Backpacking across Europe: What I Learned from It?
Backpacking across a diverse continent like Europe always induced excitement in me and when it happened, it was all like floating through a dream. Trudging through the rugged lanes of Alps to gliding myself with the flow of Thames, the journey was more enthralling than I expected.
Backpacking across Europe was not only an unforgettable experience but a learning curve too. Being a novice backpacker at that stage, (I still feel that way!); I confronted many difficulties during my sojourn across the continent. Those difficult situations helped me a lot in learning things about backpacking which I could not have found in the travel guides. Here are few of those experiences which I would like to share with all of you:
The whole adventure was not as easy as my time in the flight was that i booked through compareandfly.com. While you are backpacking, few things are worse than having a backpack loaded with bricks! Pick essentials and resist the temptation of loading your backpack with electronic gadgets. Laptop and your cell phone will do the favour on most occasions.
In addition to this, stuffing your backpack with tons of clothes is a thing which I would strongly disapprove. While I was on trip with my friend last time, my bags were loaded with layers of clothing whereas my friend’s backpack was not. Still, she managed the whole trip quite comfortably in those limited options. Hence, make it a rule to pack only essentials.
If you still feel uncertain about the packing thing, take help from online blogs about packing-related advice or watch the video below.
Choose the Right Backpack
A good backpack always turns out to be a good investment. Do not worry about spending few extra bucks for a good backpack, as it will serve you quite well. Look for those backpacks that have a strong internal frame coupled with well-padded shoulder straps. Do not rush towards the biggest backpack as it can cause persistent shoulder pain if you have to walk quite a bit while travelling around the continent. I went for backpack that had a smaller day pack which I could easily unattach when feeling discomfort. If such backpacks are available at shops around you, I will definitely recommend them.
Keep a Track of Things Going inside Your Backpack
One of the most important things which I grabbed from my last backpacking stint was never ever pack cotton clothing. As cotton absorbs all the sweat, it will make your life miserable once you hit higher altitudes as wet clothing will make you shiver like nothing else. Instead, choose synthetic clothing and woollens too are worth-packing as Europe is largely cold. Along with this, keeping a raincoat is always handy to keep the rain blues at bay!
However, the most important element is selecting the right footwear! Yes, it is true, how many of us forget keeping a good pair of footwear while packing the bags. As a backpacker, you will have to travel a lot by foot. Therefore, keep at least three pair of comfortable lightweight shoes that do not create havoc on your feet while walking. Stocking pairs of wool and cotton socks will be a wise idea too.
For our last backpacking trip, we used our I-phones as GPS mapping devices while wandering around the unfamiliar streets of Europe. They greatly helped us in locating the places and telling about our whereabouts. You should also consider having a GPS device with you while backpacking.
In addition to this, secure a money belt and keep most of your valuables in it. However, if you insist on keeping them in your backpack, make sure it is zipped perfectly and the locks are well-locked.
You are a backpacker, therefore you would not want to blow away good amount of bucks each time you are dining or sightseeing. Frame a budget and stick to it. If you want to taste the local cuisines, street food is always an economical and delicious option. Whereas for sightseeing, walking tours are extremely good options.
Maintaining a budget does not, however, imply that you have to cut down on the fun quotient. Enjoy every moment but track down your expenses too.
You must be wondering, “How could she say that? Planning is the topmost thing!” I mean to say that do your homework but it is not necessary to stick to your itinerary. I know having a plan induces peace but what if things go against your plans. Then, you will not be left with any choice.
The best way to enjoy backpacking is to travel spontaneously. Just hop down on the location, grab a map and start exploring the riches of the place. But do not equate travelling instinctively to keeping your wits at bay while wandering around the city. Remain confident and sensible all through your travelling adventure.
Make Friends and more Friends
I still recall that the fondest memories of my last backpacking stint were shaped more by the interactions with locals and fellow travellers which my friend and I had on our way. Sights and attractions without any doubt are important, but more important is to behave sensibly and in a friendly manner with locals. They will not only help you in guiding through the travel lanes but some of them might even divulge information about secret attractions or places where you can get huge bargains on shopping.
Additionally, you grow as an individual when you interact with people of different faiths and temperament. Learning about the similarities and differences in their and your culture will be an experience to remember.
Have Optimum Rest
It is futile to wake up early in the morning so that you can map down as many places as you can. It will ultimately lead to exhaustion and your energy-levels drooping to minimum. The better approach is to have enough rest and travel fewer places. Remember, you are backpacking across Europe not to chart down maximum countries possible but for your own leisure and excitement.
This is one thing many of us usually have hard time restricting. (I am myself a freak photographer, to tell you the truth!) There is nothing wrong in documenting the essence of your trip in photos but a trip is not about showing others the riches of your trip but relishing the experiences. Sometimes, we tend to go overboard while shooting pictures and try to take out as many photos as we can without enjoying the beauty of the place ourselves. Remember, some things are better enjoyed without a camera!
Do Your Own Laundry
All you need is a bungee cord and soap bars. While in my last backpacking trip, my friend and I used to wash clothes in the hostel sinks and then would hang them in an impromptu rope made out of bungee cord. It would normally take around a whole day for our clothes to totally dry out. This greatly reduced our laundry costs and allowed us to pack fewer clothes (even though I still had loads of clothes!). So, two birds with a single stone!
Take the Off Beaten Route
The traditional landmarks of Europe are definitely alluring but even more fascinating are the undiscovered treasures. Nobody is forcing you to oblige yourself to the conventional track. If you are adventurous, then I strongly recommend the hidden secrets of the continent. You would have seen London Eye many times; however, discovering the Wimbledon Village will totally blow you away. Let the child in you come to forefront and let it discover the secret alleys of Europe.
Travel for Your Interests not for Others’
Many times this happens that you travel the favourite places of your friend and your family to track down the photographs of those places. Leave this habit and travel according to your interests. You need not visit a famous museum just to please your dear ones. If that place is uninteresting to you, skip it and discover some other places instead.
Ask for Help When Needed
Do not feel afraid to ask for help in case you face difficulties or you have lost the track. Many of us carry a vain pride of being the most knowledgeable person who can never get lost. Put aside this pride and ask for assistance. People are far more generous and helpful than you imagine them to be. But, make sure you are asking the right person. Asking a group of rowdy-looking people for help in a remote corner is an unwise step.
Backpacking across Europe was an eye-opening and enlightening experience for me. Hopefully my tips will help you in having an even more enthralling backpacking experience across Europe.