Final Thoughts

Ok the trip is winding down, and I’m sure there are some common questions, so if you have any and I won’t be seeing you soon, send them my way and I’ll answer them.

Q: What would you change if you had to do it all over again?
A: Well I think for the most part I did really well for not having any reservations or itinerary. There have been plenty of times when I have thought to myself “oh I wish I had gone with that person I met there” but then I’ve come to realized that if I had gone with someone somewhere else in Spain for instance I wouldn’t have met nice people like Allan, Rachael, or Vicky, or for that matter any number of other people. It never works to get into that “what if” game with that sort of thing, things happened as they did and I had a different experience, and in the end who knows if it would have been better or worse? The big thing I would change though would be my travel arrangements. The Eurail pass was nice, but I bought too long of one. If I had bought the 1 month instead of 2, it would have run out on the 19th as I was leaving Italy. I spent $1000 on that compared to the $700 for a 1 month, the cost after 1 month would have have been $75, so that was a wasted $200, which is a lot, but it wasn’t really foreseen that the pass wouldn’t help much in Italy and Greece. I also would have done the planes a lot more different. Unlike in the US or Japan, budget airlines are all the rage in Europe. It costs 30 euros to go from Madrid to Barcelona, and 110 to go from say Athens to Berlin. If I did this again I would book a round trip ticket from a major hub, say London, Berlin, or Zürich, and then taken budget airlines to Portugal, and from where ever I finished back to the hub. This way my round trip ticket would have cost me in total around $900, plus add in maybe another $300 for the budget airlines and I would have saved about $600-700. Now thats a huge chunk of money… and the prevalence of these budget airlines was not mentioned once in my book, nor did I see much about it online. Once again I have to chalk that up to learning along the way. I also would have packed a towel and pad lock, these come in handy at hostels but I had to buy over here.

Q: What was your favorite place?
A: This is a hard one to answer, there were so many special places for me. I loved the beaches of Lagos and Kamari, The castles in France and Sintra, the Louvre was great too. As for a single city, Prague, Fira, and Venice really capture the imagination. Porto too, although not the most impressive city, came to life for the san joãn holiday. It would be much easier to pick a single city, castle, beach etc, but I suppose if I had to pick just one, I would say the Moorish Castle at Sintra.

Q: What was your favorite place?
A: This is a hard one to answer, there were so many special places for me. I loved the beaches of Lagos and Kamari, The castles in France and Sintra, the Louvre was great too. As for a single city, Prague, Fira, and Venice really capture the imagination. Porto too, although not the most impressive city, came to life for the san joãn holiday. It would be much easier to pick a single city, castle, beach etc, but I suppose if I had to pick just one, I would say the Moorish Castle at Sintra.

Q: What was the hardest part of the trip?
A: Language. I speak ok French, enough for simple conversations. However I also made concerted attempts to learn some Portuguese, Italian, and I knew a bit of Spanish. Keeping all of those languages straight in my head was a bit difficult at times, and sometimes I would mix up languages. I didn’t spend enough time in Germany, Hungary, or Czech Republic to learn their languages. By the time I got to Greece I had no energy left to try to learn Greek. At times it could be difficult to communicated, but English is close to a universal language all over the world, so in a pinch I could usually find some help using English.

Q: Were you ever scared?
A: Honestly I’ve been told I’m very “low key” and for the most part I was not bothered even when plans fell apart. Though staying the night in Naples definitely had my hair on end at times, especially when I heard some gun shots in the distance. I don’t ever want to go back there again.

Q: What was your favorite food over in Europe?
A: Haha I love this one, I’ve been asked a couple times this now. Hmm, well the custard tarts in Portugal were the best dessert, even better than the gelato in Italy. But for a real meal, I really liked Greek cuisine, though as my grandfather said, there isn’t much variation.

Q: What did you miss the most from home while you were overseas?
A: Other than my bed? My friends I think. Though I have to say, the first thing I want when I get back to Riverside is a huge burrito.

