So This Is Europe (Highlights from 6 Weeks Backpacking)
I started my solo six-week backpacking adventure in London, UK. At this point on the trip, I was determined to write a post for each city, so most of my thoughts are summarized in my So This Is London post. After London, travelling around was too crazy that I couldn’t find time to sit down and properly blog about each city.
I flew to Berlin, Germany, on a very early morning flight. This flight was the only flight I took within Europe, so upon my arrival, I bought full-sized German toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner and body wash that would last me five weeks. I met some cool people from around the world and we explored Berlin’s culture and history together.
I bused down to Nuremberg, Germany, and spent the evening and next morning exploring the city with Jess. It was perfect timing because I was there during a three-day music festival called Bardentreffen. The streets were always busy, full of different musicians showcasing their talent. Thanks Jess for showing me around!
One and a half days was not enough in Munich, Germany. But that only means one thing: I will be back. I met some great people, went on a walking tour, visited Dachau Concentration Camp, watched people surfing at the Englischer Garten, and shared some good food and beer.
My exchange friend, Fabian, is from a small town near Friedrichshafen, Germany. His family was so kind to welcome me into their home for two days. During the day, Fabian, Pia and I drove halfway up Pfänder, a mountain in Austria, and hiked to the top from there; it exhausting but worth the view. We also visited Lindau, a cute lake-side town. I told Fabian’s mom that I was in dire need of vegetables after not eating many fruits and veggies in Germany, so we had salad at every meal—too good to be true when you’re travelling.
I was always curious about Prague, Czech Republic. The city itself is beautiful, but it was high season for tourists so there were tourists everywhere, which was a little annoying. Well, I was one of those tourists so maybe I take that back. During my five days there, I explored the city with some great people, saw many interesting things, and ate several hearty meals. I learned some British slang and also how to compliment someone in Russian, haha.
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic, was where I finally realized I needed to take a rest. I took it slow, walked around until my sandals could not take cobblestone anymore, and reflected on travelling alone. My two days here were very peaceful and quiet, except for the last night: a guy in my hostel was snoring unbearably loud—I don’t even know how it’s humanly possible for someone to snore that loud.
I was in Vienna, Austria, for five hours. Now don’t laugh, I’ll explain! I planned to go directly to Budapest from Český Krumlov. I didn’t know that there was no way to get to Budapest directly unless I went through a big city, like Vienna or back to Prague. (At this point, I realized that there were some serious downsides to planning a six-week trip in one week). I would say I spent my five hours in Vienna well: I had a wiener schnitzel, went on a walking tour, and went inside the St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
Budapest, Hungary, was the city I spent the longest in: eight days. I met some great people again at my hostel and on a walking tour. My two friends from Vancouver, Benedicta and Michelle, joined me for the latter half in Budapest. Some highlights were seeing David Guetta at the Sziget Festival, eating a three-course meal prepared by a local Hungarian at the Airbnb we stayed at, and watching the sunset on top of Gellért Hill. The unfortunate part was that I came down with a fever, cough and cold. I decided to cancel my Ljubljana trip and stay in Budapest for two more days to rest.
I almost didn’t go to Venice, Italy, but I am glad I did. When I was planning the trip, one of my friends said that if there was one city I had to go to in Europe, it would have to be Venice. Despite being sick, I really enjoyed Venice: I went on a walking tour, wandered around by myself, got lost trying to find St. Mark’s Square, ate delicious Italian gelato and pasta, and marveled at how picturesque everything was.
My next stop was Paris, France. Thankfully, my friend Yuna housed me and I was finally able to recover from the cold I caught in Budapest. I ate a lot of macarons, took a lot of touristy pictures, and survived 36-degrees weather with Giulia, an Italian friend I made on the walking tour. I finally got to practice the French I learned at school. I also finally confirmed that the beauty marks on my cheek are actually in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.
