Tag Archives: backpacking in europe

What to do in: ROME

22 Aug

Every traveller in Rome should throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Folklore says those who do will return to this beautiful Italian city. Of course, I probably should have read more into it because I had no idea which shoulder to toss my coin over. I hope I did it right!

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Hilarious Travel Planning Memories with a side of Budget Travel Tips

13 Aug

A lot of people ask me how I afford such a pricey (MYTH!) travel endeavor. Listen folks, travel isn’t that expensive. Trust me! In fact, I definitely spend more money living in Canada for three months than traveling for the same amount of time in a faraway destination. You do need money upfront, which involves some saving, but it doesn’t have to stop you from doing fun things with friends or forcing you to live in a cardboard box. Long term travel is quite affordable. You just need to reflect on a few unnecessary items and lifestyle choices. For example, I decided to sell my car to fund my South East Asia trip. It might sound a little ridiculous to some people, but I was moving to the big city after traveling and I didn’t need a car anymore. Cars are luxury money holes. Reflecting on how to fund travel helps put life into perspective and your priorities in check.

Long term travel is a bit different. It requires you to cut a few strings. One way I can afford going on a 6 month adventure is by giving up my lovely studio apartment in Toronto. I’m moving out of my humble abode and moving back in with my family (cringe…..). But hey, every budget traveller needs to make sacrifices, even if they are a tad embarrassing. I could have found a subletter, but I wanted to be free from the shackles of my modern, cosmopolitan life. Sounds a little dramatic, eh? I simply didn’t want to worry about an apartment back home and a stranger doing unmentionable activities on my bed. You get the drift.

There’s a point to this little story….

While rummaging through my book shelf, I found an old notebook my travel partner/best friend and I used to jot down travel ideas and inspirations. Between the pages, I stumbled upon a hilarious doodle from over two years ago. Check it out! Continue reading

Back from abroad

17 Jun

View of Interlaken, Switzerland

Clearly, I’ve become a bit lazy with my posting – busy is more like it though. I had this great post about Switzerland and then it would never load properly, which only made writing another post less enticing. I took a break, but now I’m back in Canada so here is lovely update on the last two weeks of my euro-trip.

Making the trek from Venice, Italy to Switzerland was a little rough. One boat ride and 4 trains later – I was finally in Interlaken, a Swiss town known for adventure sports, but because I’m on a tight budget, I’ve stuck to hiking.

Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

On the first full day, I hiked 2.5 hrs up a mountain in town in order to see panoramic views of the Bernese Alps. The hike was brutal. It was bloody steep and Stefanie, Jessie and I had to carry a backpack full of food, water and jackets. When I had the backpack, I moved like a turtle and everyone said I looked like I was dying a slow death. Jessie yelled at me to hurry up and called me a city girl. I may be a city gal, but I probably get more physical exercise than her since I walk everywhere! She drives. Well, when Jessie got the backpack, she finally realized how brutal it was and apologized. Justice was served! Continue reading

Roma & Venezia!

2 Jun

typical tourist photo of the Colosseum in Rome

Ciao bellas,

I’m in Venice! Rome is an interesting city, but not my favourite. I wouldn’t consider it a very livable city at all. The sights are amazing though. I was able to explore the ancient Roman ruins (including the Colosseum), the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and some churches along the way. I even visited Vatican City and saw the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica! I actually walked all along the outside of Vatican City because we got lost on our way out and let me tell you, that place/country is huge!! Uphill, downhill – I wouldn’t do it again, but when I finally saw something familiar, a delicious gelateria was waiting for us. Continue reading

PHOTO UPDATE!

29 May

I know, I know. It‘s been a long time coming, but here it is – a photo update! I’ve probably taken over 1000 pictures. These are just a few from Cinque Terre, Pisa and Florence, Italy.

The Mediterranean sea – shot from Cinque Terre, Italy.

Barcelona, Spain

17 May

Flamenco show in Barcelona

Despite having a rocky start to Barcelona, I am having an amazing time in the city. The weather has been beautiful – sunny skies and a nice breeze.

