"Did I ever tell you about the time I went backpacking in Western Europe?"-Ross Geller from Friends
Our last day in Europe started with a bit of chaos. The main port of Venice was closed for Festa del Redentore (celebration of the savior), so we had to dock at an industrial port. MSC did not give us any information besides the fact that no public transportation is available from that port. After getting off on the dock side of the boat, we could not find our luggage, and no one could tell us where it was or how to get back to the island of Venice. We boarded the ship once again, found the friendly Spanish translator who also spoke great English, and learned we needed to exit the boat on the sea side where we would take a ten minute boat ride back to the main port to get our luggage. We arrived at port, collected our baggage, and walked to the train station to store our luggage for a few hours while we souvenir shopped. After some shopping in the sweltering heat of Venice which had an unpleasant aroma of dead fish and sewage, we boarded a bus to the mainland. We stayed at Hotel Ducole for the night which was near the airport. Travel tip: if you are going to Venice to visit Venice, stay on the island. Since it was a Sunday, everything was closed on the mainland which forced us to organize our backpacks, watch some news, and catch some sleep before our early flight to Amsterdam.
Unfortunately, we caught our connecting flights back to Texas effectively ending our European adventure. It is hard to believe a trip that I dreamed about for three years, provided a light at the end of the dark CPA tunnel, acted as a graduation celebration, and served as a final hurrah for my childhood years has come and gone. Now, I have unpacked my backpack which was the easiest unpacking job I have ever done, and I am sitting in the good ole U.S. of A reminiscing about what a great trip it was.
In 40 days, we covered a lot of ground, saw a lot of sights, met many people, and became more knowledgeable and cultured, and now, I am thoroughly exhausted. Backpacking is not necessarily a vacation. It is a lot of work. We started planning this trip last September, and gradually, we nailed down the big details like which destinations we wanted to visit. We divided the trip up, and each of us was responsible for about a week of it. For our assigned portion, we figured out transportation, accommodations, and key attractions, including entrance fees and hours of operations. We roughly outlined what we wanted to do in each city and booked major reservations like canyoning and the Tuscany tour.
Some backpackers do less planning; some do more. I believe we found a happy medium that allowed us to use our time wisely and stay on budget. While we planned ahead, we also left ample free time in our schedule to allow for shopping trips, nap times, transportation delays, and any other incidents. Even with our planning, the work had just begun when we boarded the plane for Europe. Once there, we woke up early to conquer our day's agenda, walked (at times ran frantically) everywhere, endured weather (from sweltering heat in Berlin to freezing rain in Salzburg), hauled our heavy backpacks on travel days, and lived by the motto, "you can sleep when you are dead." It was tiring, but 100% absolutely worth it.
This trip allowed me to cross a lot of places off my travel bucket list, but it has also added a dozen more to my list. Here is a brief EUROnly Young Once backpacking trip summary by the numbers:
40 days of backpacking
36 degrees Celsius (the temperature during our Berlin bike tour)
24 day Eurail Pass
21 weeks of internships to ensure I had enough money to pay for this trip and not come home completely broke
15 accommodations (7 hostels, 2 apartments, 3 hotels, 2 bed and breakfasts, and 1 cruise ship)
13 forms of transportation (walking, 4 planes, train, van, bus, cruise ship, cable car, tram, bike, subway, donkey, taxi, tender boat)
8 disgusting cruise dinners
8 tours (4 bike tours, 3 bus tours, 1 free walking tour)
7 times I did laundry (4 of those were hand washing)
7 bunk beds
6 shared bathrooms
5 currencies (euro, koruna, zloty, franc, kuna)
4 plane rides
3 cool friends/backpacking buddies
2 t shirts I packed
2 night trains
Plus, countless mishaps, delicious meals, scoops of gelato, visits to churches and palaces, tower climbs, laughs, and memories.
Only those who have backpacked can understand the fun, the frustration, the exhaustion, and the wisdom that comes with living out of a backpack for a relatively lengthy period of time. I could not imagine a better way to end a chapter of my life before adulthood comes knocking on my door. Thank you for everyone who has read any of my blog entries. I pre-apologize for talking about this trip incessantly until I replenish my bank account and can afford another globetrotting vacation.
P.S. Entry with some travel tips will be posted in a few days.