As promised, I've created this blog to share my most memorable experiences while on my 32 day European vacation. For starters, I actually decided to cut my trip short by 2 days due to unforeseen weather circumstances in Iceland. No biggie- 30 days was more than enough time for me to enjoy myself and see lots of new places. So, I'll get right into it....
#1. One of my most memorable experiences was in Barcelona, Spain. I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed and eager for the day. I caught a taxi from the airport to my hostel. For those of you that are unfamiliar with what a hostel is- it's basically like a college dormitory. You share rooms, bathrooms, and common spaces with lots of other travelers. You get your own bed, and in most cases, a locker to store your things away. This was my first ever experience in a hostel and I really didn't know what to expect. Initially I was very apprehensive, nervous, and skeptical of the whole thing. I mean, why would I want to share a room with not just one stranger, but dozens of them? Is it safe? What if something happens to me? What if I get robbed, assaulted, or even worse, killed?! Well- I wouldn't go that far, but it can happen. However, the chances are highly unlikely as hostels are very safe and secure places for travelers. Anyways, back to my experience... It was nothing like I imagined it to be. It was so much more! I met amazing people, the staff were really nice, and helpful- and the hostel was an overall fun environment to be in (whether you're a people person or not.) They had areas where you could go off and be alone, and they had common areas where you could mix and mingle with the other travelers. One thing everyone had in common was that we were all simply looking for a cheap place to stay overnight until our next journey. When I say cheap- I mean the lowest I paid for a night at a hostel was 8 Euro! Which is the equivalent of about $9-$10 U.S. dollars. For many travelers on a budget, this makes hostels the ideal place to stay overnight. Like I said, you get a bed, a hot shower, a clean bathroom, and in most cases, food- as many of the hostels have bars or restaurants attached to them. They're also situated in very populated areas making walking to just about anything you needed very easy. They are truly the cheapest place to stay while traveling abroad. However- If you aren't the hostel type of person, there are always hotels and pensions. Pensions are a step above the hostel, and right below a hotel. You get your own room, but many of the common areas, including the bathrooms are still shared with multiple other people. On the price scale, hostels are always the cheapest option.
(Throughout my stay, I stayed at hostels, pensions, and hotels. I'll share my experiences of each as I go along.)
(Picture of typical hostel dorm room.)
#2. While staying in hostels, I would meet dozens of other travelers from all around the world. It was amazing to be surrounded by people who shared the same passion and lust for life as I did. As I mentioned before, we all had traveling in common. So we could share our stories about where we've been in the world and even link up and explore the city together in groups. We would go out to clubs or restaurants at night time, and go to breakfast cafes and see the sights during the day time. Making the solo traveler (like myself) no longer solo, but surrounded with great groups of people. In particular, one of my most memorable experiences in Barcelona was at my very first hostel. I ended up sitting a table with 5 other solo travelers- who all just so happened to be women! How cool is that?! There we were, all from different countries, in the same place, at the same time, enjoying each others company and conversation. That truly set the tone for all the stereotypes about women and why they shouldn't travel alone. We were all from different backgrounds, cultures, and age groups. The youngest solo traveler I met on my journey was just 18 years old! I was truly impressed. I certainly wasn't expecting to meet so many awesome solo women travelers. It was an amazing experience. It was even more amazing that it happened in several of the countries that I went to. In Athens, Greece- I had the same experience. I met some other solo travelers, and ended up grouping together with them to explore the city. The heads we turned while walking down the streets in a foreign country were hilarious. There we were, Black, White, American, Asian, Canadian, French, Hungarian, Swiss, German, etc. All from different countries, strolling down the street together, laughing, talking, and taking life by the horns. For we are women! Hear us ROAR! What an amazing experience it was!
(Above: The lovely solo women travelers I met while in Barcelona, Spain.
Below: A picture of the beautiful solo women travelers I met while in Athens, Greece.)
#3. Another fond memory that I have while traveling abroad was the sights and sounds of each different city. Being from one of the biggest cities in California, (Los Angeles)- I know about catching buses, and trains and how the cities intertwine with each other. The most fun I would have while out and about exploring cities, was hopping on and off different buses trying to find my way around. Conversing with the locals about where to go, what to see, and where to eat were some of the highlights while on my trip. I found that most people are generally very helpful and friendly. Especially to the tourist and travelers. It's their chance to show you the pride of their cities. Occasionally I would come across a rude person- but I didn't let them stop me from being polite or asking questions about the city. I'm not too keen on staying in the "touristy" part of town, so I would often find myself in very quiet, but lively neighborhood settings. Sometimes I would get some curious looks, but most times the people would greet me, and ask questions about where I was from, and if I was enjoying their city or not. It was a great experience in exploring unknown territory.