Barcelonetta

I arrived in Barcelona on the 14th, but after the pickpocketing incident I didn’t really feel like doing anything that day. I had an early night and then woke up the next day and decided to cruise along La Rambla – a long pedestrian throughway with tons of restaurants and random vendors selling everything from your average souvenir and artisan craft to small rodents and flowers. After I walked the length of it, I wandered through the narrow alleys in the Bario Gotic – part of the old city – and then made my way to Barcelonetta, the beach. Even though it was a bit chilly, there were tons of people on the beach tanning. I can’t imagine how busy it is in August, if it was that packed in May. Tons of people come up to you selling sunglasses, coconuts, water, beer, tattoos, massages, etc. It is a little annoying, when all you want to do is relax. Continue reading

Paris, je t’aime!

10 May

Parisian streets

Bonjour amis! I’m in Paris now and the weather is much better. Rainy, but warmer so I can’t complain too much. Despite what I’ve heard, Paris is beautiful. Sure you smell  pee at times, but it’s no smellier than Toronto. My first sight of Paris was the Indian quarter and my first meal was Middle Eastern… I knew this would be a great city!

Anyways.

I’ve never climb so many stairs in my life! This morning I woke up at 7:00am to beat the line at the Louvre and let me tell you – arriving one hour before it opens still means you have to line up around the glass pyramid. As I was waiting in line, the camera died. Oh great! The day I’m cramming in the most sightseeing, the camera dies! Just then, Stefanie notices Gerry – a friend from high school who is traveling Europe at the same time as us. Strange, but awesome. So he joined us and we traveled the city with him and he took all of the photos! It was perfect timing. Continue reading

Wet in Amsterdam

8 May

condom display in Amsterdam

If only it wasn’t so miserable outside! Yesterday morning, I woke up and tip toed out of our couchsurfing host’s flat in Frankfurt, Germany to catch an early train to Amsterdam. The rapid trains are super fancy. Stefanie, Jess and I scored seats in a 6 person cabin with a table and temperature control – I’m sure that will be my last bit of comfort for the next while.

The hostel in Amsterdam was a bit hard to find. There are too many bikes, mopeds and cars whizzing by. It’s a little ridiculous at times. Nevertheless, the city is an organized chaos. The bike riders even have their own street lights which helps.

Yesterday, I took a trip to the Sex Museum, which is small but educational and a little weird. The museum has an early pornography exhibition, erotic media lounge and bizarre sex memorabilia. There are erotic photos from the late 1800s (I had no idea our ancestors were so kinky!) and even old chastity belts on display. The Sex Museum is a must-see in Amsterdam! Continue reading

Landed in Europe

6 May

I just arrived in Frankfurt. I’m staying at a couchsurfing host’s very cute flat 30 minutes from the airport. The flight was terribly long and exhausting. You would think they’d give you a roomier seat on an international flight, but no way! We flew Air Transat. They served dinner after midnight and breakfast at 5 am our time. It was bizarre.

When I arrived at the airport, I purchased my seat reservation for the train to Amsterdam tomorrow and then I followed the directions to our host’s flat. This area of Germany looks like Canada, except the houses have super tall and slanted roofs. Once I was settled, Sabine took us to a traditional German restaurant. We each ordered something different and shared. It was all delicious! Sour kraut, breaded meats, sauces, onions, potatoes! But now, I’m severely full and a little jet legged. It’s time for a recovery nap.

Tomorrow I’m leaving at 8am to catch the train. I should mention that I forgot my Nikon DSLR battery at my aunt’s house, so now we only have Stefanie’s camera to take photos. It’s a bit disappointing, considering I was looking forward to testing out my photographic abilities here in Europe. Oh well – I shouldn’t dwell!

No more procrastinating!

2 May

Gah! I need to pack. Seriously.

There is still so much to do before I leave for Europe and I’m running out of time. Even though my flight leaves Wednesday night, I’m going up to my aunt’s near Maple, Ontario the night before so I can do my laundry and organize my backpack. Equal weight distribution is key!

This means I only have two nights with my beloved pooch and Kyle. It feels strange. I just want to cuddle them both all day and night! I know it will be really hard on the heart, but this is only 6 weeks! Can you imagine how it will be when I’m gone for 3 months? Yikes! Still, it’s better to spend 3 months missing the people (&dog!) you love than regretting you never went to begin with. This is my mantra and I will stick by it no matter how difficult it is.

