“I would definitely live out of a backpack, if it meant I could see the world.”
🎒 Backpacking was definitely one of my best traveling experiences. Even if it wasn’t an easy one, I learned so much throughout the whole process.
Starting out with not-so-simple steps as planning and booking all of our transportation, I found out it is not as easy as people would think. It gets even more complicated when you travel in a group. I traveled with 3 other people so since the beginning we had to agree on dates, countries, cities, and towns we would visit, which was nearly impossible. Everyone wanted to visit a certain specific place, so we had to do our best to design a plan in which everyone got to visit their dream countries, as well as the typical and most famous tourist attractions in a 25 day-span. Not to mention also getting in touch with our European friends and try to accomplish a plan in which we could visit their home cities and get them to accept to host 4 semi-strangers in their house.
When you manage to get this figured out you still have to pack and prepare for it. Find the right backpack, pack enough but not too much, fitting everything inside your bag, prepare for all types of weather and still consider some extra space for souvenirs is definitely not easy when you know you will have to carry everything you need literally on your back.
Even as it is difficult, I found this process exciting, not the planning part, but the packing one. Deciding which clothes to take, which shoes will make you more comfortable, what shirts you want to remain forever in your pictures and which ones are the easiest ones to coordinate with all your shorts/jeans/leggings, as well as preparing for any random situations gets you all shaky and excited for the unknown in the good way. I love the idea of traveling only with what you can carry, because this way you realize how much you can live without. You start in a simpler way, a free and carefree way. Also, afterwards, you realize you will not travel to the end of the world, so pretty much anything you forget, you can buy it wherever you are going.
Throughout our trip I learned how much all our planning was helpful to keep us from being stranded in only one country. Of course not everything went as planned. We ended up in random towns, and either extending or shortening our stays in different cities because of fully booked trains and hostels. Even so, we were lucky enough to visit Europe before the actual summer vacation days started, so even if a lot of our planned trains were already full, we managed to find similar ones and still get to the places we wanted, even if not in the actual hour or date planned. Traveling by the cheapest way we could find was crazy; we slept at train stations in the freezing cold, spent 16 hours in a boat without a seat, shared an all night-train cabin with two ladies and a crying baby in the hottest night of our lives, showered in bathrooms at stations or not showered at all for days at a time… Kebabs and Milka became my go to diet plan, which I don’t regret for a single moment, even if it cost me some extra kilos and hours at the gym on my way back. McDonalds turned into our second home, the free WIFI and cheap meals beat the hatred you may have for globalized food chains; it certainly did for me and my friends never had a problem with their euro burgers (plus they sell the cheapest and best macaroons in France).
Also, being the young and cool but also smart and cultivated people we decided we were, we took it as our mission to manage to visit all the cultural, important places, as well as the best recommended clubs, and pub-crawls, or even any pubs or clubs that we could find. We spent a whole night in the freezing streets of Amsterdam, pub-crawling because we couldn’t find a hostel to stay in, visited the biggest club in Prague and managing to walk back to our hostel in the middle of the night, even after one of my friends got lost in the way, tried the best pizza of our lives in one of the most expensive organized pub crawls in Rome, experienced the night beach life in Barcelona and found a club out of the blue, far far away of the city by taking a random bus filled with other crazy students in Florence; all of this at the same time as we were waking up at 9:00am in the morning to manage to have enough time to visit all the necessary museums, landmarks, castles, buildings, parks and statues we were told we just had to visit. Looking back I don’t even know how we managed to get it done, it was insane, but oh-so perfect.
After this trip the people I travelled with, we were family; we laughed, we cried, we fought, we fell apart and got together again, we drank, we danced, we ate like crazy, we took care of each other… Everything was so intense; I would not change it for the world.
For me backpacking was one of the best experiences of my life. This journey throughout Europe was the first time I travelled so far, to so many places, with people who weren’t my family, in the cheapest way possible, and I fell in love with it. I found that this is the right way to travel, to try to experience as much as you can out of a place is the best way to do it. I don’t care if I have never been as tired as I was after that trip, it was definitely the one that convinced me that this is the way that I want to live my life, backpacking, as far as I can, with whoever is willing to go with me. Because even if you go with people who are not so close to you, you end up sharing so much that you create closer ties with them than with anyone else before.