Experiencing True Luxury While Traveling

Luxury is not 5-star hotels and all inclusive resorts. Luxury is taking your time. Luxury is not rushing, or having to cram an entire city into a day. There’s no way to see it all, or to appreciate what you’re seeing when you’re always in a rush. Instead, all you think about is where you have to go, and what you have to see next, rather than just being in the moment of where you are. I think my small bouts of home sickness are less of a desire to be home and more of a desire to simply stay put. Real luxury and relaxation is being able to unpack my things for a few nights and not be on the move again in just a night or two. When you’re always on the move, hopping from city to city at such a fast pace, you almost miss out on more just because it’s nearly impossible to keep your energy up long enough to see all that there is to see. And without that energy, it becomes harder to appreciate when every move you make is trying to make sure you’re not missing out on anything. 
I have learned to take my time. I am finally at a slower pace, with only 26 days left in my trip, and only 7 cities left. I am on my fourth day here in Vienna, while the first was spent mainly settling in and napping. I have become familiar with the city. I have spent my time browsing Naschmarkt each day, walking back and forth from the city centre, making meals at my hostel, and simply just taking my time.
Luxury is not setting an alarm nor feeling obligated to be a tourist for 12 hours of the day. Luxury is not exhausting yourself to feel fulfilled. Luxury is sitting in a booth of red velvet in the oldest cafe in Vienna, drinking coffee, eating a plum strudel, and writing. As long as you buy at least a drink in any coffee shop in Vienna, you can sit and stay for as long as you want. This cafe, Cafe Frauenhuber, is the oldest in Vienna. Mozart and Beethoven both once performed here. I feel as though I am a guest in someone’s home, as there is no music playing, and very few people for what you would think would be a very touristic location. 
Luxury is not five star hotels. Luxury is not even a resort with luxury in the name. Luxury is taking your time. This is what I have learned. I have no regrets regarding the way that I planned my trip. I have seen and enjoyed 11 countries and 31 cities in the two months that have flown by. I had to do what I did in order to see what I wanted to see in the amount of time I had. Now I know where I will want to come back to. I still have so much to see but I will be moving at a slower pace. I get a few nights in Brno, Czech, before I move onto Prague for 4 nights, and then I am in Denmark for over a week. There is no summer long enough that would ever allow me to explore all that I want to explore, but so much of the beauty of travel is staying in a place long enough to really know where you are. I know I will be back… but not nearly soon enough. 

I didn’t want to leave Sevilla 

I feel incredibly lucky to be in such beautiful cities. Every place I go is more beautiful than the last. Something different to offer, different to see, more to fall in love with… Sevilla is no exception. Sevilla is definitely the most beautiful city I have been to so far. The bus was over four hours with a pit stop and my hostel was only about ten minutes from the bus station. I walked on the main roads and made my way to the narrow streets of the historic district of Sevilla and fell in love. The architecture on every building, even the main roads, was beautiful. I was pretty exhausted upon my arrival in Sevilla, but I was also starving. 
I got settled into my room and one of the guys asked me and the rest of the bunk mates whether we were hungry, so we all decided to go out to eat. The guy who asked brought a ukulele along with him to travel and I soon found him to be unbearably annoying. No offense to him, I just don’t get along with 28 year olds who act like they’re 12 and require constant attention. The girl I was with was from Belgium and we got along very well, and this was my first taste of Spanish tapas so I wasn’t going to let some annoying, immature, ukulele playing Canadian ruin my meal. 
We all ate. I ordered manchego, olives, and grilled octopus, along with a glass of Sangria. The food came out all separately and it was exactly what I wanted out of life in that moment. I came back to the hostel and took my very first Spanish siesta that lasted a few hours and I was out cold. When I woke up, my Belgium roomie was not in her bunk so I wandered off to buy some clothes to better suit me for the weather. Because Sevilla. Is. Hot. I knew it was going to be hot, and the temperature really was not that bad in comparison to Florida, but going from Ireland to Portugal and then to a drastic increase in temperature was almost too hot to handle. 
I changed my clothes and ended up walking to the river for sunset. The bridge was beautiful at night and the park was covered with the same purple trees as Portugal. I walked along before making my way back to the hostel while waiting for the pub crawl to start. The pub crawl that night turned out to be canceled because not enough people signed up so some people from the hostel just went to the tapas bar next door for drinks. 3 euro wine and 1,30 euro beer. No complaints from me. A group of us ended up going elsewhere. This was the night that I learned how heavy of a pour the Spanish do for liquor… in a big class, nearly half of it was gin and half of it was tonic. No 3 second pour. It was 9. Some US college student attempted to hit on me and tried awfully too hard, sorry pal, so I went back to the hostel to sleep. 

