Hello fellow travelers! I’m not traveling myself, but my good friend Sherry (who I have mentioned a million times), was just on a short 3 week trip to Europe. She wrote this beautiful post about the kindness of strangers that … Continue reading
I can hardly believe it’s already been that long! Looking back, the time has flown by! I’ve already visited 4 countries, swam in ocean’s, taken my first over-night train and washed my intimates in a hotel sink.
Five weeks of traveling.
Five weeks worth of new friends.
Five weeks of adjusting to the nomadic life.
So, for those wishing to travel, you may be wondering: is it really as awesome as people say it is? Or, do I secretly hate every moment and just glorify it on my blog because that’s what everyone expects?
Truth: it really is that awesome!
But, to be fair, there are certain things about ‘home’ that I miss. So, for the sake of humor, and also to give you some insight on the realities of traveling, I’ve compiled a list of the things I miss about ‘home’:
1. Grocery shopping.
Pardon moi? Yeah, you’re reading that correctly, I really miss grocery shopping! Okay, if you’ve been reading my blog at all, you have probably noticed that I love food! Grocery shopping is always an adventure! But, here in Europe it’s very different. For instance, here in Spain everything is in, you guessed it, Spanish! Sometimes when I buy something I just assume that it’s edible! Also, I am a creature of habit. I miss my grocery store; you know, the one where you could probably shop with your eyes closed! Yes, grocery shopping at home has to be on this list.
2. Laundry. I think this is fairly self-explanatory. Doing laundry at home is always better!
3. Showering. I am tired of sharing a shower with 10+ other people that sometimes is broken/too hot/too cold/or disgusting because the person before apparently was covered in mud.
4. The local cafe. I miss going to my usual cafe! I knew what I liked and I recognized the people. Yepp, I miss it!
5. Lazy days. Okay, admittedly I have had quite a few lazy days during my travels. For the first 3 weeks I was constantly on the go, and it caught up with me in the form of the sniffles. Now, I take time to rest in between destinations. But, I still feel a bit guilty. I’m in Europe! I should be out exploring, eating tapas and drinking on a terrace with interesting people all of the time! Lazy days abroad just don’t have the same feeling as back home.
6. Food. Sure, eating another culture’s food is part of the experience. And, to be fair, I love to try new things! But, being a vegetarian it can sometimes be difficult. I miss food! The familiar food that I can only find back home: Veganaise, Daiya, tofu-salad, dill-pickles (a certain kind), among other things.
8. Regularity. In everything. While traveling, we expect the unexpected! We revel in the moments of uncertainty. We embrace eating dinner at 10:30 pm like the locals. Yeah, as travelers, we love that our lives have no structure. But, the home-body within me is bidding her time until she can go back to her coffee & smoothie breakfast mornings and soy-chai-latte evenings.
9. Privacy. Want to lie down and have a quiet afternoon? Good-luck! Want to use the bathroom…in peace? Forget it! I still have a hard time giving up all of my privacy, but who knows, maybe in 5 more weeks I’ll be peeing with the door open (doubt it)!
10. My people. Friends, family, Starbucks lady and homeless man at the corner of my block:
I miss you all! Sure, I write about how super-awesome my life is and brag about some awesome Aussie I met while getting lost in a foreign city, but, at the end of the day, traveling has made me realize how important you all are.
11. Street signs! And no, Europe, small plaques on the side of buildings do not count! Sometimes the streets don’t have any signs (that I can see) and this makes navigating city streets (*Seville*) very difficult!
So there you have it. A list of 11 things I miss about ‘home’. But, stay tuned, and I’ll compile a list of 11 things I will miss about traveling; and the list could be bigger!
Preparing to travel? What are you most nervous about? Traveled in the past? What did/do you miss about home?
It’s been 3 weeks since I started my journey in Europe.
Three weeks since I got on a plane to Dublin.
Three weeks since I said goodbye to everyone and everything I knew.
