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Well, I’m finally back to blogging!  5 weeks in Europe plus a job change once I got back means that I have not had my attention where it should be, however that is now changing!   We had the loveliest time backpacking our way from Paris to Rome via Eastern Europe.  Favourite countries?  Italy and Romania.  Favourite cities?  Rome and Amsterdam.  Along the way we stayed in apartments that we rented ahead of time through airbnb.com, a fabulous site for accommodations just about anywhere in the world!

While I thought I was being clever and packing light, only bringing one backpack between the two of us, turns out I learned a few lessons along the way and would pack a little differently if I could go back.  What we did was take one large backpack that my husband already owned that we could put all of our stuff in.  While it was great we only had one bag, it was large enough that we had to check it and heavy enough that part way through our trip I ended up buying a small leather tote to take some of the burden off of my husband.

What we did right:

  1. Brought a backpack and not a suitcase with wheels.  We saw many people travelling with large rolly suitcases and watched them struggle especially on trains (unless quite small they usually don’t fit well in overhead compartments and so fill the isles which is really awkward) and on cobbled streets where as I’m sure you can imagine, little wheels are not great.
  2. Brought more than one pair of shoes.  I brought two pairs of leather boots, one tall, one short and I never regretted this.  I almost never had sore feet as I alternated shoes each day which somehow didn’t wear my feet out the same as wearing the same pair each day.
  3. Waited until almost the end of our trip to buy a lot of the gifts.  Unless you are willing to ship gifts back home, carrying them around for the rest of your trip is a reality and so take this into consideration when thinking of buying “stuff” as this can add considerable weight to your luggage depending on the item.
  4. Typically stayed in apartments (booked through airbnb) which allowed us to shop at local grocery stores for food and not be forced to eat out every single meal of the day.  Our apartments also often had a washer which was incredible as we never once had to use a Laundromat, though we did end up washing our clothes in the bathtub once.  Staying in apartments also meant that we got to stay in great areas of the cities but yet didn’t have to pay Hotel prices.  As well, in many cases we got a good feel for how people actually live in the cities as we were staying in buildings surrounded by local people and not just other tourists as is often the case in Hostels or Hotels.
  5. Didn’t sweat the small stuff.  Lost was not a word I used on our trip as if you don’t have a tight timeline, wandering is simply fantastic and a journey to your next destination.  I didn’t worry too much about seeing every single tourist thing, but instead just soaked in the culture, the food, the people, the scenery, the smells…stressing yourself out because you have to rush from one thing to another without ever stopping to just enjoy the life that exists around you is no way to travel

Things we will improve on next time:

  1. Bring one small carry on backpack each.  A heavy load on your back doesn’t make for an enjoyable journey for anyone, especially if it is hot or you have to stand in lineups.  Though gels/liquids are an issue on airplanes, even if you check your bags just getting to your destination, travelling around from there with smaller bags on your back will increase the joy of your journey and decrease the complaining, sore back or annoyance of heavy luggage.
  2. Still brought too many clothes!  I though I was packing light…but honestly I could have done better!  Stick to the basics and maybe bring a few small accessories to mix things up or buy something along the way.  The problem with buying along the way is that shopping can eat up your time.  That being said, loving fashion, I adored walking in and out of little shops as shopping in a foreign country has a joy all its own…as long as you aren’t just going to the same stores you have back home!
  3. Know basic words in each country we were going to.  Especially in countries like Bulgaria and Greece where the lettering is fairly unrecognizable, having some basic language skills would have been an asset and also would have helped create relationships where there were language barriers.  We did know a little French and a little German, but expanding on those skills would be a great idea for next time!  Yes it’s true…there is always someone somewhere that speaks some English but not having to depend on someone knowing a little English is definitely the way to go!

There are two more topics I want to address as a result of my trip, namely European fashion and the size of apartments we stayed in.  This blog post is getting long however, so I’ll leave those for another post!

Julene

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.  – Susan Heller

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.  – Lao Tzu

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.  – Seneca

The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience.  The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him.  He goes “sight-seeing.”  – Daniel J. Boorstin

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