Americanize It

Americanize It

I want to start off by noting how surprised I am that “Americanize” is a proper verb. I thought I was making it up when I wrote the title, but apparently not which actually helps support my cause for this post. I want to talk about “The Ugly American”. You may have heard this expression before, and as someone who sees the ugly of America in so many things, I understood the term long before I started traveling to other countries. It wasn’t however until I stepped outside the U.S. that I realized just how obnoxious most Americans tend to come off! Continue reading “Americanize It”

Notice It

Notice It

In my wandering, I’ve noticed many things about Europe that differ from the daily life I’m used to in the United States. I started putting together a list because I didn’t want to forget the extreme and the slight but fascinating variations in culture. I am sure there will be many more differences for me to acknowledge as I continue along, but here is what I have gathered so far.

Fast Food

  • Taco Bell: When I was in Spain, I noticed the options for sides were a bit different than what I was used to on my seldom but definite late night drive-threw experiences. They give the option of spicy fries, nachos or a side salad with a meal; I’m used to two extra tacos with my tacos!
  • KFC: Before my trip over the pond, I read on a few American blogs that there wasn’t any fried chicken in Europe. I don’t eat fried chicken, but I wanted to state for the record that this is just NOT TRUE! Pretty much every major city I have been to had a KFC, and if they didn’t, there was some American tourist driven establishment marketing fried chicken. Also, KFC’s French fries are exactly like McDonalds fries.
  • McDonalds and Burger King: They serve beer. It’s pretty great. Their menus are pretty much the same, but a bit more expensive depending on the city. It’s also good to pop in there if you need WiFi and a free bathroom, they tend to always have both.
  • Subway: The mayonnaise is different and I hate it (she typed with a disgusted scowl on her face remembering the day this was discovered). They have some interesting choices for sandwiches in certain areas though.

Actual Food

  • Europeans don’t seem to have as much of an obsession with refrigeration as Americans do. They do not refrigerate eggs which really threw me for a loop, or fresh vegetables most of the time which wasn’t quite as shocking. Sandwiches made with salted meats and cheeses are not typically refrigerated because they really don’t need it, but I realized that is was just something I wasn’t used to seeing.
  • The sandwiches are a bit different now that I mention it, and vary drastically depending on where you are. There are however, always sandwiches. Some are the same as back home if you’re running into a store to grab something pre-packaged like turkey and cheese or egg salad, but I have seen some pretty out-there hoagies that I would have never thought to make myself (like eggs and potatoes).
  • CARBS, CARBS, and more CARBS. Bakeries are everywhere. Doesn’t matter where you are, you walk a mile and you will pass a few bakeries; honestly more than a few and they all smell amazing. Before you even get to the door you get hit with pure sugary goodness or warm bready goodness that tends to induce a Pavlov’s dog kind of reaction. Either way, it is not good for those of us with weak will powers against delicious baked things.
  • There is peanut butter! Another thing I read on a few American blogs and heard first hand regarding the “comforts of home” that you wont be able to find in Europe. You can find pretty much anything if you really look for it. Higher-end grocery stores tend to have a small “American” section that includes peanut butter. I’ve also found entire stores that have just American products (overpriced of course) where peanut butter can be found.
  • I had a hard time finding sour cream in grocery stores. I would see it on menus, but rarely in a store. I may have been looking in the wrong sections, looking for the wrong kind of packaging, or the areas I was in just didn’t really have use for it with their local cuisine. Either way, tough to find but not impossible.

Intoxicants

  • There isn’t such an alcohol stigma here. Call me old, but I would get carded constantly in the U.S. and have not once been carded anywhere in Europe. The legal drinking age is usually below 18, and I am sure I don’t look younger than 18, but just generically the attitude around it isn’t as control or terror driven. Now that I am thinking about it, I wonder if they had any prohibition type movements like the U.S. did? I am sure some places must have, but that may be part of the reason the U.S. is so strict with alcohol. I feel like the severity of underage drinking in the U.S. makes it more attractive to young people as a rebellion, where here it is so much more casual that its almost not desirable.
  • I smell more marijuana being smoked on the streets of Boca Raton, Florida than I do here in Europe. Every once in a while I will walk past someone and smell it, but its very rare. I haven’t been to the Netherlands yet where you can get THC products for recreational use, but generically people aren’t sparking things up any more than in the U.S. as far as I can tell.
  • Not sure if it is a good thing or bad thing, but I haven’t seen one drug dog so far. Not in any airport, train station…no where. I would see them constantly back home, but I did also live in one of the rehab capitals of America, so that could have something to do with it.
  • Craft beer, and specifically craft beer breweries are a huge thing coming up in American right now. I do find some places that sell craft beer in Europe, but haven’t found many tap rooms. I could just not be in the right places yet, but to the naked eye it doesn’t seem to be as much of a booming industry here as it is in the states.

