I can't believe that it has been over 4 years since I first arrived in Stuttgart, Germany! This is where my travel journey begins...
The Louvre Museum, Paris, France
Did you know that Skyscanner actually asks you "Can't decide where" when hovering above "to" in their website?
Skyscanner definitely shaped my adventures throughout Europe
Before your backpacking trip begins, you should already have in mind which country you will arrive in first.
I, for example, arrived in Germany via study abroad. I was accepted to a European business study abroad program where I embarked on a year-long quest to conquer the German language while taking intensive business courses. I studied at both Tubingen and Reutlingen Universities in the Southern German State of Baden Württemberg.
This is how I FIRST arrived in Europe and it was actually my first time on the other side of the planet!
Use skyscanner.com to help you plan your trip.
While in Germany I really had an itch to explore Europe. This was due to the fact that I was surrounded by Erasmus students (European students studying in other countries). I heard all types of languages and to my surprise, I even understood some!
Italian most of all...
Regardless it was my first time alone on another Continent. Luckily, I made a friend, Ethan at the Jugendherberge (youth hostel in English) and he too was part of the study abroad group. I remember he mentioned a city in Spain with three beaches.
The city of Donostia San Sebastián! A BEAUTIFUL city in Northern Spain. Home of Real Sociedad (Real Sociedad de Fútbol) of La Liga in Spain. I actually stumbled across the stadium while walking around!
A must-go if you are backpacking
Europe. FIlled with tapas, an array of seafood, beaches, nightlife, SO MUCH! It was my first city that I ever explored and let me tell you it is still my favorite in Europe, if not the world.
You can rent anything from electric bikes to surfboards and get across the city on foot. I usually walked from Zurriola beach to the very first hostel I ever stayed in my life. The name of the hostel is Suring Etxea which is still open! My stay was Spectacular! I was able to rent a surfboard and wetsuit directly from the hostel. The best part was the downstairs tapas bar!
This was my literal room at Surfing Extea. (Photo taken from hostelworld.com)
Moreover, I created friends for life. Especially my really great friend whom I met named Sam who is pictured below with me in Barcelona after our time in San Sebastian.
Sam and I also met a friend from Australia named Milly who had already traveled most of Europe. She inspired me to keep on traveling.
Eating breakfast together she mentioned she was traveling to Barcelona, Paris, and finally back home. Sam and I looked at each other and asked if we could tag along. Without hesitation, she said yes!
Which taught me instantly to be open to adventure. Now backpacking Europe has its benefits compared to let's say South America. This is due to geography and how large each country is.
However in Europe, one can travel by bus, train, or plane. One of my favorite sites is eurail.com which I used to catch a train from San Sebastian to Barcelona. A 6-hour train ride across Spain. Below is a screenshot of the eurail.com home page.
This is me at the Donostia San Sebastian train station before embarking on a 6-hour train ride to Barcelona.
Like I mentioned before, I let Skyscanner decide my adventures by finding the cheapest flights available. Aside from flying, I also traveled by bus. My favorite - Flixbus, which by far is the cheapest way to travel. Literally, you can buy a bus ticket from Berlin to Prague for 5 euros!
During the summer of 2017, I took a backpacking trip with some really good friends. One being my college roommate who is also one of my best friends named Alex. He told me about a crazy roadtrip from Rome to Madrid by bus! Without hesitation, I told him lets meet in Rome. I caught a plane from Stuttgart to Rome via Ryan Air and paid 30 euros for a one-way direct flight.
When looking for ways of transportation cost is always a huge influencer. However in Europe for example, Catching a flight actually might be cheaper and quicker than flixbus or train. It also allows you to reach different parts of the European continent in 4 hours max. I took a plane from Stuttgart, Germany to Faro, Portugal, and arrived in three hours. It was also not expensive, I believe I paid 20 euros one way.
When traveling by plane usually, I like to pick one way cheapest month and let Skyscanner decide which location is the most economical. I even discovered many new places, many of which I never thought I'd go to. One of these countries was Malta, a small archipelago country in the middle of the Mediterranean sea.
Pictured above is one of the last pictures taken of the Azure Window in Gozo (one of 21 islands that make up the Maltese archipelago) before its collapse in March of 2017.
I was shocked when I read the Azure Window had collapsed. It made me realize that I had to see as much as I could around the world. It is crazy because I also got to see one of the very first civilizations called Çatalhöyük. This is even CRAZIER because, in one of my archeology exams, Çatalhöyük was a writing topic!!
Europe for me is a continent where one can really really learn, and I mean everything from history, cuisine, architecture, to languages. The fact that Europe consists of many languages makes it easy to backpack. Most spoken languages are within Europe. Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, and even German are constantly heard throughout different countries. On top of that, most signs and directions include English, Spanish, and French. This then makes it easy to learn that "exit" is "sortir" and I can assure you that picking up little hints like this will stick with you forever.
Furthermore, the time you go is really important and influences your decision making, For example, summertime is the most expensive time of year traveling to Europe. While wintertime is often the cheapest. However, you can make the most of whichever time you choose to go. Whether you ski in the alps or plunge in one of Portugal's beaches, Europe definitely will satisfy your backpacking adventures!
In summary, choose your destination, check out at a hostel/hotel/airbnb, determine how you will travel to your next destination, repeat, and go with the flow! Do not think much, rather enjoy your time and plan accordingly to your budget but most of all your safety!
Cheers everyone! (taken in Southern Portugal)
- Edwin Manzano