Three weeks since I started my bravest adventure to date.
When I told people I was traveling to Europe for three months, the first question was always ‘with who?’
‘No one,’ I would say and immediately their eyes would widen and they would say ‘you’re brave!’
Sure, I have spent a fair amount of time alone in a foreign country. Sometimes I have to stay in a hotel so meeting people is close to impossible, and no, I’m not brave in those moments. In those moments I am a pathetic, sobbing mess who calls her mom.
But, the majority of my trip I haven’t been alone. As all travelers will tell you: you will make friends!
I’ll admit, thanks to some awesome grandfatherly advice, I’ve always been pretty good at making friends. And no, it’s not because I have some really cool attribute; it’s quite the opposite actually: I am awkward and love to tell my most embarrassing moments to people as a way to break the ice.
But, not everyone is ‘brave’ enough to approach a stranger and propose friendship. And, to be fair, sometimes you just don’t know how to say ‘can we be friends’ without sounding like a crazy person.
But, after awkwardly approaching a group of women on the terrace a couple nights ago and saying ‘oh hey, can I sit here?’ and sitting with them without waiting for a response, I realized that everyone secretly wants to talk to each other while traveling.
So, I did some ‘research’ and talked with my new friends about how they have made travel companions in the past.
How to make friends while abroad
1. Say hello. It really is that simple. Of course, don’t say hello to someone as they’re about to use the toilet; pick the proper moment. The common area in a hostel is ideal, or if you happen to be in the room at the same time, a polite smile and hello can go a long way. It’s not a guarantee, but using the simple hello method at a hostel has worked for me 95% of the time, thwarted only because of a language barrier.
2. Go on a free walking tour. They have these in the majority of major European cities now. It’s perfect because the crowd is generally young (18-26) and they usually offer tickets to a pub crawl that night. I’m not saying that you have to drink to make friends, but bonding while drinking a pint is always easy. You already have something in common: booze!
3. Stalking. Okay, wait, I don’t mean follow someone around while dressed in a black-trench-coat. No, this trick I learned from a frequent traveler (one who I will not name), and her story seemed to resonate with everyone. It goes like this: you’ve arrived at a hostel, are feeling lonely, and 4 hours have passed since you’ve interacted with anyone. You’ve missed the free tour for the day, and the girl you approached in the kitchen didn’t speak a word of English. Damn. You’re lying in your bed, feeling pretty defeated, and thinking of what type of fun you can have alone on a Friday night in Madrid. Then, you hear it. It’s barely audible, but your ears are sure: it’s English. ‘Hey, where can I buy some beer to drink on the terrace?’. This is your moment. You can either remain lying on your uncomfortable bunk-bed or run out there and say hello. But wait, you can’t just sprint out to the reception and blurt hello. No, you’re a normal person who follows acceptable social norms. Okay, solution: walk out to the reception (casually) and ask the reception ‘hey, I was wondering where I may be able to find some beer?’. Now, assuming the English guy standing next to you also follows basic social-norms he should invite you along.
‘We’re looking for the same thing’ he says with a smile. Damn, no invite. Okay, be brave: ‘no way! Is it cool if I tag along with you to grab some?’
Bam! This guy thinks it’s all his idea to have you tag along with him and his hot Australian buddies, but you can give yourself an internal high-five for manipulating the situation to your advantage!
And yes, this is a true story.
4. When all else fails, just remind yourself that you’re in Europe. Spending a night alone isn’t a great option every night, but heading to a cafe or a pub solo and grabbing a drink in Europe is a cool story, with or without people. You will remember it fondly and say to people: ‘this one night, while alone in Europe…’ and no matter what you did, it already sounds awesome.
The best part about friends abroad is learning about their culture, a few words in their native language and you may increase the amount of Facebook friends you have. And, if you really hit-it-off you may get yourself an invite to their home. So, even after your adventure you have the opportunity to visit France, Portugal, Brazil, Italy, Spain, the UK and maybe Australia. You may even host someone yourself.