Arts and Culture

  • Something I quickly grew to love about French train stations are the half grand pianos available for anyone to play. The talent that comes through is just incredible, and makes the hours of waiting during SNCF railway strikes a bit easier. They are also in amazing condition and pretty well tuned. I even got up the courage to sit down and play for a while in the Toulouse station.
  • There are “give one take one” libraries in many of the major cities. If you’ve never heard of this, it is basically a container of some kind, usually what looks like a repurposed dresser sitting in the middle of a bustling city, containing whatever books have been left there. You leave a book and take another to read for yourself. It’s a great system, one that I think should be much more encouraged.
  • There are so many free or relatively inexpensive museums. It is almost tiresome how many there are across Europe. Of course some may be considered much more grand than others, and those are usually more pricey, but it is easy to be surprised by the gems found in free museums.
  • Everything is older than your brain can really comprehend. You’re walking down a street and see a stone with the date 1785 perfectly carved into it. You realize that compared to so many other things in Europe, that street is fairly new! Museums are incredible for transporting you to another place in time. Some of the artifacts are so beyond the grasp of time for me and I am sure many others. I am often surprised how incredible the architecture was, and how well many of the foundations still hold to this day. Some of course stand stronger than others, but walking through castle ruins that have original tile inlaid, or being able to get up close on massive sculptures of angels with perfectly executes expressions, is often so baffling that it isn’t until after I have left that I really understand what I was seeing.
  • You can find art literally anywhere. Look at the sidewalk, the walls, the hills, the tables. There is so much culture infused in everything, old and new. Streets are lined with stones of different colors making endless patterns and images. Plants are tended to and grow in abundance, as well as wild flowers that give a pop of color to so many scenes. I find it quite impossible to be bored where there is always something new to take in and reflect on.

Infrastructure

  • Curbs on sidewalks are not as common as they are in in the U.S., but the streets are often so small there is no room for a curb or any distinctive sidewalk. You can easily be walking in the street or bike lane and not realize it if you aren’t paying attention. That is, until someone starts honking or cursing at you. I only made this mistake once! I even had to walk back down a road the way I came because the car coming towards me wouldn’t have room to get through without potentially taking me out.
  • The roads are often reversed which I am sure most people know. I was actually surprised by how many were not reversed though! When backpacking this can be a little discombobulating because you’re going from country to country and don’t always know which way is which. I just stick to looking both ways no matter what, but many times there are arrows and words on the roads reminding pedestrians which way to look before crossing.
  • Driving on the opposite side of the road wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Driving on very narrow roads where the speed limit is 70mph however was terrifying.

Lifestyle

  • Pharmacies, appliance stores and grocery stores do not mix. In the states you can go to Walmart (gags in disgust) and find all of these items and then some in the same place. Here the grocery store has groceries and maybe some toiletries. The home goods store has your home products. The beauty stores have beauty products. The pharmacies have the good stuff. Rarely are these establishments mixed.
  • There are small convenience stores, or corner stores if you will, but they are usually crazy overpriced and I only resort to buying something in one if I am in an extreme rush. If you have time, it is always worth waiting until you can make it to an actual store and save yourself quite a bit of money.
  • I stay in a lot of AirBNBs and they typically all have a washer they don’t mind me using. They usually do not have a dryer though, which means hang drying your clothes and hoping they are dry before moving on to the next place. I brought a clothes line with me, so I don’t have to depend on the host have sufficient space for all of my and their things to be hung. It has come in handy every time I have done laundry. I would highly recommend bringing one if you plan on backpacking Europe.
  • When it comes to language barriers, I thankfully haven’t had much trouble. Between modern technology (translation apps) and the fact that English is the most commonly shared language, most people can speak enough of it to get by. There are almost always options for English on ATMs and other automated machines, as well as the English translation listed in smaller writing under most directional signs. I still try however to speak the native language when I can, even if I butcher it and end up laughing at myself.
  • Hostels. I have mixed feelings about them for many reasons, but I honestly wish they were as abundant in America as they are here. AirBNBs can often be found for near the same price as a bed in a hostel, but with the added benefit of a private room. You don’t however really meet other travelers that way, and free breakfast or activities isn’t not really a thing. I like to flip back and forth between the two depending on how burnt out I am on sharing a room with other people, and also based on availability and price. I tend to spend less money in a BNB because I am not drinking with people I just met or going out as much, but I tend to not see as much either. When I need down days to just relax, I find BNBs to be an amazing alternative.
  • Before I get into this topic, I want to preface it by saying that I feel streaming TV and movies is completely a lifestyle; hence why it is under this section! If you want to stream from Netflix, Hulu, xfinity, etc., I would highly recommend getting a VPN service to ensure you can access all the things you want. You can connect to a U.S. server, and get everything that is offered by those networks to Americans. You can alternatively connect to a European country’s network and do the same. It also protects your information when you are using shared WiFi networks which important, unless you don’t care about getting your identity stolen while traveling.

