Can you believe I wanted my first ever solo trip to be backpacking Europe in the dead of winter??
WTF was I thinking…or maybe I wasn’t
Yeah right, I was thinking very clearly. I didn’t want my solo adventure to be some weekend getaway; I wanted the whole shebang! It was always a dream of mine to go to Europe, Paris specifically because of all the hype. It’s hard not to get serious FOMO seeing kissy pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower, or plate after plate of delicious food. No more missing out, I was going to plan my trip!
I opted out of getting an international data plan so I could rely solely on my old fashioned paper map navigation skills and broken language to help me get around. I used WiFi when I could, which I ended up using a lot more because my nav skills sucked ass, but it was a learning experience I will never forget!
As a little back story, my boyfriend and I go somewhere each year for our dating anniversary (yes, a very cliche Valentine’s Day anniversary) but what sucks is that his work demands he attend the Gulfood Show in Dubai, cutting our trip short each year. Since this was going to be a long solo trip, we decided to break it up and meet in my dream city of Paris. Here is my 30 day itinerary of my vacation.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
My first stop AND my first time ever staying in a hostel. This was going to be fun…I hope. The hostel turned out to be wonderful (6 bed female dorm for $14 a night) and I met some pretty cool people. We did a bar crawl like most hostels host, making it much easier to meet new friends from around the world. (Not like I need liquid courage to run this damn mouth) Although very beautiful, Amsterdam seemed just okay…I am not a smoker, fan of live sex shows or museum go-er so by the second day I felt pretty lost.
BUT all of that changed when I was trying to go to The House of Bols. My luck, it was closed for renovation…but also my luck was the two American guys I met on the steps of that place. We chatted and they invited me to a beer and cheese tasting. SCORE! After that, us 3 had a ball. Visiting bar after bar, after bar…and by the end of the night, we had to run a mile in the pouring rain to catch the last time for the Heineken Experience. Overall, it was never about the things I saw but the people I met. What a great first stop!
From Amsterdam I took my first European train to Brussels; first thing I saw? Men with huge guns patrolling the area. Fitting I guess since a couple months before is when the attacks on Paris happened, but nonetheless a little intimidating. I opted for an Airbnb here to get my privacy and some sleep without snoring girls. A quick walking tour of the city where I met some more fun people was all I needed. Later on in the night, I had a quaint dinner alone and went to a nearby bar called Lindemans (as suggested by my host) This place was far less packed and loud from the obvious choice of Delirium Cafe. So glad I took his advice because here, I met two way older french gentleman who kept me company for the rest of the night. Laughing about politics, trading travel stories…maybe this whole Europe thing wasn’t so bad.
What I thought and dreamed about Paris quickly came to a screeching halt after the second day of being there. This was suppose to be the city of love and lights…but that’s not what we felt at all. Since we were going to be here for an entire week, I did some research beforehand and got us the Paris Pass. This gave us free access to hop on and off at the metro stations while being able to skip some lines for museums and exhibits. My boyfriend and I learned this very week, what type of travelers we are.
We share a love for adventure, adrenaline, outdoor activities and sports. Not museums, or ancient art and architecture. I have no desire to relive history or slowly walk with a group of 100 people around a cathedral. We hate all of these things. I was heartbroken. Not so much from the city part, but for not being able to explore another city/country with him while he had the chance.
Making the most of our trip, we took a sunset cruise, did some wine tasting and even made our way to the outskirts of Paris to visit a champagne house! Definitely the highlight of our Paris trip…I’m not called the Champagne Connoisseur for nothin’ 😉 Sure, we saw Versaille, and the Mona Lisa, and all the other touristy shit you do in Paris…even stuffed our faces with macaroons. Yet, we lacked the spark of excitement from the city. Judge us. Crucify us. Stone us to death, I don’t give a damn. We were just begging to get out of that place! Not to be a complete Debbie Downer and shit on your fairy tale parade…the food was to die for. One of the only pluses!
By far my favorite country on the entire planet (as of now) This is what I’m talking about. Natural scenery, clean streets and a winter wonderland that literally took my breath away. I know I said I had always dreamed of Paris, and that was the truth…but right before my trip I was most excited to visit Switzerland. It seems to be a very overlooked country, which I’m sure is because of the hefty price tag, but man is it worth it.
