Since I have settled down for a little while, I don’t have many travel updates to give. So while I’m stationary, I’ll be writing more about my thoughts and musings and random bits and pieces…
Over the course of my trip so far, especially in Europe, the most consistent topic of conversation among most interactions with people I meet, is how I can afford a trip like this. I often need to clear up the fact that NO, I do not have a large trust fund hidden away. I just try to make smart decisions. Firstly, I saved money before I left. I did use the birthday present money given to me by my dad for my 21st, so I guess it wasn’t entirely my own work to get here (Thanks Dad, that block of mint condition US $1 bills didn’t look shady at all). I also sold my car.
More importantly than the money I saved up though, was how I spent it. This is the point where I should tell you that budgeting is the KEY. Well, I didn’t write a budget (Shock). I was partly too lazy, partly had no idea how to budget for a trip where I didn’t know the route, and partly knew I could wing it as I moved from country to country. Honestly, I just didn’t care. So here’s what I did:
Accommodation: Over the first 2 months in Europe, I paid for 4 nights accommodation. My biggest trick was utilising the friends I had in different areas. I travelled from friends place to friends place, crashing on their couches. When I arrived in areas where I didn’t know someone, I turned to CouchSurfing. CouchSurfing (Or CS) is one of the best websites I have been introduced to. It gives you the chance to get in touch with locals of a town you are heading to, and you can ask to sleep on their couch, or just catch up for a drink. The good thing about it, is most of the people who use it have similar attitudes, so there’s a high chance you will get along with all the people you meet. Aside from just being free accommodation, it gives you the chance to find out more about the places you are visiting, and you get to see the better local hangouts too. Win.
Oh, now that it’s hotter, I’m buying a cheap tent.
Long Distance- Hitchhiking: Yep. Hitchhiking. I don’t travel exclusively by hitchhiking. Sometimes I feel a bit too lazy, sometimes it’s too difficult, or sometimes the Policia will tell you to beat it, but for the most part, hitching is my preferred mode of transport. Yes, everyone hears the horror stories about people killed, raped, or robbed while hitchhiking… But that’s the minority. It’s like shark attacks. Sure, they happen every now and then, but there’s so many more people in the water than those that get attacked. Similarly, what news company ever runs a story about normal hitchhikers who don’t have a bad experience?
Since I started hitchhiking in Belgium, I have had no negative experiences inside a car. I have had 2 people give me the finger and 2 other people yell abuse at me while driving past. But that’s the beauty of hitchhiking: The a*holes just drive on by. I’ll probably write more on this later, but for now, Hitchwiki gives you ALL the information you need. has been my bible for the last 4-5 months.
My favourite journey by thumb so far was when I managed to travel from Amsterdam to Barcelona, then back through France to Milan, with a couple of detours on the way. The trip itself took a couple of weeks, but was entirely by thumb. In that journey, I was given a few sandwiches (About 5 I think), a notebook, a stanley knife, some handy little foot warmer gel things (They came in handy 3 months later), assorted biscuits, one nights accommodation and dinner AND a free train ride to my next destination the next day. That last part was the result of one excellent hitch, which was also part of my longest distance in a day (800ish km from Luxembourg to just outside Lyon).
Around Town- Blackriding. Ok, so this one is of questionable legality… But basically, it just means not buying a ticket for public transport. Or, buying a ticket, then never validating it. This is much easier in some cities as opposed to others. For example, in Belgrade, the ticket checkers wear bright yellow hi-vis vests that give you plenty of warning to depart the vehicle, in comparison to some cities, like Berlin, who’s conductors wear plain clothes. While I don’t condone the practice of blackriding, for those who are interested in trying it, I’ll lay down some basic tips.
1. Scan the transport as it pulls up, for any conductors already on board.
2. Stay toward the back of the carriage, and on the footpath side of the carriage, so you can scan for conductors on approaching stops.
3. If you see a conductor, either validate your ticket (if you carry an unvalidated one), or leg it off the bus/tram at that stop.
Otherwise, walk, or skate around.
Food: I don’t eat like a king. I try very hard to eat much less than I did back home (I used to eat a LOT). I rarely eat out, except on rare occasions to try local specialties. For the most part, I survive on bread, cheese and cheap processed meats in the day, and rice or pasta with tuna and pesto for dinner… or something similarly priced. Cook in bulk. That said, I have eaten pretty well lately. I have met some great people, who have taken me in, and treated me like family, or I have met other travellers and chipped in together for a big cook up. But when I fly solo, it’s budget express.
I mean, sure, some people want to enjoy the local cuisine as much as possible. But for me, I’m more content to skimp on the fancy food, if it allows me to stay and the road and experience more.
Work: This is the category I have had the least experience with. In principle, my plan has been to travel until my bank account hits about $5000, then find work, settle in for a while and earn some cash, then keep travelling. That said, I haven’t really put in much effort into looking for work until just recently… And a well timed email landed me a job in an awesome little hostel in Split, Croatia. I’m not sure how long I will be here. I may stay for summer if I can find a second job to earn some green, or I’ll head to somewhere else warm and sunny, then try to find work there.
The other alternative I have tried, is HelpX. This, and another project called WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms), revolve around the principle of volunteering your time with a farm, or hostel, or just a family who needs a helping hand, in return for accommodation and meals, typically. Similar to getting a job, you can typically stay in the one place for a couple of weeks, or more, and get the chance to make real connections with people, get to know the country better, and even learn some basic skills… You won’t earn money with it, but you won’t be spending any.
At the end of the day, a lot of my travel has been possible thanks to the kindness and generosity of complete strangers. I have every intention of paying it forward whenever I manage to settle down, where I will always try to pick up hitchhiking backpackers, and let other travellers surf my couch, and hook them up with a meal when I am able. But those days are pretty distant right now…