It’s been a while since I have posted anything on my site for one reason. I have been backpacking across Europe for the last 3 months. When I first got over there, I thought I was going to be able to write some articles about my current adventures. But I decided to just enjoy my time over there, and be able to write content when I got back to the states. I would rather be able to sit down and not be distracted while I write, and be able to do it on a desktop computer, rather than my phone.
Backpacking across Europe was my first ever travel out of the US. And it was eye opening to say the least. I visited 4 different countries only. But I am actually very pleased that I was able to keep it down to 4 countries, rather than striving to see 15 different countries for a short period of time. I visited Italy, Spain, Germany, and France. Now as I am sitting here reflecting on the past 3 months, I have came to the conclusion that EVERYONE needs to travel for an extended period of time. Even if you aren’t backpacking across Europe, at least do some extended travel to another country that puts you in completely foreign situations. Not only are you going to have the time of your life, but you will become more alive as a person.
Backpacking Across Europe – Gaining New Awareness
When you are staying in the same place and doing the same things over and over, it’s very hard to keep your awareness at a very high level. The reason is you become so accustomed to the same thing over and over, that you really aren’t stimulated anymore. We need to be put in new situations continuously, in order to keep on growing. Before I left for my trip I had been working in a job at a corporation where I was doing the same thing over and over, and it dragged me down. Check out Corporate Slave- Why to Avoid Working for a Corporation. But when I started backpacking across Europe it was like being born again. They say that when you see something new or visit new places, it releases more serotonin in your brain. From this trip, I can say I definitely feel the truth in this. There are highs and lows, but when everything is new you are on a constant adventure.
Travel Experiences Broaden Your Awareness
Here is the biggest part of traveling that it will give you new awareness. When I got to Italy, I was immediately put into a situation where I didn’t speak Italian and I had to figure out how to communicate. In order to talk to anyone you are going to have to use google translate, use body language, or the small collection of words you know, in order to get your point across. It makes you alert constantly so you can figure out what is going on. Not to mention, I was always trying to learn the language a little more every day, so that I could make the interactions flow more smoothly. One of the thoughts that I consistently had whenever I was around a new language, is how does this shape their view of the world? Are they happier because they have different words, speak at a different pace, and use more hand gestures? What does learning a different language do for you? And it has intrigued me enough that I want to become fluent in many different languages. A good example is when I was in Napoli, Italy. One of the last places I stayed, the girl who worked the front desk had the most beautiful Italian accent. It sounded like music the way the words flowed. And I thought, if she talks like that all the time, she has to be in a good mood all of the time. Language definitely shapes our world view, and being exposed to different languages in different places definitely brings awareness to that.
It can be intimidating at first to go into a cafe and do something simple like order a coffee and a crescant. But that’s part of the reason you came over to other countries in the first place, to be put into these situations that you aren’t exposed to where you live. Your brain becomes way more stimulated and you are learning how to communicate at a higher level. It makes you realize how you communicate on a body language level more, and you can learn how to change that to make the communication more positive. Where as, wherever you live you can normally get by with verbal communication, no matter how good or bad your body communication is. So it brings out the awareness of how good of a communicator you are, and allows you to get better at communicating in different ways. Be prepared to get some stares while you try to communicate in the language for the country you are in, but realize that the vibe you put out to the person you are talking to, matters way more than the actual words you are conveying.
When you get to a new place, you have to be able to find your way around. I didn’t have any cell phone data when I was over there, so in order to get any directions I either had to ask, or go somewhere with wi-fi. Not to mention in Europe the street signs are completely different than they are in the states. In the US they are actually next to the streets, but in Europe they are usually posted on the buildings, and sometimes you have to search a little to find them. But about halfway through the trip, I was able to download an app called “CityMaps2go” in which you can download an entire city map that can be used when you have no internet. It shows you where you are and you can pin the places you want to go. Then it points you in the right direction. This app ended up helping a lot in cities where I actually wanted to go see some tourist attractions. Also whenever I just wanted to walk around aimlessly, and be able to get back to the random place I was staying that night.
You definitely have to be aware when you are just walking in Europe. Not that you don’t have to be aware when you are walking in the U.S, but in general you can be walking around fantasizing about whatever, and it’s not going to be a problem. Not so much in Europe. In general the driving is more erratic, there are motorcycles everywhere, and more people in less area. I didn’t have any instances or come across anyone who did get pick pocketed, but there was a better chance of it happening, with so many more people.
Transportation in Europe is completely different than the United States. Sure you can have a car for yourself if you live there, but it seems like most people either share a car with one person or their family. But for someone like me backpacking across Europe, I had to use trains and my own legs. Learning how to buy the tickets for the trains is a task at first. You get down to the train station in many cities and there are a few different places you can buy tickets. Then you have to figure out if you are going in the right direction, and what stop is the stop you need in order to get to the place you want to go. It’s definitely complicated at first when you don’t speak the language and you are moving from city to city. It’s tough to go into detail on this subject, because I experienced so many different Metro trains and trains going from city to city. But in general it always takes some questions and some research to figure out how to navigate using the trains.