So, what are you waiting for!? Go say hello!
Oh hey there!
I am so sorry I’ve been MIA! I only have my phone as a way to write my posts and post my photos…and sometimes the Internet isn’t very reliable!
Wow…I don’t even know where to begin! Instead of starting from the beginning, I’ll write about my night in Paris, since it’s still fresh in my mind.
I travelled to the Eiffel Tower solo my first full-day in Paris. It’s big. Really big.
And it’s crowded. Very crowded. I have a hard time appreciating a place when it’s crawling with people. But, amazing none the less.
Then I got lost. Well, not literally. I knew what tram station my hostel was at so if I really did get lost I could just go to any tram station (they’re everywhere) and head back.
I stumbled on an outdoor market on Rue Cler. There was fresh produce, fresh croissants, buskers, cafes over-flowing with people and tents with antiques and furniture and random trinkets.
It was an awesome discovery! I wanted to go to Luxembourg park, but somehow I kept getting turned around and ended up walking in the wrong direction, north instead of south, and ended up on the Seine!
There was a fence with ‘Locks of Love’ (I don’t know what it’s actually called), but it was the perfect photo opportunity, and I’m certain I’ve seen photos of it before. Then I walked across to The Islands and explored the boardwalks along the Seine.
I had been walking for 3 or so hours by this point, and as if someone heard my prayer I stumbled on Luxembourg!
It was so gorgeous! There were people sitting on chairs all around the gardens, and I did the same. I had my book with me so I put my feet up and read in the sun for an hour. Ah, now it feels like a vacation!
Around 5 I headed back to my hostel (20 minute walk), and then I met my roomies: 2 very friendly Brazilian women! Immediately they invited me out with their friends and that’s what this post is really about.
When you go to Paris (because you will go), don’t waste your money in a crowded cafe. Around 7 head to the Eiffel tower with friends and bring fresh baguettes, French artisan cheeses, a few bottles of wine (don’t forget the cork-screw!) and sit on the grass and just enjoy the tower at night. They also do a 5 minute light-show at 9pm! There were tons of people doing the same thing as us, and it was exactly how I imagined Paris would be. And, since wine only costs 4 euro a bottle (a good bottle, you can get a bottle for as low as 2 euro!), and cheese and bread are also inexpensive, you get an authentic Paris experience without spending crazy amounts of money!
I promise I’ll write more posts about Ireland (Guinness and skinny-dipping) and Morlaix, France once I’m settled in Madrid! Next stop: Madrid! I met a friend, Pablo, while I was in Dublin so he is going to take me around Madrid while I’m there for a week 🙂
So I spent the better part of the past two-days either packing or visiting. Packing isn’t difficult, it’s just draining.
When I looked down at the pile of clothes I made, it just didn’t seem like enough. I found myself thinking “Hm, well I guess I could pack one more shirt just in case…” but then the traveller inside me would scream “DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!”.
I’ve never really been known as a light packer. Don’t get me wrong, after all the cross-country moves I’ve done I’ve gotten better, but this was a challenge. I used to pack a 50 pound bag for a one-week trip to see my Dad. He would always look at me like I was crazy, and he was right: I barely touched more than half the things in my suit case.
Anyways, I’m just estimating, but I am 95% certain the bag weighs less than 25 pounds. Is that good in “backpacker-travel” standards? I don’t really know–but I can pick my bag up with one arm no-problem, so I think that’s a good sign!
What I Packed
- 4 tank tops (1 “dressier”)
- 3 T-shirts (long and short-sleeved)
- 1 pair shorts
- 1 summer-dress
- 2 Merino Wool sweaters
- 2 pairs of jeans (1 light, 1 dark)
- 1 zip-away type pants
- 1 pair of lu lu lemons (guilty pleasure)
- 1 jacket
- 1 hoodie
- 1 “nice” sweater
- 2 bras
- underwear/socks (obviously!)
