The Post-College Backpacking of Europe: Reasons to Go and How to Plan

By Eirinn Norrie

travelingI went all in: one month, all my savings, Europe. Granted I didn’t have that much in my bank account as I do like to spend my money on travel, but it was still scary (and thrilling) to know that I would be coming back home after a month of excitement to no money and no job. So why even do such a trip? I could have spent those four weeks jumping on the job search or scavenging under couch pillows for extra coins for thruway tolls. Or even planning out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I did it because I simply had to. The timing was perfect, I am young and healthy, and I needed to see another part of the world. Here are 5 reasons you should drop everything and travel as soon as you graduate:

  1. Give yourself a break. We’ve been in school forever. It’s about time to drop everything and do what you want. It’s interesting to see where you’ll end up when you aren’t scheduled for 9/10ths of your day.
  2. You’ll realize it is okay to get lost. It’s inevitable that you’ll get lost in the winding streets of some big city in Europe. Once you realize that it’s not actually a big deal and you find hidden gems of the city, you’ll realize that it’s okay to be figuratively lost in life as well.
  3. Worldly experience never hurt anyone. You’ll pick up language skills, cultural awareness, and an understanding of how strange people can be. Totally makes you marketable for your next position, for sure!
  4. Travel deepens your friendships. You really don’t know your friends until you travel with them. Unfortunately, you may find out that you make terrible travel buddies, but that doesn’t make your friendship any less fantastic. You’ll still make fabulous memories together and who doesn’t want that!
  5. You need to try some exotic food before you’re forced to eat Spaghetti-Os and Ramen for dinner to save money for that new car. Gulaš is a meal that now stars front and center in my dreams and is one of the main reasons I want to return to the Czech Republic.

Of course, there are several thousand more reasons you should backpack Europe, but hopefully it only takes a few to convince you.

People are always amazed that I was able to do four weeks abroad on a student budget with private apartments every night. Well, it takes planning. Lots and lots of planning! But the hours that you spend glued to your computer doing research will pay off— plus you’ll be doing something productive online instead of looking at cat videos. So how do you go about planning a trip like this?

  1. Convince a few friends to go! This means increased safety, a shoulder to lean on, and someone to take pictures of you when you’re in a pretty place. And a huge bonus— it cuts down on apartment prices if you choose to rent an apartment (which can work out a lot cheaper than hosteling).
  2. Decide what countries you want to go to and look into flights. Use services like cheapoair.com to compare prices. Look into whether it is cheaper to fly straight to the country you want to go to or if it works out cheaper to fly to a nearby country for the big flight. After all, once you’re in Europe, transportation is generally quite cheap.
  3. Plan a route using rough transportation estimates and see if certain routes would work out cheaper. Use rome2rio.com to compare prices of flights, buses, trains, and more. Don’t assume that flying will be more expensive— we managed to catch a flight from Pisa to Paris for only $30! So much quicker and cheaper than trying to trudge across by bus or train!
  4. Look at accommodation for each stop. Use websites like Airbnb.com and hostelworld.com. Don’t forget to look into the locations. Just because a location is cheap does not mean it is better— especially if you have to take a pricey bus route to get out to that section of the city! Don’t forget to check into the ratings of your accommodation. Does the host have a verified ID and a good reputation? These are crucial for having a successful trip!
  5. Book now rather than later! You can’t be too prepared. Book as much as you can beforehand. This will give you a better idea of how much money you have spent total, along with how many activities you can do and bars you can visit while abroad.
  6. Print, print, print! Print as many receipts and confirmations as you can and bring them with you in an organized travel binder. It may even be a good idea to bring a copy of your passport with you in case you lose it. Don’t forget to check where your country’s embassy is in each city you go to!
  7. Head out with an open heart. Traveling is something so many people around the world don’t get to experience. Try new things, take risks, and spend all your money! Enjoy it thoroughly. Make coming back to no money and no job completely worth it.

My trip changed my life. After traveling to the Czech Republic, Croatia, Bosnia, Italy, France, and England, I’ve found my passion again for writing children’s stories. It’s completely unrelated to my trip, but somehow the voyage re-sparked my passion to pick up a pen and write. Perhaps traveling after graduation will reveal to you as well what you’re truly passionate about. Fingers crossed that I’ll get a book published in the next few years so that I can afford to travel again!

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