Transportation

  • I really hope the U.S. public transportation system can get up to par with Europe one day. You can get pretty much anywhere by bus, train, metro or even planes here. The systems are pretty easy to use and affordable, something that I will miss a great deal when I return to the states.
  • Customs is different for each country, the person checking your information, and how you are traveling. When flying, the major cities tend to scrutinize a bit more than smaller cities. When I flew into a small city in France, the attendant barely glanced at my passport and didn’t say a word. When I flew into London I was interrogated for almost twenty minutes before being let through. If you are traveling between countries by train, they are very relaxed as long as you have all your documentation. I think it also depends on how you carry yourself and the mood of the person you are dealing with. If you seem suspicious, they get suspicious. If you seem impatient, they get frustrated. Just keep cool and know your plans. Be confident but appreciative.
  • Something specifically to note about trains is that the gates are usually not announced until about twenty minutes before the train is due to board. However if you don’t already have a ticket or reservation, it is good to arrive about an hour early (I usually show up two hours early because free WiFi and I don’t mind waiting) just in case you have to wait in line to buy a ticket.
  • The point above is especially important for EuRail pass holders. I have one, and for the amount of traveling I am doing it is well worth it (a different city every 2-3 days for three months), but you have to really plan out your destinations and schedules, be ready to make changes to your plans, and arrive early. If I can, I try to book trains that require a reservation the day I get to a city. For example, if I arrive somewhere on Tuesday and will need a reserved train on Friday to get to the next city, I go directly to the ticket counter an sort it out then instead of waiting until the day I am supposed to travel. Doing this gives me so much peace of mind because I know my seat is guaranteed.
  • There are strikes happening all the time. They can obstruct your path and drastically change your travel plans. Look for notices of strikes everywhere you can. They can be pedestrian strikes that block bus routes, or they can be strikes held by the actual people of the transportation system, stopping operations. Either way, this needs to be planned around and constantly acknowledged, which is really the point of the strikes in the first place.

I commend you for reading this far if you have! I am sitting in the train station audibly clapping for you and people are staring. Something only you have the privilege of knowing because you my friend, are a dedicated reader. I write this blog because I want to remember and share my experiences with others.

Europe is an amazing place, and backpacking has been well worth the hard work for so so many reasons. I can’t wait to continue this journey, and it honestly feels like I am already running out of time. If you have the drive at all to see other places, DO IT! It is not for everyone, but if a little voice is calling to you to travel, don’t shut it out. Set goal and make it happen or yourself. Even if it is not everything you expect it would be, you will always remember that little voice you didn’t listen to.

This entry was written in Nice, France. Till next time, au revoir!

Work It

It’s been nearly a month since I started my backpacking journey, and I can say with complete certainty that some days are much easier than others. I’m currently making my way through Spain, which funny enough will probably be the most difficult country I’ll travel in while touring Europe. Not only because it’s one of the first countries I’ve backpacked through, alone, where the common language is not English, but also because I am learning how to get around using only public transportation; something that is seriously lacking where I’m from in South Florida. My last couple weeks in Spain have also made me realize that I think we all have our ideal concept of what traveling will be like, but the reality comes with a lot of the same frustrations as sedentary life.