The next day was the free walking tour that started around 10:30 and was supposed to last for about three hours. The huge group was divided by language and just about everyone in my group was paired off or apart of a family except for one guy. He turned out to be from Switzerland and working towards being a doctor. We chatted throughout the entire tour that took us to the Cathedral, a castle, the walkway across from Tirana, and ended at Plaza de Espana. We took a 30 minute break at one point and the Swiss guy got to watch me spill ice cream all down my shirt like a four year old. I claimed it was hereditary because seemingly everyone in my family has a problem spilling shit down their shirt when they’re eating. We agreed to get tapas afterwards and we shared garlic potatoes, sliced tomatoes, olives, tuna with roasted red peppers, and goat cheese. It was exactly what was needed after a long, hot few hours of walking. 
We were going to go to the Cathedral but the line looked dreadfully long so we passed and agreed to meet up later at Plaza de Espana or for a drink. I went back to the hostel, showered, and got ready to meet my penpal Manu that I have been talking to since October. He was actually my first penpal from a website that a friend had recommended. Exams are approaching in Spain so I was surprised he even had time in the first place but after all, I was in Sevilla. We met in Plaza Nueva by my hostel before heading over to PLaza de la Encarnacion where the “mushroom” was located. It is basically a big structure and you can take the elevator up to the top for a cool view of the city. Sevilla looked beautiful even at night, and the prettiest buildings were all illuminated. After that, we went for cheap beer and cheap food and drank and talk while I slowly lost my voice more and more. I had done a lot of talking that day already, and with a nasty cough, my voice was only getting worse. I ended up meeting with the Swiss guy from the walking tour again for a drink after Manu and his friend had to turn in for the night. It was definitely a perfect day in Sevilla. 
The next morning was hotter than the last, but I knew that I wanted to go to the Cathedral and climb up the tower, so I waited in line and got drenched with sweat. There is nothing weirder than the feeling of sweat dripping down your back and into you’re buttcrack. That’s all I’m saying. The Cathedral itself is the largest gothic cathedral in the world, I think. Rightly so. It was stunning. The ceilings were so high and the organs were the biggest I’ve ever seen. It was so easy to get lost in there. I’m not entirely religious so my main motivation was the tower. It was over 30 “flights” high but there was no elevator nor stairs. There were ramps. Apparently, back in the day, rather than walking up the ramps or creating stairs, donkeys used to pull people or be ridden up the tower. It took a bit to climb up to the top, especially because I kept getting stuck behind old people. Why do people love to stop in the middle of narrow hallways? Or walk directly in the center? People… 
The view from the top of the tower was really cool and you could get up on any ledge for a different view. Some of the views led into the courtyard, some were just of the city, or other parts of the cathedral itself. After the Cathedral I went back to the hostel, got made fun of for my rapsy voice, and then headed to get some Gelato before I showered. 
For dinner I treated myself to some Spanish tapas with a gin and tonic. I know, weird combination, but I was not in the mood for beer anymore. I ordered the gin and tonic and the waiter brought the bottle and a glass to the table. He filled my glass, a large glass, half way with gin. As he was pouring, I asked if he was trying to kill me because he didn’t stop for at least ten seconds and he just laughed as if it was totally normal, while dramatically shaking the bottle up and down to make more come out. He put the tonic on the table next to my glass and when he realized how much he actually poured he grabbed the tonic and started pouring it, laughing. “I don’t want my boss to see!” He exclaimed before he walked away. A fifth into my gin and tonic, I was drunk. I didn’t plan on eating any bread, but I soon realized I needed it with my cheese, ham, and mushrooms, and even put the rest of the bread in my purse like the grandma I am to save for later. After, I ordered dessert and got a 5 layer chocolate mousse cake thing that was drool worthy. I wandered back to my hostel and found my friends while they laughed at how drunk I was from only a single (triple) drink.
Later on I went to Plaza de Espana aftr the sun had set because the tour guide told us that it was beautiful at night and he was totally right. It was magical. Part of Star Wars was actually filmed there but that wasn’t something I knew. I had a random stranger take a picture of me in front of the magic and found my way to where all of my friends were on the pub crawl. The pub crawl was pretty unorganized but I was just happy to have found my friends and get another drink. I had another gin and tonic with an insanely heavy pour before we headed to a different bar, and another, and another. At the last one, I actually got carded. ID’d. The only one. I seriously must look 16 years old to get carded in Spain. 
After the last bar, most of us wandered back to the hostel while drunken food was made before we went outside, loudly talking / yelling / laughing. Most of us headed up to the roof top to smoke before I turned in for the night. Though this explanation of the night was a little vague, it was probably the best night I have had out in my entire trip so far. I will never forget Sevilla or the people I met there and I couldn’t be more excited to return. 

One Month Countdown

The one-month countdown has finally begun. I still can’t believe I’m doing this – and it doesn’t seem like all that many other people can believe it either. I can sense the doubts of others as I tell them my plan, I see their reactions when I say the word “hostel,” and I can feel their concerns when I say I’m doing this alone.

I have had my doubts, though very few. As time keeps passing and the day of my departure comes closer, my excitement churns to nervousness and sometimes even I wonder if I’ll really be comfortable being completely alone all of the time.

But then I remember who I am. I remember what I’ve been through. The hardest moments of my life I have lived through alone. There have been so many times in my life where I thought, “How am I going to be able to move on from this?” or, “How am I ever going to be okay again?” and I remember what is most important: the idea that everything in life is temporary. Fear, pain, confusion, yearning, joy, illness – everything is temporary. Feelings, both good and bad, rise and fall, and that is what life is all about.