I bused down to Lyon, France, to visit Anna, a good friend I made when I was on exchange in Beijing last year. Some highlights with her were having DMCs (Deep Meaningful Conversations: an acronym she taught me) over wine, enjoying the river and hilly views, and eating the delicious food she cooked (like quenelles, crepes, and pasta). From Lyon, I took a day-trip to Grenoble, France to visit a friend I met in Hong Kong last year; Guilhem showed me around his hometown and we chatted over savory waffles.
I managed to squeeze in a short two-day visit to Geneva, Switzerland, thanks to Ellen and Nick. They brought me to see the best views of the Alps, taught me the art of wine tasting, and made delicious raclette for my hungry tummy. My time here was very relaxing. My legs were dying from five weeks of non-stop walking, so it was a much-needed vacation from my vacation. From there, I went back to London to catch my flight back home.
I flew to St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada—the first of three flights I needed to take to go back home (I can’t complain… the one-way ticket back was $300 CAD!). Chelsea, a Canadian friend I met in China last year, picked me up from the airport and showed me around her hometown. I ate moose-meat spaghetti, became an honorary Newfoundlander, and climbed down Signal Hill with her (I was quite tired by now so thankfully we got a ride up Signal Hill).
My next stopover was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Noah, a childhood friend I hadn’t seen for eight years, picked me up. We had dinner and had the longest catch-up session. It was so great to see him and his family.
While I was waiting to get through security at the Halifax airport, I bumped into Diana, a friend from UBC. With her, I had a very enjoyable flight back home to Vancouver, BC, Canada. I also had the best seat ever—an emergency exit seat with one metre of leg-room.
In summary, my first Europe trip was a success. To be honest, I was a little anxious before the trip because I didn’t know how things would turn out. It was my first time travelling alone to countries where I don’t speak a word of the language. I planned the whole trip in a rush and didn’t plan out how I was going to get from city to city. I hoped to meet some awesome people along the way but I knew that it was totally possible that I didn’t.
In the end, I decided to not stress about anything and go with the flow.
When I think back to my time in Europe, I always chuckle to myself and think how crazy it was. And how crazy I was. During my six weeks, I walked an average of 15,000-20,000 steps per day, as measured by my Huawei smartwatch—my highest was 40,000 steps in one day in Munich. It was exhausting but worth it: I saw some breathtaking views. I learned some history and culture. I touched some ancient things. I made some new friends.
I even surprised myself with how well I budgeted. In total, I spent less than $4,000 CAD (flights, transportation, food, accommodation, activities). I didn’t live like a princess, but I stayed comfortable, was never hungry, and got around safely. I did splurge on some things—like high tea in London, a Sziget Festival ticket in Budapest, and wine and cheese in Lyon—but I managed to save money with simple methods.
I have a lot more to say about what I enjoyed, what I learned, and what I would do differently next time, but I won’t bore you. If I had to summarize my Europe trip into one piece of advice, it would be simple: travel as much as you can, while you can. Get out there and go on an adventure!
One last thing before I end this post: For most people reading this post, this list of names will not mean anything to you. But I want to thank these people for making this Europe trip more than I could have asked for.
Thanks Jasmine, Yuna, Cherelle, Jessica H, Jenny, Celena, Jo, Emma T, Victoria, Anna, Jess M, Fadi, Mattieu, Matteo M, Louis, Raphaël, Yolande, Tom, Lukas, Dag, Christoph, Jessica L, Reynald, Fabian, Pia, Miranda, Max, George, Andrew, Jen, Harrison, Amber, Roman, Cody, Hamish, Julie, Guilherme, Matteo N, Jade, Emma B, Benedicta, Michelle, Jeremy, Dory, Csaba, George, Giulia, Jae-Yong, Anna, Guilhem, Sindu, Justine, Ellen, Nick, Zac, Tony, Chelsea, Noah, and Diana.
Special thanks to Jasmine, Jess M, Fabian, Yuna, Anna, and Ellen for providing me with a place to lay my head.
You guys have been great. I’ll see you later, friends!
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever been to Europe? What was your favourite city and why? If you haven’t been to Europe, what would be the first thing you do/see/eat when you get there?