When I imagine myself roaming country to country, I envision the joy of arriving in new places, the wonder of visiting world heritage sights, the freshness of experiencing new people and the adventure of trying delicious local cuisine. I don’t necessarily imagine walking the same street 4 times looking for a laundry mat or ATM, eating crappy food because it’s cheap, or not being able to sleep for a number of defeating reasons.

It’s in these moments where I feel my weakest that I find strength and push on because, well, I have to. I am challenged at least once a day to overcome a language barrier, inaccurate directions, a change in plans, or some other plan-altering experience. I don’t have the comfort of always being comfortable. I don’t have the security to retreat into myself and shut out the world around me whenever I want. I have to press on, I have to rely on those around me, I have to get over it, and I have to work it.

What I mean by work it is to always play it cool. No matter where I am or what situation I’m in, I always try to play it off like I’m calm, I’m strong and I’m in control, even if I feel mortified or just plain defeated. I may be lost, GPS isn’t working and it’s getting dark, but the quickest way for things to get worse is to start panicking, stare at my phone instead of paying attention to my surroundings, or squinting at every street sign like it’s going to magically sprout an arrow pointing me in the right direction. Body language is the quickest way to make yourself a target. If you look scared, all of a sudden things can get a lot more scary.

For anyone worrying about me being in terrifying situations that I’ve had to figure my way out of, please don’t because I really haven’t. Most people are generally nice and helpful, and pretty much everyone knows enough words in each language to communicate in almost all situations. I honestly have the most trouble at grocery stores because not a lot of tourists seem to shop for their food and the tellers speak extremely fast! Overall, I really haven’t been scared of anything except missing out on something awesome.

I do however make sure that I’m not putting myself in situations where the odds of being targeted are higher. I mainly go out during the day, or I at least try to get back to my BNB/hostel by 11:30pm if the area seems nice enough. If I was traveling with someone else I might be a little more flexible with my self-made curfew, but since I’m currently flying solo I find it best to stick to the daytime scene. If I get familiar enough with an area and it seems lively after dark, I’ll go out for an evening stroll to have a single beer and see how the city lights come to life. Much to my surprise, I have no interest in going out to clubs or bars if there isn’t someone by my side to share it with. I’d rather relax and write, draw or watch Netflix so I can get up early and seize the next day.

Having so much alone time has also allowed me to hear my thoughts and intuition with so much more clarity. I know when something feels off immediately, and I follow that intuition no matter what. I figure it’s never worth finding out if my intuition was right and getting stuck in a bad situation that I could have avoided. When I got on the wrong train last week, I had the feeling that I was making a mistake, but I got on it anyway because it was leaving and I had to make a split second decision. It was also 9:30am and my intuition told me two things: this is either the right train, or I’ll almost surly be able to figure out the way to my next destination with a lot of daylight to spare. Turns out it was the wrong train, but my intuition about the situation was 100% accurate. I made it to my destination within an hour of when I originally expected to, and I had a little side adventure to a village I would have never seen had it not gone down that way.

To some people, getting on the wrong train, losing an hour in transit, getting turned around, or just having to change plans can ruin an entire day. To those people I say, no matter what the situation is you can always try to make the best of it, and this doesn’t just apply to traveling. Sometimes we expect way too much out of our day and it leaves us feeling defeated. Sometimes we want to accomplish so much and miss out on all the awesome little moments in between that we take for granted. If we look at each day as an opportunity to work it by trusting our intuition, taking what the world gives us with open arms and reining in our baser emotions, every moment that we move through the craziness of life unscathed is an accomplishment. It is in those moments that we become the calm, strong and controlled people we are working to be. The “work it” method is doing its magic for me so far, and it’s what keeps me going when the going gets tough.

In Spain they have their own way of expressing this method, “Al mal tiempo, buena cara”. Stay positive, even when faced with bad situations.

Tell It

So, I’ve finally begun my long awaited journey! It’s been exactly 20 days since I left my home, family and friends in South Florida with a one way ticket to London, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

I’ve touched the Druidic stones of Avebury, marveled at the Roman architecture of Bath, kissed the Blarney Stone in Cork, hiked the Cliffs of Moher and Giant’s Causeway, walked the city streets of Belfast, Edinburgh and Stirling, took a trip back in time at the Beatles museum in Liverpool, and saw pretty much every sight you could possibly hope to see in the heart of London. My soul is absolutely teeming with gratitude for everything I’ve experienced so far, and that is really just the tip of the iceberg in my grand European tour.