I had a friend who was a chocolatier living in Switzerland at the time, so we planned on meeting up! We booked a cozy little 2 bed private room in a hostel that had a spectacular view. The days consisted of taking a train to Jungfrau, also known as “The Top of Europe” The snow was so dense that there was no hope of a good view, just us poppin champagne in 20 degree weather while we took in the fresh Swiss air. Did I mention we went paragliding over the Alps? SEEEE! This is why I found this country so amazing. Outdoor activities galore!
The fun didn’t stop there…my friend just happened to be seeing a beautiful Swiss girl who worked for Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel and Spa…a 5 star hotel in Interlaken. She insisted on getting us all a room for our last two nights, at a very very discounted price. The next day, we moved from a quaint hostel to a lavish hotel where we stayed in our robes all afternoon. Drinking champagne, getting hot stone massages, sweating out our sins in the steam room, and watching it snow over the Swiss Alps while lounging in the outdoor jacuzzi. I was dreaming. This probably had a lot to do with why Switzerland was my favorite country, I was spoiled here. But the truth of the matter was, the views were incredible, the activities were filled with adventure and the people reminded me of being home in the south.
I could have spent my entire month long trip here…but don’t fret, I WILL BE BACK!
Germany gave me so many emotions wrapped up in one little trip. Obviously, I drank a lot of beer, but Munich has way more to offer than just a large pint. I got to tour the BMW Museum while having a first look at their new concept car. Met up with an old friend from college who lives in Frankfurt. Not only did she come down to visit, but stayed the night, took me out on the town, and rode with me the next day to experience Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp. The highlight was when I took a train to the Bavarian Alps where I saw the Neuschwanstein Castle…you know, the one that Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World is replicated after? All of this in a matter of days! The weather might have been cold and rainy, but good company and new adventures made it all worth while.
My original plan was to stay in Vienna for a couple days…explore the city and take in some culture. What ended up happening was I cut my stay in half. One full day and night I would spend here, why? Welllllll, I saw a video on Facebook of a “Sparty” that happens during certain months in Budapest. SPARTY mean’t a spa party- or an all night rager in a geothermal bath; which Budapest is known for. THANK GOD I cut my trip short. I stayed in an Airbnb since it was only one night, but had the worst time getting in touch with the owners and had my first breakdown of the entire trip. I was exhausted, about 20 days in and over all the bullshit. Vienna is not my scene. As I mentioned before, IDGAF about old art, music or anything pertaining to historic shit. While slowly dragging ass around the city, I decided to attend a classical musical that night. Mozart and Beethoven are from Vienna so might as well give them a fighting chance.
Here’s where it gets good. I take the metro early to the other side of town so I could stop in somewhere for a drink. Well, like always, 1 turns into 4 and I’m feeling pretty nice. Me myself and I head to this massive theater where were all seated for the show. This wasn’t normal stadium seating but rather a bunch of chairs lined up in front of the stage. It was pretty cool to see the show unfold but got repetitive after a while. An hour went by and the show stopped. I was about to clap before I realized it was only intermission. I had to pee and was thirsty for more champagne. I bought two glasses of bubbly and booked it to the restroom. The moment I sat down was the moment I realized how drunk I was. I scurry back to my chair just in time for the next half to start.
I wish what I am about to tell you was all for show but it’s not. This is me and my life.
I place both empty champagne glasses under the chair in front of me. 10 minutes later, I forget they are there and proceed to kick over both. They make the loudest shattering noise I have ever heard. The ENTIRE THEATER STOPS. My face is the color of a heavy flow period. I felt like time stopped. Those 10 seconds of silence bout damn killed me. FINALLY, they continue…I couldn’t help but laugh uncontrollably. I got dirty stares from 90% of the back rows. As soon as it ends, I high tail it out of there only to be stopped by one of the owners. He whispered in my ear how funny it was and gave me a high five. PHEW!
Needless to say, I bought the earliest bus out of Vienna for the next morning and never looked back.