This is what I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember and I have always imagined myself being completely alone during the journey. Maybe not completely, but at least without the company of someone I actually know. If everything I have ever experienced has led me to anything – it is this summer.

I’ve got it all figured out. I have my support systems. I have my friends, my family, my penpals in multiple countries of the world to reach out to if I’m in a bind, or just need someone to talk to that’s somewhat close by. And to be honest, I’ve planned this trip rather strategically, though of course, I know that nothing ever goes as planned, and I’m ok with that. I know that the stress will only be temporary, too. The scary moments will dissipate. Every moment of my journey will be fleeting – and that’s why I have to appreciate every single moment. Every landscape. Even though I’m traveling often, I have to allow myself to soak it all in, no matter where I am.

I start my trip with family in Ireland. I’ll be in Ireland for two weeks before heading to Portugal, and then Spain, each for about a week. I have no doubt I will be able to get through my trip. I have so much to look forward to, every day, every night. Once my first month has passed, I get a two-week break with my Contiki tour, so I’ll have some time to breathe and not have to worry about getting from place to place.

Time is ticking… and I’m ready.

Here goes nothing

So, rather than driving everyone I know and love absolutely insane by my constant travel-chatter about how excited I am, I decided to create a blog to let it all out, while talking about what I’m doing, how I’m feeling, where I’m headed, and what I’m learning along the way.

There is an insane amount of work that goes into planning a trip by yourself to Europe for 90 days. I figured there was, but not exactly to this extent. I have been planning for months. I have maybe half of my trip completely sorted, with another 6 weeks to research, plan, and book. When I originally decided to do this, I imagined myself on a lot of trains, seeing beautiful sights, and eating a lot of delicious food. That’s all I thought about. I honestly didn’t even give my accommodation that much thought before I started planning.

Now, why did I decide to save up every dollar I made just to spend it all within a few months in different countries? Well, why the hell not? Growing up in an extremely privileged community while not being wealthy was not the easiest thing in the world. I couldn’t really comprehend how my peers had so much money to do whatever they wanted. I have watched them go on euro trips with their families and with schools, I have watched them study abroad, and while they’ve been snapping and uploading pictures to Facebook, I’ve been taking notes of some seriously beautiful places. My list kept growing as did my savings. I originally planned to go for about two months, but after realizing how far my money could stretch, I decided to throw in an extra month so I can see more. It is finally my time to live an exciting life of adventure, food, and fun. I am going to explore the places I have longed to see and eat the food I have dreamt of for years. Clearly, food plays a huge role in my travels. I seriously intend on eating my body weight in cheese.

Though I am excited, this is a little threatening. I am 22 years old and I have never left the U.S. Hell, I’ve barely even explored the U.S. As I started to do more research about things in Europe, it started to dawn on me that I knew nothing about anything. The prices of trains are actually insane… Flights are cheaper than trains sometimes! Busses are a must and they’re inexpensive. Some of them even have Wifi, who knew? Anyway, I realized that if I want to stay in a good hostel during peak season in Europe, it was going to cost me more and as the days of my trip approach, the beds fill up pretty fast. So I started planning and booking.

I guess you could say that I’m a planner, but I honestly did not think I would be planning this much. With a time constraint, budget, and the fact that I’m going to be traveling completely by myself for 11 out of the almost 13 weeks, I have to know what I’m doing, where I’m going, and how I’m getting there way beforehand. I’m trying to avoid traveling at night, I have to take into consideration bus schedules and cancelations, and I have to be in touch with my hostel before I get there. My excitement of my journey is just as important as my safety throughout the experience; I have to make sure I’m prepared and know what I’m doing.

Honestly, this entire thing is the most exciting thing I have ever done in my life and I am learning a lot about myself in the process. Right in the middle of my trip I am going to be with a group of people exploring the Adriatic region; I will go more in depth below, but for 2 weeks we are seeing 7 countries and I won’t have to worry about my accommodation or bus schedules for a little while. But, it’s time to start planning and booking the last 6 weeks of my trip.

If you’re interested, here is what I’ve booked and planned so far:

Landing in Dublin, Ireland.

Bus to Cork, Ireland.

Bus to Killarney, Ireland.

Bus to Galway, Ireland.

Bus back to Dublin Ireland,

Fly out Dublin, Ireland, to Porto, Portugal!

Bus to Lisbon, Portugal.

Bus to Faro, Portugal.

Bus to Sevilla, Spain!

Bus to Madrid, Spain.

Bus to Barcelona, Spain.

Fly out Barcelona to Rome, Italy.

START CONTIKI TOUR –

Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, and it ends back in Italy.

I still have to sort out the last 6 weeks, but I’m thinking I will fly out of Rome and into Paris, France, work my way down the country to the Provence region, then head back to Italy for some solo exploration, head up to Austria, then Czech, then Denmark, Netherlands, the U.K. and then back home.

If you’re reading, I appreciate you. If you have recommendations or tips I will greatly appreciate them all.