As I patiently wait for the gate of my budget flight (London – Spain) to be announced, thoughts of all these wonderful places I’ve seen are ringing their joyous songs in my head. I am often brought back however, to the very first person and AirBnb host I encountered in my travels. For sake of this post, I will refer to him as, Rick.

Good old Rick, a very nice man in his 70s, graciously opened his home to a friend (Ian) and I in the very small and quiet town of Dilton Marsh. How small is this town you might be wondering? To put it into perspective, when we arrived by taxi, the streets had no names that we could see, and the houses had no numbers. As we stood outside in the cold, hoping for the slightest bit of service on our cell phones to make a call, there was not another living soul in sight. No shops, no gas stations, no businesses of any kind that we could make out. Thankfully we were able to reach Rick, and as we waited for him on the side of the road, a very nice neighbor came out to ask if we needed help. If our phones hadn’t worked we definitely would have, but I was still thankful for her kind and welcoming presence since I was starting to feel like Ian and I were walking into the plot of a Stephen King novel.

A few moments later, we saw the silhouette of a man hobbling down the sidewalk. As he came into the light we knew it was our host Rick. He apologized for his limp and explained that he had terrible sciatica. Ian and I were immediately swarmed with guilt that he had to grunt his way down the road to find the two lost Americans. It didn’t seem to bother him though, I could tell almost immediately that he had a charming persistence about him.

As we walked just a few houses up, he pointed out a large and beautiful house to our left, explaining that it was his family’s home in which he grew up. He also pointed out that the woman who came out to check on us was related to him in one way or another, his niece possibly. The more he talked about the town, the more we understood how far his roots went within it.

We were shown to our rooms which were exactly as expected. The house smelled of freshly cooked meats and vegetables, and it occurred to me that Ian and I hadn’t eaten much of anything that day. It was pretty late though, and with no grocery stores around I expected that I would just need to deal with the pangs of hunger until tomorrow. Rick wouldn’t have that, he had prepared a wonderful stew just for our arrival, and I got the sense that even if we weren’t hungry, we were to eat.

As he prepared our plates, he fixed us both a cup of tea and we started to chat about our careers and what we were planning to see in England. Rick shared some great stories of his days doing voiceover work, making many popular British jingles, and working with the BBC. He had the honor of interviewing a handful of amazing people, most of which I wouldn’t have know if Ian hadn’t been there to bridge the age gap between us. Either way his stories were fascinating and Ian and I could tell this man was truly something else.

Briefly in passing, he would mention his partner. In these mentions, it always came across as if he was speaking in the past tense, so we assumed his partner had passed away and didn’t press with questions, unsure if it was a touchy subject. Whatever information Rick wanted to give up, we would graciously take in.

Since it was only about 9pm, Rick asked if we would like to talk a walk down to the local pub. I was shocked there even was a pub! Excited at the thought of doing anything in this little town, I was completely up for it. We got ready, and Rick seemed to have endless stories to keep us entertained.

At some point between deciding to go to the bar and actually leaving, he must have gotten comfortable enough around us to explain that his partner of ten years had passed away from cancer, and that he hasn’t been with anyone since and misses Tim (name changed) very much. Things all started to make sense once he told us this. He was so welcoming, so gracious, and yes I’ll admit, a little flamboyant. What made sense though was hosting his home on AirBNB. We figured he was looking for companionship more than anything else since it didn’t seem like he was in any need of money. He genuinely enjoys the company, and I think he especially took a liking to us just as much as we did to him.

Anyway, off to the pub we were! I might have been a little too excited since I had about six pints and way more laughs than expected. His two friends, also partners, came to meet us. They were younger, mid-thirties maybe, and you could tell they cared for Rick whenever necessary. He referred to them as his near and dearest friends, and they were both really wonderful people and drinking buddies for the evening. Rick must have also been excited because I’ve never seen someone drink that many gin and tonics in my entire life! You could tell he was in pain though, physically and maybe a bit mentally.

After hours of wonderful conversation, it was time to start heading back. Ian and I planned to pay the bill since he had been such a joy to be around, but before we knew it he had already paid for us. The cost of that bill was more than we paid for the BNB, we were shocked! We insisted he let us pay him back, but he insisted right back that we would not. Now Rick had trouble walking to the pub due to his sciatica, but add about eight drinks to that and he could barely take one step in the right direction back home. We were so thankful that he paid our bill, we practically carried him most of the way.