- PJs (shorts and a long t-shirt)
- 1 bathing suit
- DRY conditioner/shampoo (Lush Cosmetics)
- Small bottle Body-wash
- 1 bottle spray leave-in-conditioner (I NEED IT!)
- bandaids/polysporine (I’m really clumsy)
- Hair elastics/bobby-pins
- baby-wipes (in a baggy–great for washing your face)
- Vanilla spray (I have to smell good if I’m going to make friends)
- Q-tips (a few in a baggy)
- Fluff-book (Thanks Heather for the Harlequin Romance)
- iPod/iPhone and ear-phones (and charger)
- Flip-flops (for the showers)
- Pillow-case (recommended by Heather-It’s always a comfort knowing what your head is laying on)
- Sandals (small, cheap ones, for going out)
- Walking shoes (wearing on the plane)
- Camera and charger
- Bounce dryer sheets (make my smelly-stuff smell good)
- Plastic bags (put away dirty-laundry/anything wet)
- Sandwich bags (so many uses)
- 1 water-bottle (the deflatable kind)
The obvious essentials:
- photo-copies of my documents (a couple hidden in my carry-on and my bag as well as one I left at home)
- Eurail Pass
- Confirmation numbers
- Address for my hostel
I’m pretty sure that’s it. The list may seem long, but once it’s all compacted in your bag, it’s not. I put a lot of my things in small plastic-bags (sandwich bags) and then put them all in one large zip-loc bag so it’s easy to dig out every night at the hostel.
Of the above items I packed the following in my carry-on:
- 1 pair of underwear
- The obvious essentials
- 1 pair of socks
- 1 flannel blanket (not in my list of things, only because it was given to me by a very friendly west-jet employee my last flight home, so I plan on only keeping it for the flight).
- My book
And there you have it! I think it’s a fairly good list of things, and if I arrive and go “Sh*t, I should have packed _____” or “Fack, I wish I didn’t even bother packing _____”, I’ll let you know!
P.S. I AM SO EXCITED!
The countdown is on! Only ten days until I start my 3-month journey.
I’m not a procrastinator, but I waited longer than I should have to purchase my Eurorail Pass.
Why? Because it’s not as easy as the online-world makes it sound! Seriously, what is simple about picking a pass? Okay, I admit, if I had an itinerary in mind, I’m sure buying a pass would be simple. BUT, I am going with NO plan.
I’ve been on a few sites, including Rick Steves, for advice, but couldn’t really decide on the best course of action.
So, I headed onto the Eurail site and started comparing prices. Are you ready?
(Note: These are youth prices).
Eurail Global Pass: 10 days in 2 months – $548
Eurail Select Pass: 8 days in 2 months (3 countries) – $384
Eurail Regional Pass: 8 days in 2 months (France-Spain) – $364
Eurail One Country Pass: 8 days in 2 months (Spain) – $384
Alright. Do you see what I see? Let me break it down for you.
Why not the Global Pass?
I am going to be in Europe for a total of 3 months. A 3-month unlimited pass (not shows) is over $1000! No thank-you! I only plan on visiting 4-5 countries max, and the countries I am going to be in aren’t connected as well as Eastern Europe. Sure, if I were going to be in Eastern Europe, a global pass may have made sense. But, Ireland I plan on traveling via bus or one-way train tickets. France I only plan on traveling through, and maybe stopping for a night or two. Portugal is also a country not that well-connected via the rail network. Global pass (for me) is out!
One Country Pass – I think not!
I think this is fairly self-explanatory: why would I pay the same for a one-country pass (same amount of days) as I would for a regional?!