The one thing that I experienced that is different than I would have ever imagined before I started the trip, was I started to love walking. When you walk every once in a while in the US, you can’t wait to get to your car. But once I got accustomed to walking everywhere in Europe, I started loving it. Not only are you getting consistent exercise, but you feel better about yourself everyday. I think this definitely had an effect on my digestion when I ate large meals over there, and in general how healthy I felt the whole time. It makes you appreciate the smaller things that you are aware of when you are walking, that you definitely don’t notice when you are driving everywhere. Not to mention, in Europe everything is closer together, so you are able to walk everywhere. That wouldn’t be possible in the US because everything is more spread out.
Less technology, more people
When you are traveling all over you are going to meet people who speak a wide variety of languages and it’s more interesting interacting with people, than interacting with technology. I didn’t touch a desktop computer until now, while I am typing this. Of course I had my phone and could use Wi-fi, but most of my days were not on my phone. I wasn’t texting people, or surfing the internet. My phone was mostly for pictures, directions, and the occasional look for the time. But this expands your awareness as well, because you are interacting with others and accessing new parts of your self at the same time. How do they see the world? How is this world view different than mine? What languages do they speak? And when you are interacting with people from other countries, there are a lot of “ah hah” moments where you realize you are on the same page and the conversation is stimulating.
It depends on if you are on a tight budget or not, but you really learn how to manage your money better when you are traveling. What hostel do you want to stay in by balancing value and money? Do you want to spend money on souvenirs or clothes? Are they really even worth it? Are you going to eat out every meal or are you going to the grocery store so you can make your own food? So many questions. For me, when I first got over there I was splurging money on food and drinks pretty much every day. Then I came to the realization about a month in that I was spending way to much money on things I didn’t need. And then as the trip went on I started to realize more and more that I don’t really need to spend money on anything, except the essentials. Food, but not an expensive meal at a restaurant, a place to stay, and the occasional tour of a church or tourist attraction. Then you might have some things that you need that seem like they are essential. After traveling for a while, I even had a period of time where I didn’t use a towel after getting out of the shower. Before the trip started I thought that was pretty much essential, but it’s not. And when they charge you a few euros at the hostels for a towel, you can definitely shower without a towel. I came to realize that souvenirs to myself, are a waste of money as well. The real value is the experience I gained and the memories I have now. Souvenirs seem to be a replacement for some people who go from place to place, and are looking for something to fill the gap of what they didn’t get to experience. I felt like I experienced enough, where it wouldn’t mean anything to me to spend money on them. The only thing like that I spent money on were some coasters in Paris and Germany for my family. But it really did give me a different perspective on what is more valuable to spend my money on. Experiences over things without a doubt.
Taking care of yourself
It’s easy to take care of yourself in the comfort of your home. But when you are moving from place to place it’s very easy to neglect taking care of yourself as much. You can eat less healthy, not take care of general hygiene, and get less sleep. But as you go on traveling for a while, you find a good balance where you know what you need in order to stay in good shape. I was definitely wearing dirty clothes a lot of the time, eating foods that I wouldn’t normally eat all the time, and not always getting a good nights sleep. But that is part of traveling. As long as you don’t let yourself go totally , it works out fine. But you become aware of when you need certain things to make you feel better at certain times, and get by the rest of the time. And I only traveled for 3 months straight. I met some people on my trip that had been traveling for 3+years! Out of a backpack! Imagine how much they learned over that period of time about staying healthy on the road.
You become integrated into the culture the longer you stay in one place and start to feel the vibe of that place more and more. When I got to Europe it was completely different than I ever could have imagined. But it also showed me that their are different ways of doing things. And the way that the United States does them is not the best in everything. If I could take bits and pieces of all the places and put them together, I am sure I could create the perfect place to live. I found out that Italy has an argument for the best food in the world, and all natural for the most part. I’ll talk later more in depth about it. I found out that German bars are open tell 7 am on the weekends. I found out your money goes a long ways in Spain. And I found out the architecture is amazing throughout Europe. There are many things I would prefer to have done the way it’s done in the US, and many the way they do them in Europe. But it makes you realize, that one place does not have it all. But every place has a lot of amazing aspects.
I never got full over in Europe hardly ever. It could have been because I was walking around everywhere. Or was it because the food is more natural, and non-GMO. Especially in Italy, Spain, and France….I felt like they had really good all natural food. I love the food in the US as well, but it is just completely different than any of the food in Europe.
The biggest thing about visiting other countries is realizing that you really don’t know anything when you are in one country your whole life. You think that life is just what it is where you are currently living. But there is a broader perspective that is open to you if you pursue it. And it really opens up your mind to new possibilities for how to communicate, do things, and grow as a person. Awareness inevitably allows these experiences to change your life for the better. That is what traveling does. It makes you a more well balanced, mature person with more confidence to handle whatever life throws at you. A good quote to sum up my overall backpacking across Europe is, “traveling is the only thing you can spend your money on that makes you richer”.