Last year, I spent 8 months travelling Europe (and Morocco and Turkey). I learnt a lot during that time – probably more than I did during my 4-year uni degree.
While I discovered a lot about the world, the biggest revelations turned out to be about myself. I’d like to share 8 things that I learned from my 8 months travelling Europe with you.
1. Be Flexible with Your Schedule
I started my trip with a rigid schedule. I had planned three months into my trip before I even left home!
Once I arrived, I realised the issues with such a schedule. I couldn’t jet off with a new friend or extend my stay somewhere if I really liked it. I couldn’t even leave if I didn’t like it.
When I got more flexible and stopped booking all of my transport and accommodation weeks ahead of time, I was able to go on a girls trip with some new friends!
It’s important to be flexible with your schedule to allow for exciting opportunities.
2. It’s Not All About Counting Countries
There’s an obsession now-a-days with collecting the number of countries you’ve been to. I started my trip with the goal of visiting as many as I possible could.
By the end, I realised the countries I’d spent only a few days in hardly felt like I’d seen them. The countries I spent a few weeks or a month in really allowed me to engage with the culture and explore them.
I know I seem hypocritical. My tag line includes how many countries I’ve been to, but honestly that’s mostly because I didn’t know what else to put in my tag line! It’s too long to include all of the incredible cultural experiences I had along the way.
Don’t worry about collecting countries. Worry about enjoying yourself and immersing yourself in your surroundings.
3. Take Advantage of Every Experience
I often held back from experiences due to money worries or outright fear.
This is the worst thing you can do while travelling. When are you going to get to go back there?
Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia was a must do, but the price tag almost put me off. I’m so glad it didn’t or I wouldn’t have that amazing memory (and some pretty fantastic photos).
Put money and fear aside. Get out of your comfort zone and do the crazy thing – like going to a song and dance night in a Croatian shed!
4. Make Human Connections
It’s so important to meet real people while you travel. Locals or tourists can help make your trip.
Some of my fondest memories had nothing to do with where I was, but matter because of who I was with. Working on a farm in Croatia and teaching English in the Czech Republic were made so much better by the people I was with.
I still keep in touch with many of my international friends now.
In Morocco, I got the chance to go to a cooking class with local women. Hearing their stories and working with them was so amazing. It taught me a lot about the culture and made the country come alive.
Make connections along the way to enhance your trip.
5. Try All the Food!
Your waistband is irrelevant when you’re travelling Europe!
I brought some stretchy pants (thank god!) so I was able to work my way across 14 countries eating everything each one had to offer.
Why worry about your weight when you can be enjoying delicious food in the location it was created?
Ask hotels or locals what to try in each country. They’ll give you the best tips on where to get it.
Savour each morsel, and keep notes on new favourite foods to try and find when you go back home!
6. Allow Yourself to Be Homesick
Homesickness is such a normal thing for travellers.
There’s this false perception that long term travellers don’t get homesick.
It’s normal to miss the people and things that you’re used to.
Take the time to call home or do things that remind you of home to comfort you. Let yourself be sad sometimes and then do something fun to break out of the slump. Don’t wallow forever or you’ll ruin your whole trip!
7. It’s OK to do Familiar Things
Familiar things or food from your home country can feel a bit like a waste when you’re abroad. But they aren’t.
This actually helped me the most with my homesickness when I was in Berlin. Rather than wallowing, I started cooking food I love and going to movies like I would back home.
That familiarity made me feel less far away from my comfort zone and helped me calm down.
8. Countries May Surprise You
I went to Bulgaria as a three day stop over between Turkey and Serbia. I didn’t expect there to be anything to do there.
Turns out, it’s a pretty awesome country.
I wish I had gotten to spend more time there, so I could explore the hiking opportunities and see more of the culture.
If I had been more flexible, I could have extended my stay. Unfortunately, I’d booked a flight to Serbia, so I didn’t have that option.
Be open to what every country has to offer. They may surprise you – in a good or bad way.
8 months in Europe yielded so many lessons that I can’t sum up in 8 points.
These 8 are the best tips I learned that I hope will help you if you take on any long-term travel.
Following these tips will help you realise more about yourself as you make connections, learn what food you enjoy and let the world surprise you.
Would you do a long-term trip? If so, where would you go?