Monday, 19 November 2012

Planning Europe: The Why and the How

Posted by Brett

Ali has been bitching at me that its time to post something on here, which is probably true, so here we go.

I've combined her first two entries on South America into one on Europe for one simple reason:  I didn't put nearly as much forethought into my adventure as she did.  Especially when talking about The Why:

Why did I go backpacking through Europe??  Well that answer is simple, I was laid off from my job, unemployed, and uncertain of what to do next, soooo why not disappear for a bit while I try to figure it out?!?  (I didn't.)

I know, kinda cliche to go backpacking to Europe to "discover" ones self, but why the hell not, I had no job no direction and a little bit of money.

So next up, is the How part...

First up, when do I go?

I think its fairly well known that almost any time of the year is a decent time to go backpacking through Europe, though I'm sure summer would be most preferable. For me, it was right #$#@ing now! Which at the time was the spring. Or so I had planned. Little did I know my appendix had a different idea.  Two days before take off I felt a small, constant pain in my left side, nothing too extreme but since, you know, I was planning on leaving the country in a couple days I figured I should probably get that checked out.  Nine hours later I'm laying in a hospital bed with three fresh holes in my side/belly and minus one appendix.

So, that set the travels back a bit, seeing as well, one, its not exactly advised to go on a nine hour flight to England two days after getting an organ removed from your body, and two, because I was no longer eligible for travelers insurance for the next three months.  Something I'd advise you to make sure you have when planning an extended stay abroad.  Well even a short stay abroad, but especially if you're going to be gone for multiple months.

So now when do I go?  How about 3 months and 1 day post surgery? Yup that sounds about right.  Which ended up being the beginning of June, til the beginning of September.  Perfect!  I ended up travelling during the most desired months after all.  Thanks appendix!!!

How long do I go for, and how much will it cost?
Deciding how long you want to go backpacking for is a tough decision, and is usually based on financial concerns more than anything. Its also good to take into count how long you're willing to be apart from love ones and a normal life, as jumping from hostel to hostel city to city is far from normal for the average person.  I had a roommate who is a very experienced backpacker and who told me that for a good first trip shoot for around 3 months.  So that's what I set my sights on, and after doing some research into the cost of a trip of that duration I discovered it would be possible.  After a ton of research I came to the conclusion that it should cost you anywhere from 2 to 3 grand a month depending on how strict you are with your money, and how much beer you drink.  I budgeted for the higher price range, because I planned on drinking a lot of beer.

What Countries Do I Visit.
For me the first choice was simple.  England.  Why? Simple answer. I wanted to have my first experience travelling alone to take place somewhere where I would be able to understand the people around me, and they would be able to understand me. Which, if you're planning an extended trip alone for the first time, is something I highly recommend, so you can really figure out what backpacking is all about before you start dealing with language barriers (though that isn't a huge issue in most of Europe).   Also because I found dirt cheap flights to England online.  248 dollars to be exact. Seriously, if you're Canadian, check out (or if you're British heading the other way). The next country I knew I wanted to visit was Germany, because I have German heritage, I'm quite interested in the history of the two World War,s and because, I as mentioned earlier, I love beer. It seemed like the perfect place to go.  The rest of the trip was filled in with random countries between which I could travel via train.  Looking at a map, I picked France, Belgium, and the Netherlands (more would be added to this list as I went along).

Unlike my co-poster, I didn't go too crazy over-planning each and every move along the way, though I did spend many a night in recovery, staring at my Lonely Planet book.  I did however buy tickets to a music festival in France before takeoff: Eurockeennes in Belfort, France (cool festival, we'll get more into that later).  That was about the only plan or time restraint I had set out before taking off (which actually did make customs a little easier). Other than that, I was just ready to get away!  And June 10th came and I was finally off to the birthplace of the Gallagher brothers, Manchester, England!  (Guess what my next post is going to be about.)

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