That is, until he sprung across the road towards the church, not even glancing for cars. Now, like I said this is a reeeeally small town. We saw maybe 4 cars drive down this road the entire time we were there, so I’m sure even in his drunken stupor he wasn’t too worried about getting hit. We thought he was just obliterated when he told us to follow him towards the church. Hesitantly, we did indeed follow him.

Halfway up to the church, I see tombstones sticking out of the foggy church courtyard and I quickly realize where he is taking us; Tim’s grave. My heart swells and I can feel how important it is that we do this with him. I wonder for a moment how many of his guests have been taken here. Any? All? Either way, I was honored to touch the tombstone of his lost lover, his soulmate with whom he hopes to join in the near future. He admitted to us that he wishes he could die and be with him, that every day without him is left in longing.

As sad as it was, I understood his pain. I could see it in his humor and his strength. His stubborn determination to walk to the pub when he could barely walk at all. He had to be strong to not plummet into despair. He watched his lover die slowly, took care of him to the best of his ability as he withered away. Now when he needs it the most, his lover isn’t there to take care of him, but people like Ian and I were. His friends at the pub were, and I honestly think that is what he survives on.

We almost didn’t want to leave Rick the next day. I woke up hoping that he had another guest on the way to keep him company. Much to my surprise Rick was up and about as if nothing had happened, making us a wonderful breakfast to send us off with and telling us more stories of his past. He sent us off with a smile and wished us all the best in our travels. It’s because of this that I keep circling back to him in my mind. Even someone who has lost the thing that meant the most to them was kind, welcoming and warm. Even in their moment of darkness they expected nothing of the world but to be set free when the time came.

As I travel to places I once only dreamed of, I am carrying with me the strength of all the wonderful people I have met and will meet. It is their stories and experiences that are worth traveling for, worth giving up the comfort of a job and home to hear first hand. It is people like Rick who make the long flights, uncomfortable beds, missed trains and sore feet all worth while.

With that being said, my gate has finally been assigned! Time for the next adventure in Spain, adiós.

Say It

10 Things People Say When You’re Planning A Trip To Europe

Now that I’ve told all my friends, family and coworkers that I am taking off on the adventure of a lifetime to backpack across Europe all by my (not so) lonesome, I’ve noticed a pattern in the things people tell me. Here are the top 10.

1. Be Safe

Now of course everyone wants me to be safe, especially because I will mostly be backpacking alone, however, it feels a little weird to me. It is the #1 thing I hear most when I tell people about my plans. Some say it with genuine concern, and others I can tell are putting themselves into the situation and thinking of how unsafe they might feel.

Honestly, I feel like if I can make it in New York and Miami, Europe will be a breeze. I grew up in big cities, have family in small towns, used to ride buses and take planes by myself as a child for visitation with my dad. Traveling alone, in cities big and small, to places I am unfamiliar with…none of this is new to me.

When people tell me “stay safe”, my initial reaction is…WELL DUH!!! If I try to put myself in their shoes though, I understand they are only saying this because they care about me, and the thought of something happening to me is detrimental. But…of course I want to stay safe. Do I want to be taken advantage of, raped, murdered, etc.? No. No one does. I think it is more of a knee-jerk reaction that people have when they hear about someone (a woman especially) who is planning on traveling for an extended period of time, in a foreign country, alone. I get it, but please do not worry. I find it just as likely that something “bad” will happen to me sitting in my desk chair as it will in train station in Belgium. Deep breaths people.

2. Where are you going? 

I get asked this question so much, and I think people just want to hear “London”, “Paris”, “Milan”, “Santorini” because it satisfies some kind of vicarious bucket list fantasy for them, but honestly, I am backpacking. The whole point is to go where the wind takes me. I plan to know where I am going on average 2.5 days ahead of time, or more if there is a solid reason why. Other than that, I am going wherever I want, but I wont know where that is until I find myself wanting it.

3. So, do you have everything booked? 

This goes hand-in-hand with question #2. Nope. Not everything is booked. Flight there is booked. First couple weeks of BNBs are booked. The next 3.5 months after that? Not booked. I don’t want to lock myself into a plan. How can you really get a sense of adventure if you know every step along the way?