(The different modes of transportation I took while abroad: on foot, by bus and train, and a picture of my train ticket in Madrid, Spain.)
#4. For anyone who knows me, knows that I LOVE food! I love to eat good food, and I enjoy trying new things. Being in so many different countries, one of my favorite things to do was try the local foods from the best restaurants. I would ask the locals to point me in the direction of the places where they eat at. Not the touristy places where all the food is basically Americanized. I could get that kind of food at home. Places like McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and other fast food chains are all around the world. Even in the most remote locations. I wasn't interested in eating any of that stuff. I wanted the real deal meals! I wanted what the mothers were taking home to feed their children. I wanted what the locals were eating on their lunch breaks from work. I wanted the soul food of the country! Upon wandering through the different cities, I would often come across these little hidden gems that sold many different types of local dishes. Dishes that were original to the country itself. Authentic, and unfiltered. That was the food I ate while away. The smells, the spices, the seasonings they used were all new to my taste buds which made the experience even more delightful for me. I enjoyed most of the food I sampled while abroad.
(Pictures of the amazing food I ate while abroad.)
#5. Another great memory worthy of sharing is my experience with backpacking across the continent of Europe. Yes, I said backpacking! I lived out of a backpack for 30 days straight. I had all of my clothes, toiletries, valuables, and personal items that I could carry attached to me at all times. I made sure that I packed enough clothes (mainly t-shirts & socks) to allow me versatility in my wardrobe while abroad. Luckily for me, each of the hostels I stayed in had laundry rooms. Every few days I would wash my clothes, including my towel, socks, pants, and shirts and re-wear them all over again. On average, each wash and dry cost me about 7 euro (approx. $8 U.S. dollars) per load. While it was quite expensive- seeing as to how I could wash and dry a single load of laundry at home for about $1.75- it was a much needed luxury that I couldn't afford to pass up. I needed clean clothes. I wanted to smell good, and feel clean. Also, every few days I would do what I called a dump. Meaning I would throw away articles of clothing to make room in my backpack for new clothes. I packed a few sports bras (that I didn't try on before leaving the U.S.) and they were too small for me. So, I dumped them, and bought new ones. I had an accident in a pair of my pants where I ripped them on a park bench and had to buy a new pair, so I dumped them. Traveling light was the key to success. There was no need to hold onto things that I was no longer going to use. It saved me space in my backpack which was much needed. The last thing I wanted to do was carry around a extra heavy backpack on my back everyday. Overall, I survived and was so happy that I chose a backpack instead of a suitcase. For several reasons:
1) I was able to carry it on the plane with me, and didn't have to pay extra for baggage fees at the airports.
2) I didn't have to wait for my luggage upon getting off a plane, as it was already attached to me. I just hopped off the plane and got straight on with my journey.
3) I didn't have to worry about the airline losing my luggage, and leaving me without any of my valuables. My absolute worst nightmare!
4) Being that some hostel dormitories are very small, and sharing rooms with other people, I found that the bigger the luggage, the more in the way it was. People would have to climb over huge suitcases in the middle of the floor, many of them didn't fit in the lockers, and packing and unpacking those things were a headache.
5) Exploring the city was much easier with a backpack than it would've been with a suitcase! Trust me- walking up hills, running through airports, hopping on buses, maneuvering through busy crowds, and going to different sights is A LOT easier with a backpack than it is with a suitcase!!
I simply found a decent sized backpack (average school size), made sure it was durable and sturdy enough, and jam packed it with all of the things I would need while away. Soap, lotions, toothpaste and toothbrush, chargers, shoes, clothes, jackets, and my absolute favorite- my selfie stick. I also carried around a fanny pack for my more important items, like my money, passport, ID, debit cards, and bus passes; and both worked out perfectly for me.
(Pictures of me backpacking.)
I have so much more to share about my journey! Please stay tuned or subscribe to my blog for more about my 32 most memorable experiences while in Europe! Thank you for reading and if you liked this post, feel free to share it and spread the joy!
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