Q: How did you like staying at hostels?
A: Well at first I didn’t like it much, I wasn’t very happy with the one I had in Madrid because they charge you out the nose for anything other than a bed, even for the sheets. But I had some really good experiences later, and the best was definitely the one in Pompeii, it was cheap, though the beds squeaked and I didn’t sleep well, the social life is just amazing at hostels. Its like how the greatest part about cruising was the social scene, meeting all the people, having drinks, chatting about all sorts of things. Its just like that staying at hostels, it has the same sort of easy going, quick to be friends feel. Everyone is just so willing to go out of their way to meet new people. If you think about our normal lives we spend so much time isolating ourselves from one another in America; we all drive our own cars, we listen to music on Walkmans CD players and now MP3 players, we never strike up a conversation with someone we meet on a street corner or sitting near us in a restaurant, but staying at a hostel you would be seen as weird or antisocial if you didn’t chat up the people near you or go out for drinks with your roommates or random people you meet backpacking.

Q: Was it worth the money? Would you do it again if you had the chance?
A: Its an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world, I really think it should be a part of what everyone’s young adulthood. I definitely would love to go backpacking again.

Q: Did traveling around Japan help?
A: A whole lot. I was used to complex metro systems, now coming to a city like Paris I could figure out the machines for tickets easily even if they weren’t in English, totally un-intimidated. I also learned things like the sort of things you need to pack for the most part, and the sort of backpack to have. Interestingly you can pick out the first time backpackers by what they have on their back. If you see someone with a huge pack bulging out the back you know they’re a first timer. The people that have done this before have backpacks with an internal frame, stuff like towels lashed to the outside, and aren’t carrying 20 kilos. The first timers all tend to do what I did too, have a planned out schedule with hostels, hotels, and transport booked for every stage. The longer people have been doing it, the less they seem to plan ahead. Also the people who have been away from home longer seem to care less and less about having neat hair or nice clothes, its so hard to keep up appearances washing clothes in the shower and sleeping on trains, buses, and in stations. The trip to Japan also really helped my confidence. A good example of the far opposite would be the couple Allan and I came across in Naples station freaking out about some guy sitting to close and glancing over from time to time. You could tell they had never been outside of the states.

Q: How much did you spend on things like travel and hotels? What about food?
A: Hahah this is a kicker. Well I kept good track of my spending down to the euro cent, and recorded the more important expenses like travel and hotels. It was hard to keep down all of the food stuffs because I would be buying many water bottles a day, maybe a few snacks or ice cream, split a bag of chips with someone, that sort of thing. I spent $1635 on sleeping accommodations, and $3280 on travel which includes the 2 month rail pass, both flights in and out, and all of the train supplements and ferries. All in all I spent about $6150. Which leaves $1230 as random expenses after that, I would guess about 1/4th of that is museums/sights and metro tickets, so food came out to about $925 of that. Over 40 days thats an average of $23, which seems about right because usually I couldn’t eat for less than 6-7 euros a meal, eating lunch and dinner thats 13 euros, or $17, add in a several bottles of water a day, and the occasional snack… Which isn’t all too bad considering at home its hard to eat for less than $5 a meal often because most meals out even at fast food places cost maybe $6, and cooking for 1 isn’t cheap.

Q: Do you think you’ve changed as a result of the trip?
A: This question I was asked by a girl from Hong Kong, and I think its hard to tell yet, but I definitely have a better appreciation for what Europe is like, how people live in other parts of the world, and how we stand in the world. I also was able to appreciate some of the most influential art in our history, not to mention pieces of our history. I think I’m also a lot more likely to start up a conversation randomly standing in line or standing at a street corner.

Q: How many photos did you take?
A: Haha, I took 1254 photos totally 2.17 GB. My server space is supposed to be only for 2GB in total, so I’m hoping the admins don’t care/notice..

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