Europe is the first continent I ever travelled in without my family. I was 18 years old and convinced I’d never make it back so I tried to do everything. Myself and a friend had three weeks after high school graduation and here was our route.
20 days and absolute insanity. While I don’t regret the trip I’d certainly never travel like that again.
Since that trip I’ve been back to Europe on countless occasions including 5 days in Scottish hospitals with a blood clot, a month of backpacking around Spain, teaching stints all over Italy followed by a year in Bradford England. That year was of course filled with tons of half term holidays.
Forgetting history, architecture, and food, perhaps the greatest thing Europe has to offer is ease of travel. It’s a small continent and coming from Canada nothing seems far away. Budget airlines like Ryan air and Easy Jet put most of the continent easily in reach for the backpacker. In fact, while teaching in Bradford I’d readily weekend in Malta or Barcelona. Roundtrips ran me about 75 Canadian Dollars flight wise.
Of course while flights are cheap everything else is not and Europe will empty your wallet, especially the world renowned cities of western Europe.
During my four months in Europe on this trip I discovered some off the beaten path gems. Bosnia and Herzogovina coupled with Montenegro are what Croatia must have been like a decade ago. Both are incredible places with price tags somewhere between Europe and Asia. But of course there is something undeniably powerful and attractive about the great historical cities, and western capitals of Europe.
Rome, Barcelona and Lisbon round out my top three western European cities, London and Munich not far behind.
The culinary traditions across Europe are varied and endlessly appealing. From unbelievable rich Italian Pastas and Pizzas, to simpler Baguette Cheese Bread (and wine) in France, to delicious Paella all across Spain, to the unbelievably tender and tasty grilled meats of the Balkan countries, to the sweet and fluffy waffles of Belgium, the opportunities to eat in Europe are endless. Of course they are often also endlessly expensive. Still, the bill rarely overwhelms the feeling of utter contentment after a proper European meal.
Coming from Canada though It’s the history and architecture of Europe that truly gives that sought after feeling of awe. I remember at 18 my first full day in London, very jet lagged, wandering through Westminster Abbey and being utterly enthralled with each tiny statue. I’d have been able to spend weeks there, lost in the history and art. I’ve seen more now, and while that feeling may have faded somewhat it’s still there whenever I wander into one of the countless ancient Cathedrals or Castles that Europe had to over. All over this continent you will find a land rich in varied and fascinating architecture and art, home to some of the greatest museums the world has to offer.
Landscape and weather wise Europe has everything on offer, Spain and Portugal’s endless beaches, Greek Islands, The Maltese Deserts and of course the snow and rain of the north. Canyons, Mountains, lowlands, rivers, seas and lakes, there’s not a geographical feature that cant be found in the vastly varied continent.
Then of course there’s the people, perhaps the most important element of any place. Europeans are a wide and varied bunch, ones I find who rarely dwell within the realm of western stereotypes. Having lived in the homes of Italians for several months I was stunned by their incredible warmness, but Italy is just a start, all over Europe is a warmth and friendliness in the people. Some countries require you to work harder than others to find it, but trust me, know matter where you are in Europe good people can be found with smiles, friendly words and Patience.
Above all, Europe is a wonderful place to go for your first taste of travelling. It’s less overwhelming than Asia, South America, or (presumably) Africa, and it offers a rich tapestry of different cultures and histories that is not to be missed. Just make sure your wallet’s as packed as your bags when you head off. During my time in Europe this trip I spent an average of 55 CAD a day not including flights.
Of course there are cheaper ways. Couch surfing, hitch hiking and cooking your own meals help to bring down that budget, so don’t allow a hurting wallet to be an excuse.
While I (most likely) won’t be back in Europe for the next two or three years, don’t let that stop you from discovering this renaissance continent. Go and explore all that Europe has to offer with an open mind, a warm heart and a smile on your face. If you’re heading to any of the countries with coverage on this blog feel free to contact me with questions, ideas, or anything else. Whenever I can find Wifi, I’m more than happy to help.
Countries I’ve been to in Europe During this trip:
Malta, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey.
Countries I’ve visited on past trips
Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom.
Countries I plan to visit on my way to Africa in 2016/17 (if all goes to plan)
Iceland, Ireland, United Kingdom, Turkey.
Countries I plan to visit when back in Europe in 2018 (if all goes to plan)
Turkey, Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Italy, Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.