taking flights, trains, buses and ferries from India to several countries in Europe is an experience which is going to stay with me long into the onset of my old age dementia. I can’t believe I’ve done it already! Like it’s always been my childhood fantasy to be able to go on a Europe trip some day and live a fairytale life. I feel like one more thing is now checked out of the many things which I would probably want to do before I die. It’s been one crazy backpacking trip and my longest vacation ever. 25 days, 7 countries, tonnes of languages & cuisines and endless memories!
I seem to learn something new on backpacking trips, but this one being the longest of all taught me a lot. The biggest lesson – I learnt to always fill up the water bottles when you come across it because you’ll never know when you’ll see it again. (no matter what google maps show) There are so many things that I have experienced and learnt and since I faced some challenges doing it for the first time, I would take the opportunity and the platform which throughmymind gives me to help travelers like in the near future.
Before starting the trip, I knew that I am a traveler and not a tourist because I didn’t want to opt for any prepackaged experiences and move on without engaging with the local culture. I wanted to see things and not buy them; in order to be more involved, it was important to engage with the locals, live like them, try to learn their language & most important of all share facts about our culture, talk about our country & the myths associated with her. I am so happy that I was able to fulfil my goal as a traveler & lived every bit of it.
Now, there are two primary things which made my trip to Europe simple and affordable for me – Couchsurfing & Backpacking. While this blog is dedicated to the mistakes one should avoid when backpacking Europe, I definitely plan to write a blog on Couchsurfing for my readers.
- Don’t ‘under plan’ or ‘over plan’
A perfect blend of the two would give you beautiful memories of a lifetime. Never, mind you, NEVER EVER go unplanned. I have seen friends who are travelling to Europe but have nothing planned in advance – hotels, flights and basic necessities. They call it adventure. Well, as spontaneous as it might sound, always remember that you will be losing on some really really cheap deals if you do it that way. At least the hotels and the flights have to be booked. If you plan to Couchsurf with your hosts, make sure to fix everything in advance & book a hotel or an Airbnb for backup.
I don’t either want to OVER PLAN! Like I cannot plan my trip in a way that I have to go by every second which changes. I need atleast 3 days to explore a place, which is fair enough, right? I fail to understand how some people manage to move on from one country to another in the span of just a day. Guys, when you are planning something like that, always remember that although it’s easier to travel from country to another in Europe, you would still want to interact with their culture or may be explore the places and the cuisine. Is it really possible to do any of this when you go by every moving second on your watch? Don’t forget that it’s a vacation, a holiday afterall!
- Airbnbs are better than hotels
While I couchsurfed through most of my trip to Europe, there were times when we needed an accommodation and guess what, this time it was all about Airbnbs. Yay! I was so happy with the airbnbs, specially because you get a completely independent accommodation with a kitchen and a washer (both of these are extremely important for a backpacker). You can filter out a lot of requirements while searching for the best fit accommodation for you and your family. Specially, if you are one of those who start missing their home-made food while travelling just like me, then booking an Airbnb will be one of the most sorted options. So, we would rush to the nearby supermarkets to get the basics & cook our own meals and there is no denying the fact that happy travelers are the best.
- Pack light
One of the most important things to consider when you are backpacking is to travel light. I carried everything in 12kgs of my rucksack for the one month long travel to Europe. Do not try to overload your bags with stuff because you won’t be free to move from one place to another that ways. The thumb rule for packing should be a two-way process – the main bag and the daypack. A pair of comfortable shoes, a towel, some T-shirts, some shorts/skirts/tights, 1 sweater, underwear/socks/swimwear, 1 rain jacket and one pair of flipflops is what I would recommend. Other that this some basic electronics, toiletries and medications should be segregated and kept in easily accessible pockets of your main bag. The daypack which we purchased from Wildcraft was the one to die for, it made our lives so much simpler. So, wherever we would go for the day, a hike, some beach or just a walking trip around the city, we could put all the essential stuff for the day like our power bank, water bottle, snacks & a rain jacket into it. Trust me guys, it’s a life savior.
- Student ID
Guys, most of the tourist places in Europe have entry fee and most of them also give concessions to the students, all you need to do is show your student ID to them. So, if you are a student and are going on a backpacking trip to Europe, do not forget to carry your student ID card to save a few bucks.
If you are new to the idea of couchsurfing, let me start by telling you a little about it. t’s the online hub and premier social site for helping budget travelers and backpackers meet potential hosts all over the world.
My reasons for choosing Couchsurfing
1. To learn a new culture.
2. To meet and have interesting conversations with people from other parts of the world and to realise how much do we have in common.
3. I want to break free off my comfort zone.
4. In order to do things which I never thought I would in my life.
5. A good company and an open mind in exchange for a lot of money. Sounds like fun.
REMEMBER – Free accommodation is great, but so are personal space and privacy. Don’t plan to couch surf or share hostel rooms every night of your trip. Interacting with travelers from all over the world is great fun, but it also requires energy. Plan to treat yourself to private rooms every now and then for some personal time.
- Do not carry a lot of cash
Keeping hard cash is important but dangerous at the same. You might get robbed or you might end up losing it somewhere and you would definitely not want to turn your dream into a nightmare. Right? Alright, so here’s the catch. Carry your debit and credit cards and some basic cash. For an example, I carried a cash of around 1000EUR for a travel of a month. That is because card works at most of the places in Europe, however, some small food stores might not take cards but you have cash for that. So you are pretty much sorted. Travel smart!
For us wanderers and backpackers, traveling is one of the most rewarding experiences of life and it can be so amazing it can literally change your life.