Regional vs Select Pass
I wasn’t sure if I was going to travel in France. I may decide to fly instead from London to Spain (<$40), but I don’t know. But I figured for an extra $20 I’ll have peace-of-mind. That’s the same for portugal: I’ve tried looking online for tips on getting around this small country, but haven’t really stumbled on much. A friend of mine who visits there frequently told me that the bus system is the best option. But, if I decide to train into Lisbon for a few nights, nothing is stopping me. Also, what if I decide to do the Mediterranean tour in France and over to Italy? The options!
Cost: $401 (including shipping and insurance) for the regional pass.
I chose France, Spain and Portugal.
How did you decide on the amount of days?
This was a tough decision. Do I choose 7 days in 2 months or 10 days? I opted for 8 because I figure I will be spending a lot of time in certain areas. I love to stay in one place for an “extended” period of time (more than 3 days) to really soak in the culture. Honestly, it was a total guess as to how many days I might need. I’ll be kicking myself if I realize I need more.
So, for those of you looking into buying a Eurail Pass, I’m not going to lie and tell you it’s easy. It’s not! Even if you have an itinerary, spending a lump-sum like this is never easy to do, and what happens if your plans change? Do yourself a favour, and RESEARCH. I wish I would have seriously looked into this a lot sooner.
I had a day off this week and decided that it was time to be productive. A while ago I wrote down a list of questions I had regarding insurance, car rentals and coverage along with all the phone numbers so that all I had to do was find a few minutes of free time and dial.
But of course, I am the queen of procrastination.
So, during my day off I left my house (and my computer) and headed to a local coffee shop and got to work.
First I phoned TD Insurance. I wanted to know how much it would cost for me to purchase medical insurance through them.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about managing money. I went to see a Financial Adviser at TD and he helped me put away money into my savings (TFSA) as well as gave me a crash course on the importance of RRSP and credit.
Now, because I had already saved over $5000 by this point, I was eligible for the TD Infinite Travel Visa. What does this mean?
Well, let me preface this by saying that no matter what credit card you have (and yes, you NEED one), you should call them and ask questions about coverage.
When I called them this is that they told me:
(at no extra cost, these are just the perks of having a card)
- I have up to $1000 in trip cancellation insurance
- Up to $5000 in trip disruption/lost baggage insurance
- Up to $2 million in medical insurance for 15 days of my trip
- Automatic collision/loss/damage insurance on any car rental I pay for with my Visa
Crazy right? So, after finding all of this out (5 minutes on the phone well spent), I decided to purchase my medical insurance with TD as well. The cost? $201! Not bad! That’s $2 million in medical insurance coverage for the entire duration of my trip.
Next I called Budget Car Rental. I know that while in Ireland, and possibly while in Spain/Portugal, I’ll want to rent a vehicle for part of my trip. I read that in some countries it is mandatory to purchase insurance with your rental, so I wanted to find out if my Visa coverage would be enough in such a case.
I’m covered with Visa! I won’t need to pay any extra for that type of insurance, anywhere! Phew! I love saving money!
Don’t forget too, whenever I purchase anything with my card I earn points which I can then use to pay for part of my trip. It’s a win-win for me!
So, my advice is do your research! Find out all the benefits you have through your credit card company, your bank and any other company you may belong to. If you’re still a student you must get an ISIC card as it will save you loads of cash! Are you an AMA or CAA member? They have tons of perks too! Call them, find out what they can offer you! It will save you money and give you piece of mind.
To finish this otherwise serious post, I though I would share a few pictures with you from my time spent at Block 1912.
Do you see my friend?
I used this photo in this week’s Photo Challenge.
I really wanted to pet him. Yes, I know that’s weird, but he just looked so lonely all by himself. Perhaps he just wanted some company? Well, anyways, I was on the phone with Kim and she told me that I can’t pet a bee because chances were I would get stung. Wouldn’t that be a hilarious story?
“How did you get stung on your finger?”
“I was trying to pet a bee.”
“Yeah, maybe I should’ve come up with a better story”
I was inspired by this quote found on Pinterest. I made it my own.