Money may not buy happiness, but it does buy food. So if you’re going overseas with none of it, ensure you meet one of the following criteria; you have a credit card that you convince yourself you can pay off when home, your parents can bail you out or you have a harmonica – and no dignity – for busking.
Many parts of a European trip should be left as dim memories for the sole traveler but some should be shared. Others should give enjoyment as if you were walking past someone’s car with its headlights left on, or should deliver lessons for young people embarking on their own adventures.
The following is my contribution.
The problem with young people these days isn’t that we drink too much, or that we leave essays to do themselves, or that we have a little too much self-respect; it lies in our belief that we can travel with no money.
Having already been to Europe in 2006, I really should have learnt.
At the beginning of January I decided to lull myself into a false sense of security – by going to Thailand for two weeks on the way to a snowed-in London. People would be wearing no clothes whilst sunbaking and drinking 50c beer….
If you go to Europe in January, take four jackets, a portable fire and another four jackets – it isn’t like Thailand.
For the most part of those two weeks I stayed on Railay Beach, a land-locked island near Krabi. Meeting three girls from Melbourne, I followed them to Krabi before we went our separate ways.
Rule one: when travelling alone, go out of your way to meet people. If this means buying beer to take back to their cottage, stopping them from going to bed and making them drink with you, do it. Company is paramount.
After landing in London and finding out the mate who was picking me up, to supply free accommodation, had instead decided a date was more important. I made my way to the Generator Hostel in Russell Square to continue my eventual fifty hours of no sleep.
After London I headed to Italy. Whilst the colosseum is stunning, the Vatican has a line-up similar to what we can expect at the pearly gates; Rome didn’t do it for me. This may have been due to the accommodation.
Before I left home, I had planned to couchsurf throughout my trip. Whilst these plans unfortunately fell through city after city, I do recommend this website for a completely different way of seeing the world.
Rule two; if looking for accommodation, never, ever go to a tourist information centre for hostel bookings. Ask for an internet café and go to hostelworld.com to find cheaper, better hostels. Out of exhaustion I broke this rule… never again.
From Rome I went north to Siena, a beautiful medieval city that’s fine to do in one day, and from there on to Florence – the cultural capital of Italy and celebrated at the birthplace of the Renaissance.
Florence is highly recommended. The population is bloated with students from around the world supplying an excuse for countless wine-bars and clubs to spring up throughout the visually-charming maze of streets.
After Florence I went to Venice with an Argentinean guy I had met. We experienced the exciting – and expensive start to the Carnivalè.
Rule three; if you’re in Venice for the Carnivalè, splash out and buy a mask – for 10 or so Euros it adds to the experience more than the equivalent in alcohol.
Due to the cost of hostels we only stayed one night in Venice. We stayed at the train station – do not do this in -3°C. From there it was onto Milan to join a Canadian lad we had met in Florence.
Snow, wonderful snow awaited us, the joy of which is almost overshadowed by the stupidity of my footwear – Dunlop Volleys (represent).
Whilst a good stop-over city on the way to France, Switzerland or Spain, Milan is quite blasé apart from the attendance of a Serie A football match at San Siro stadium.
Rule four; Inter Milan FC is called Inter by fans – don’t call them Inter Milan. And it’s football, not soccer!
Following this, the remainder of my trip was spent in Barcelona. After running out of money, my plans to travel around the country crashed as hard as my bank balance, which turned into somewhat of a positive; Barcelona is something else.
On my last night there I joined the manager and some receptionists from the hostel on a trip south for an overnight gay festival. It was one of the highlights of the trip until the train ride home.
See, I mentioned earlier that I wore Volleys which, as you would know, slide on/off with ease.
Rule five; if you only have one pair of shoes, protect them like your passport.
As hundreds of people crammed onto the 6am train back to the capital, my friend and I were pushed over and I experienced the extent to which Volleys slide off.
Seeing one of my shoes lying under the train was funny at the time. Not so funny the next day as my foot went numb, walking around Barcelona looking for shoes I could afford.
Rule six; even if they’re only six Euros, don’t wear Crocs in a European winter.
Having no money is fun. It makes the trip more interesting, it makes food taste better, makes alcohol go a whole lot further. Just make sure you have a plane ride home.
So go meet people and find cheap hostels, participate in carnivals and local sport, become friends with your hostel or couchsurfing hosts.
But most importantly, take spare shoes.