I am lucky to have been given this opportunity. There are so many factors that had to fall into place. Money, a companion(s), safety, health, time, attitude, etc. I just hope it all goes somewhat smoothly!

Couchsurfing 101

11 Apr

I thought this would be a good time to write about a little thing called couchsurfing. After talking with so many people about this big eurotrip, I’ve realized that most people don’t understand it, think it’s crazy or both! Rather than having more people freak out when I tell them that three girls are going to be sleeping in a stranger’s home, I thought I would just write a blog about it and let them figure it out.

To make our eurotrip more budget-friendly and exciting, we decided to spend most nights couchsurfing. The website sums it up nicely: “CouchSurfing is an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals in over 230 countries and territories around the world.” Basically, we log onto this community website and search for people to stay with in various cities across the world. Each traveler and host must create a profile with information about their interests, occupation, age, location, bio, ‘couch’ information, photos, etc. There is a reference and verification system, ensuring that people are who they say  and that you have the best CS experience possible. Continue reading

Death by credit card.

26 Mar

I booked my Eurail pass. Wait, let me rephrase…. I booked the MOST expensive Eurail pass.

The craziest thing is that my train pass cost more than my flight to Europe! I’ve spent over one third of my Europe budget and I haven’t even landed. Oh well, that’s traveling for you.

This week has been a roller coaster of sorts. Jessie had a freak out and almost canceled her flight. She was paranoid that we’d be abducted into the sex trafficking industry. I am not even joking. She was seriously freaked out. Don’t get me wrong, there are always dangers while traveling, especially for three young women …. BUT I think her paranoia stemmed from talking with people who have never traveled before and basing their assertions on Hollywood movies (Does anyone remember ‘Taken’?). Eventually, she calmed down and is feeling excited again.

My itinerary also changed. Now, I’m traveling to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, South of France, Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, Venice, Interlaken, Grindlewald, Prague and Berlin! I’m sure this isn’t the final draft, and I sort of like that. Sometimes, it’s just about going with the flow. Viva Europe!

The joys (and horrors) of booking

1 Feb

The power of the Internet has failed me (stupid unreliable servers, stupid credit card!). However, after a day of calling 1-800 numbers, I finally booked my flight to Europe.

YYZ to FRA from May 5th to June 15th.

For those of you unfamiliar with airport codes, that means Toronto to Frankfurt (yes, Germany). Now, I wasn’t planning on going to Germany – it’s just too big and I don’t have much time, but I found a great deal! Round trip with taxes for $625 CAD. Pretty awesome, no? The Air Transat reservation person seemed to think so… Continue reading

Flights and Films

17 Jan

Next time you want to visit Sea World/Marine World/a dolphin’s hell, you may want to consider watching the documentary ‘The Cove‘ beforehand. It’s a fascinating film and is available to watch online for free. Do it (and cry like I did).

Aside from that, flights to Europe and South America are fluctuating – which I consider a good sign. They were basically at a standstill for a month. Fluctuation (in travel terms) is good for comparison. It was dreadful logging on everyday (and night) only to see the same flight at the same cost for so long. I’m hoping to score a great deal soon. Sure, you may be thinking it’s too early to book flights, but Stef and I need to book South America before we leave for Europe in May. We don’t want too many costs at one given time. Oh, the horror…

Also, Jessie showed off her new backpack to me today. It’s decent, but mine is better AND I WILL NOT TRADE! Once – in a rainstorm no less! – I traded shoes with Jessie because her heels hurt too much and then she complained that my flats made her feet wet. This was after she complained she wasn’t drunk enough and that we didn’t dance enough. She may be a bit of a complainer, but there’s no one like Jessie and that’s why I can’t wait to spend 6 weeks in Europe together!

Planning the Incredible

14 Dec

2010-2011 marks my gap year. Hmm… what will I do? sleep on the couch? watch lots of movies? learn ballroom dance? NO!!! I’m going to travel the world.

I guess this all came into realization last summer after I came home from Costa Rica, but hardly. Looking back, I feel like the idea came out of thin air and just fell into my lap, so I ran with it and started planning a year of travels throughout the world.

Right now, I have very little planned – just a mere list of places I want to explore and an even measlier schedule. Europe. South America. South East Asia including India and Nepal. Africa. Australia/New Zealand. The list is lofty. Continue reading

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