The World is a pretty incredible place to explore. From your own community to one a few hundred miles away, there is always something to tickle your fancy for a long weekend escape. BUT if you are ready to venture "across the pond" for my American friends, then, Europe is calling. Each and every country is truly magnificent on so many levels, and many, much smaller than the state you currently reside in. Not just for those from the USA, the EU is accessible and easy to travel for those who do not speak the local language, regardless of where you are from. It's true, I have not been everywhere, but can say that; Spain, Germany, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy, England, Greece, Scotland, Serbia and Bulgaria,...this seemed to be the case where ever I went, whether I was around for a few days or a few months. In fact, the only thing that truly bothers me in Europe, is the copious amount of smoking, but that's just me, and I have become quite tactful in avoiding the fumes. Though I always try to learn a few local words, my English and rudimentary Spanish, get me along just fine. What are you waiting for?
TOP 5 REASONS EUROPE IS A GREAT PLACE TO VISIT:
1) Travel. Once you arrive, it is super easy to get from point A to point B. I love using GoEuro and Rome2Rio, both are fantastic when working out your logistics. Type in two locations and either app will give you all your possible transport options, as well as links to directly book your tickets. Easy and fast, and a fabulous way to explore an area you may know little about. There is also an app called BlaBlaCar, and though I have not personally used it, I have friends which have. It's a great way to meet locals who are driving in the direction you want to go, you simply pay a small fee to be a passenger. What a fabulous idea!
2) Culture. Each and every country in Europe is completely different. The architecture, art, music, streets, festivals, museums...layout, are all fantastic and fun to explore. Cities and regions can be completely different as well, making it easy to lose yourself in a general area for many days or weeks on end. I encourage attending a performance, if even in another language, it is a superb way to really get a feel for a place. Simply going to a movie, will change the way you watch cinema back at home (see #3 below).
3) Eats & Drinks. As in #2, every location is a foodies dream come true! Local restaurants, pubs, farmers markets, and grocery stores....which by the way, are my favorite location to check out upon arriving into a new country. Another plus, no hormones or nasty chemicals are used in the majority of food processed here. Banned for the most part throughout the European Union, which means food is not only healthier for you, it's usually tastier too. Not to mention the open policies of drinking in public. An open beer, on the train, you betcha. Can't finish that bottle of wine, take it home, and take a swig whenever you deem appropriate, along the walk. None of those "no alcohol beyond this point" signs, for the most part, in much of Europe. So refreshing to allow adults to be responsible for their actions, and to take part in good ole conversations which can last for hours at a time, no smart phone, in sight.
4) Size. With countries you can travel across in just a few hours, you are inundated with incredible sights, sceneries, and smells to entice your senses on an hour by hour basis. No time to really explore an area, pick a station, hop off, have lunch and get right back the next train heading in your desired direction. If you don't like one place, hop on another train until something catches your eye. I do recommend learning a few words in whichever country you will be visiting, it's simply courteous to say hello in the local language. Sure, you can download google translate, but the simple act of attempting to converse, without an aid, is a great way to get in with the locals.
5) Cheap. This is a tough one, because if you are used to traveling in say, SE Asia, then cheap has a whole new meaning....BUT if you are coming from Australia or the USA most locations are quite a bit less expensive then what you may be used to. This is of course all relevant to what your personal comfort zones are, and don't always apply, but in many instances it is less expensive to travel within Europe, than it is in North America or Oceania. There are exceptions; pretty much all Northern European countries are more costly than Southern ones and London is always pretty pricey, but for the most part, the cheap rule lives on. Here is a recent itinerary with prices to match, and compared with other similar trips in both the USA and Australia, listed in USD:
Cologne - Hanover - Leipzig - Dresden - Munich - Innsbruck - Lecco = All rail travel over 13 days time, coming to a total of $260. I tend to stay in rooms in the $100 per night range, but you can easily stay in hostels or luxury locations as well. In just about any city, you will find all sorts of accommodation options, including AirBB and even home stays. Bookings.com is a great way to have one stop shopping with superb filters for you to use based on price, location and amenities which work for you. From Lecco a cab to the Bergamo airport and my flight back to Bulgaria where I am based, a total of $50. This brings transportation costs to a tad over three hundred dollars, food and lodging are going to be flexible based on your own personal travel styles.
In the USA, just using Uber for 5 days in the Los Angeles area, cost me close to $200, add another $175 for a short flight to Portland and then another $250 for a rental car for 7 more days. This brings the total to five hundred and twenty five dollars for close to the same amount of time. Sure you could use local busses, just as you can in Europe, this again is where your comfort level is when traveling.
Lastly, in Australia, using the same type of time frame and scenario between the Gold Coast and Sydney. Uber and taxis from the airport and in and around the Gold Coast came to over $300 for 6 days of use, local tram was another $20; flight to Sydney was a bit over $100 with local transport including ferries, coming in at $300 for 4 days of getting to and fro. The Land Down Under totals in at a whopping seven hundred and twenty dollars. Europe is looking better and better, when comparing side by side.
Much of the price differences are due to the size and location of the countries listed, and certainly they are just examples. The point here, is that Europe is not going to break the bank, especially if you choose countries in the south and to the east. Going out is much less expensive, and in the case of tipping, not expected. With farmers markets and tasty local grocery stores, eating in can be an adventure in menu design as well as a fun way to see how far your hard earned cash can go. I found while living in Spain, my weekly shopping came to about $50 and when living in London, was closer to $100. Now that I am in Bulgaria, my weekly groceries run about $40, including beer and wine!
Honestly, the language barrier should not inhibit your travel patterns either. Sure, I have had challenges, but they are few and far between. You are reading this, therefore you speak English, which means, even in countries where another language is spoken, someone is usually around who has some knowledge. Serbia was a fine example of this. As I was driving across the country, I had a very specific question about my rental vehicle, and it only took 3 persons at a petrol station, to find someone who understood and could help me. With a smile on their face and clearly delighted to help the American gal who was traveling alone with her dog. Fearful? Never. Bad things happen to good people all the time, they are not going to happen at any higher frequency in another country. Just like in any strange location; keep your eyes open, don't travel with all your cash, keep your credit cards separated, your passport with the hotel and a confidence in your step.
So, just say YES to Europe and all it has to offer.
If you see a cheap flight from your local airport, jump on it.
Once you arrive, you can easily head out to the destination which really grabs your heart,
or take a chance and explore something new.
Either way, it's a win.
Feel free to contact me for help in itineraries or logistics