My whole life I’ve said I’ll see the world. As a youngster I was determined not to get stuck in the 9-5 lifestyle, I wanted to do something exciting with my life. While I sit here typing this at the office during my lunch break I’m realising that plan didn’t quite pan out. When you’re a kid you don’t quite realise just how *essential* money is to survival, and how much time earning said money will take. That doesn’t mean I can’t see the world though.
My first time travelling was three weeks in Europe – and I did it on my own. I’m not sure if it was brave or stupid, but I do know it was well worth the experience. I visited 10 countries in three weeks, and a total of eleven cities (not including the towns I explored while waiting for trains).
On average I spent about a day in each city, and a hell of a lot of time on trains. Over the three weeks I saw A LOT. But I wouldn’t say I got a really rich experience of each place. You can’t experience everything a city has to offer in just a day. A bit of research allowed me to make a list of the things I most wanted to see, and with that I could maximise the time by planning a sensible route around the city. There are very few things I didn’t have time to cross off the list, but there are definitely so many things left undiscovered too.
I had a great time on my fast paced travels around Europe, but it’s not for everyone. Here’s a bunch of things to consider before embarking on a whistle stop tour of Europe:
What are your intentions for your adventure?
For me, just getting out of the UK was a huge motivator when it came to booking my travel. The second biggest reason was to go see loads of places, and I definitely achieved that. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, and being the person I am decided to set a pretty big challenge. Visiting ten countries involves a lot of planning and organisation, and leaves a lot of room for things to go wrong.
The overall experience was what I was looking for. Yes, I was excited to visit all these cities and find out what each one had to offer, but I wasn’t too concerned about seeing everything. I like cities, but also enjoy seeing the landscape and the countryside of different countries too. I enjoyed the planning and the organising of everything – plotting a journey, booking accommodation, coordinating train times. That was all art of the experience.
If you ‘re looking to get a real in-depth experience in each city, then a day in each won’t cut it. A longer trip or a trip with fewer stops would be much more suitable. I got to find loads of places I want to go back to one day and explore more, but if you know this will be your only chance to visit these places then spend more time there and get to know them properly.
How much time and money do you have?
This is the one where you have to weigh up your resources vs. what you want to see. It is possible to travel around Europe quite cheaply, especially with an Interrail ticket. But there’s no doubt it’s easier to keep costs low if you make fewer trips between cities. I managed my trip on about £1000, which sounds like a lot until you consider that’s only £100 per city. With fewer cities I could have spent much less.
However, I wanted to see a lot. I didn’t want to be away from home for a long time though, so I did it in a time that I felt comfortable with. Three weeks seemed like a good time scale for my first solo trip. One day I’d like to go away for longer, now I’m more comfortable with travelling alone. At the time I don’t think I could have lasted much longer than three weeks.
Of course, if you have loads of money and loads of time, then I’d say go stay in loads of places for weeks on end. I’d love to be able to find places I love and just stay there for a while, leaving behind the places I don’t like. Instead I wound up stuck in Milan for a night longer than I wanted to, and had to leave Zagreb waaaaay sooner than I wanted to.
But I wouldn’t change the experience, because that’s really what it was all about.
Who are you travelling with?
Seeing a city in a day is best done solo. The only reason I managed to see so much is because I was on my own and could go at my pace. Had I been with a friend or my boyfriend we would have spend time eating and lounging together rather than whizzing round the city seeing sites.
There were times when lounging about seemed like such a good idea, and actually I tried. I hung out in parks, and I’m sure I overstayed my welcome in a couple of restaurants, but it is much harder to lose time when you’re on your own. I could easily chill for hours with a friend, but there’s only so much chilling you can do on your own, especially when I already had so much time on the train for my usual go to activities – reading and journalling.
If you’re travelling with someone or meeting friends on the way it’s a good idea to consider that when deciding how long to spend in each place. If you’re armed with a list of stuff you want to see, then a day probably won’t be enough if you’re with other people who all have their own agendas too. Travelling with other people involves compromise, especially if you leave yourselves short on time. Without enough time, you may find yourself leaving a city behind feeling like you missed out.
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