I’ve been reading a lot of Around the World Blogs and I’m a little jealous of the ATW lifestyle. Reading about new adventures every week always gets me on online, trying to see where I can afford to go, and while an ATW might be out of my financial grasp, an ATEU (around the European Union) is not.
I also realize that I’ve titled this as a travel blog and have been neglecting that bit. To explain: I’m living in London while finishing my schooling, but am originally from New York. While here it is UNBELIEVABLE how cheap it is to leave the country for a weekend. So to gear up for my travelogue I thought I’d jot down some things I’ve learned getting this far and then y’all can break out the passports and join me!
Doing an ATEU is pretty easy if you’re studying abroad in a European country, this is how everyone I know has gotten their passport stamps. You can get financial aid, family and friends are more willing to help out, and at the end of it you get class credit / a degree making the financial burden even more worth it. When studying abroad the first time (one semester) I was told to budget $5,000 and nearly threw up. Of course that immediately turned into $2,500 pounds upon landing and while I didn’t spend it all I was glad I had it. I was lucky and found one of those magical unicorns of New York City – a paid summer internship – so if you want to study abroad start saving immediately (even if your 12 and run a lemonade stand, actually most of my money came from well-saved cat city money).
Plan where you want to go early. Not only do rates go up but you will be making a slew of new friends upon your arrival – this is true if your backpacking or studying abroad – and those friends will have their own travel plans. It’s great to be flexible but if all of your new friends have already seen Paris and it’s your “destiny”, or whatever romantic notions you’ve been nursing, make sure it stays in your plan. You will have to wade through a bit of travel-snobbiness (You haven’t been there?! You want to do something touristy?!). Not letting someone bully you into a weekend in middle-of-nowhere Slovenia instead of seeing Paris for the first time is difficult.
Not wanting to travel alone isn’t horrible! Even though so many so-called “experienced” travelers make it out to be. I still don’t like it. I get bored, also who is going to take my picture? There are International Student Houses, Travel Clubs, and tours for younger folks in every city just for people like us who like travel buddies. (I’ve always been a wee bit skeptical of these too but just went on one I LOVED it so that showed me.) (This is also so much safer, especially for women, a friend of a friend spent 3 weeks in a South American hospital with dysentery (where she was robbed of her passport), this would always suck, but ALONE?! If things get all Oregon Trail it’s nice to have a friend.
Pack things you want to throw away. I brought a few junky old sweaters, jeans that were on their last legs, and cheap tanks. For a semester, this fit into one massive suitcase and my business carry-on, and for a year it was two massives and a carry-on. You always wind up buying a few things – either gifts, textbooks, or clothing; maybe even a blanket that you buy because you’re cold and you love it so you take it home even though it dominates half your suitcase, cough *Becca* cough. Yes, you want cute outfits for your travels but I’ve never met anyone who had trouble dressing themselves once they got here. Odds are you’ll get so into the style of your host city you won’t even want to wear the new clothes you got for the trip. Bring the old stuff and donate it before you leave. (I’m in an apartment here and am thinking if I sold all the kitchen and home stuff I had to buy I could finance another trip that way).
Think business traveler when you think luggage. My parents got me a new suitcase before my semester abroad that has fold out backpack straps, wheels, and fits in an overhead (FYI: use Easyjet’s dimensions when buying as they’re one of the smallest and most frequently used for European student travelers). I can’t even tell you how many trips have met with crisis because people don’t have a carry-on size bag. Lots of crying and screaming, “how can I go to Milan without these shoes?”
Carry-on is always best, it saves you time and about $80 on the cheap airlines. The only thing my bag doesn’t have, which I’d suggest -hence the business idea – is a laptop case. Odds are you’ll be using this for any academic trips and at the very least on your way home, be prepared to remove your laptop at security. P.s. Laptops are HEAVY. I never realized how heavy until I was lugging it all over Europe.
Take photos! I know everyone is a photog these days but so many people never step out in front of the lens. Recently, a friend visited me and didn’t get a picture of herself in front of Big Ben! You don’t even need to look at the picture ever again but maybe one day you’ll want to and wouldn’t it be nice to have?
Hostels vs hotels, transportation, tour groups, money and more! Feel free to ask questions or request topics!