I went out on a limb here. I kept meeting up with old friends and making new ones while traveling and I didn’t want it to stop. I’m extroverted as shit but it’s not the easiest making friends on the road. My friend from Atlanta said she knew a girl in Prague who might want to meet up. One thing led to another and before you knew it, she was on a train to Budapest to meet a strange girl just so we explore and go to a Sparty. I reserve her a bed in our hostel dorm, we connect over some shots, and head out to the ruin bars. Cocktails in bathtubs? Yes please.
The next morning consisted of a walking tour, fancy pasta dinner, champagne with views and of course, lots of vodka. We convinced our Brazilian dorm mates to come to the Sparty with us. 4 girls, drunk, taking the metro at night was not the smartest idea, but we managed to make it. CRAZY EXPERIENCE. Everything I had hoped for…plus it felt good to get away from the boring activities I had been doing. It was all fun and games until we lost the girls and were forced to get our stuff and leave once it closed. Problem was, one of them had the key and we had no idea where our stuff was. After 1 1/2 hours of going through EVERY SINGLE LOCKER ON 4 FLOORS, we found our stuff. Just my luck, they accidentally picked up my dress. I walked the streets of Budapest at 4 in the morning with sopping wet hair, a cobalt blue pea coat with a bathing suit underneath and thigh high stockings. A cheap whore had nothing on me.
Katie insisted I stay with her in Prague, and since that was my next stop anyways, we both took the struggle bus to the Czech Republic!
Prauge, Czech Republic
One of the cheapest cities in Europe makes Prague a top destination for backpackers and budget friendly people. I just wanted to stop there because I heard you could take a bath in beer. I waited too long to book the bath, but my friends roommate was sweet enough to show me around town. Open air Easter markets and live music all around brought the city to life. We fed some peculiar animals while taking in the little bit of warmth the sun gave off.
I was suppose to have more time here, but after making a last minute pit stop in Budapest, my time was sadly cut short. That night we went to the supermarket to fetch some beers, in hopes of going out. Nope, we were PTFO by 11 pm. That’s what 26 days of traveling and partying does to you. I appreciated the hospitality and was sad to leave, Berlin would be my final stop.
The very last city on my 30 day European tour. It was refreshing to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Traveling for a month with only a backpack being a girl in the dead of winter is hard fucking work. I just wanted my own bed, and to take a shower in something larger than a 2×2 box. This time, I stayed in a hostel but paid $40 a night to have a private room. You get to have the social scene AND some privacy at the same time. I can’t pinpoint the words I would use to describe Berlin, it wasn’t like any other city on this trip.
Once again, I did a free walking tour–these are the best when you’re by yourself and want to get your bearings on where everything is and it really is free, the guides work off of only tips. DON’T BE THE ASSHOLE WHO DOESN’T TIP– We saw where Hitler died, a bunch of memorials, and some other cool stuff. I met two girls in the group so after the tour was over, we made our way to one of the main areas to shop and site see.
We came to the realization that we were all staying in the same hostel, so on the way back we stopped to walk the Berlin Wall. What a site to see up close. We admired the murals, stopping to take in almost every single one before heading back. By this time, I was just ready to change, get some food and drinks and go my ass to bed so I could return home.
I nailed my first big solo trip…sure there were times where shit didn’t go right; that’s the beauty of traveling. Overall the adventure taught me so many valuable lessons about others, about myself and about the world. I know some people claim that you don’t really see a city by staying two-three nights in it, but this was an introduction to Europe, learning ways to get around, the diverse cultures, the currency exchange and how to dip my toes into the unknown. I will most definitely be back, but this time with more wisdom AND Wifi 😉
If you take anything away from my trip, let it be to follow your gut. If you want to go somewhere, then what are you waiting for? If you have a bad feeling about a situation or place, get out of it. If you don’t want to do something that everyone says “you have to do” then don’t! Solo traveling is magical in a sense that you don’t have to listen to ANYONE ELSE. I would recommend traveling alone at least once in your lifetime. It gives you so much more knowledge than any course or school could ever teach.
WTF ARE YOU WAITING FOR???
As time comes, I will be writing more in depth posts about the various locations I traveled because I have A LOT to tell you…but until then…
xo Bonvoyage Bitches