The only reason the first couple weeks are even booked is because a friend is going with me and using all of their paid time off to do it, so they want to maximize their time. Even in that two weeks we have a couple wild card days open to do whatever we feel like. That freedom is necessary to me. I am sure it’s a huge red flag for many people and would send them into an anxiety frenzy knowing things aren’t 100% planned out.

Guess what? I am totally one of those peopleIt has taken me months of reading blog after blog, watching video after video, and reading book after book to convince myself that OVER PLANNING IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. I am a project manager by trade, which means my entire job is based on prudent planning. If there is anyone who struggles with the concept of just winging it…..it’s me.

4. Where are you going first?

I don’t have much to say about this question. It is pretty typical and falls to just about 4th down on the list. The answer is, London!

5. Is anyone going with you? 

This answer usually rockets people into bringing up either #1 or #3. Why? Because the answer, contrary to what most people think it will be, is “no”. I do tell them that my friend is going the first couple weeks, but after that its all me, myself and I for 3.5 months.

Somehow a two week “buffer companion” seems to put so many people at ease about this whole thing. As if the trip is completely defined by that first two weeks, and without the good graces of having someone else there to temporarily “guide” me, I would surly be fucked. The funny part about this…the person going with me is completely technologically inept and really doesn’t have street smarts. If anything, I feel like they wouldn’t do this trip unless I was going with them!

I think there is just a general assumption that as long as I don’t start the trip alone, I should be fine. I don’t get it, but this blog post isn’t here to make sense of things, just list them in chronological order.

6. I could never do that

While I agree that there are a lot of people that just wouldn’t enjoy extended travel and the discomforts it comes with,  I think there are also a lot of people who want to travel and think they “just can’t”. I also thought I couldn’t do this, until I decided I could. The biggest thing stopping me from taking this trip was myself. It has been said a million and one times, but if you set your mind to it, you can make it happen.

7. Aren’t you scared/anxious/worried/nervous?

Of course I am. I’m freaked out about so many things all the time, but should I let that hold me back from my dreams of travel? I could, if I wanted to live with regret wondering why I never took the chance to do something awesome while I could.

I think this question sometimes comes from a fear of the unknown, but also a fear of death. I am not afraid to die, and I am not worried how or when it will happen. I could die anywhere at any time, so why not when I am traveling and doing what I love? At least if I died in the process, I wouldn’t regret never getting to go. I know that might sound crazy to some, but the pros seem to outweigh the cons for me in this case.

Stay alert, stay cautious, be friendly, always trust your instincts. Beyond that, nothing else is in my control, so why worry my head over it?

8. Why?

I get a chuckle out of this question. There are some people who literally can not fathom why I would ever want to do such a thing as backpacking, traveling alone, going to Europe, traveling for an extended period of time, etc.. Why I would want to give up my job, house, car, friends? Why I would want to stay in hostels and sleep on trains?

My answer is, I want the adventure. I want the unpredictability of waking up in a new city with new people and new languages. I want to experience different cultures, hear different view points, explore far-off landscapes and indulge in authentic food. I want to immerse myself in a world that isn’t like where I’m from and where I’ve been. It’s not for everyone, but my heart wants what it wants.

9. I’m jealous.

Sounds like you need to take a trip of you’re own! I know not everyone can just take off to another country for an extended period of time, but know that there has been blood, sweat and many many tears in the process of making this decision. I spent months upon months saving, planning and manipulating my life to make this happen. Great things often take great effort, so be jealous, but know that I have changed every aspect of my life to make this dream a reality. If you really want to do something like this, I promise you can! 

10. Take me with you.

I haven’t even left yet, and I can say with absolute certainty that everyone should try to do something like this at least once in their lifetime. Just the process of getting myself ready for this trip has been positively life changing. If I could take anyone with me, it would be my best friend Sabrina. I’ll be thinking about her as I walk through museums, monasteries, graveyards and forests. I will carry the warmth and positivity of everyone I care about with me on my travels, and starting with this blog, my youtube, and my instagram, I will do my best to share all the intricacies of my journey with those who can not be there.

Other people have asked about what I will be bringing with me, so before I head out I will be doing a complete once-over on everything that is in my pack. Subscribe to my YouTube and Facebook page to get the latest updates!

Sincerely,

The Wandering Moth