When my husband and I decided to book a family holiday – just the 3 of us for the first time in 3 years – I was over the moon. I started planning months in advance, imagining us renting a car and driving around Ireland or drinking gallons of Spanish wine and ordering plates of tapas in the heart of Barcelona.
But mid-daydreaming I realized that, more often than not, I’m the one who gets really, excited about where we’re going. So I turned to my husband and asked where he would like to go. He paused. Then finally, after much internal deliberation, he sent me a message that read: Poland. And just like that we’d booked flights into Munich and onto Warsaw, and out of Krakow.
Did you know? 3 Facts About Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital city of Poland and has been since 1596. It is also the largest!
Warsaw, once described as the Paris of the East, was known as one of the world’s most beautiful cities German invasion of WWII in 1939 which left to over 85% of its building in ruins
Warsaw was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980
This past December, I made a plan to visit the glorious five villages of the Italian Liguria region, the Cinque Terre. To wander the isolated, cliff-topping villages and hike the rugged trails over-looking the Mediterranean had always been on my wish list since seeing a friend’s photos of the region while she was spending time in the neighbouring “big city,” La Spezia. The hiking trails of the Cinque Terre were constructed by local “sea people” as a means to get to nearby villages quicker for supplies. Walking the same paths as locals did to me was the authentic traveling experience I was looking for, and I wanted to take in every bit of it.
Doing some pre-departure research, I was well aware that strong rains often accompany the winter season in the Cinque Terre. This was the case in 2011, where severe landslides took a toll on the 11th century construction, devastating one village especially, Vernazza. Potential risk of landslides often causes such famous hiking routes like Via del Amore to close. During my time on the Liguria Coast, this was indeed the case not with one, but with all of the hiking trails in the Cinque Terre!
Still determined to find a way around the closed trails, I attempted what locals call the “higher route” from Manarole to the highest situated village of the five, Corniglia. According to the city information kiosk, this route was also dangerous. Twenty minutes into my hike, pouring rain had coated the sleek steps. What looked like piled broken branches blocked my pathway and my barely-there grip footwear had me second-guessing my decision. Flashbacks started, bringing me back to the evening earlier; two plaques are stationed on a rock wall in Manarole to commemorate the life of a Canadian who accidently drowned, and an American who, as it says, was swept away by her husband, the Via del Amore. Gut overtook my adventurous side. After standing soaking wet from head to toe so short into my 1.5 hour hike, I decided to call it a day and take the local trains. I would try an alternate path tomorrow.
Backpacking through Europe isn’t as expensive or difficult as it may sound, not if you follow the three P’s — prepare, protect and pack.
Before brushing up on your Jack Kerouac books and posting a “Europe or bust” post on Facebook, start your trip by studying possible places you’ll be traveling to, staying overnight and eating at.
First and foremost, budget your trip as best you can. According to a USA Today article, you can budget about $15 for food a day if you’re a supermarket or local grocery store shark, but plan to spend about $25 to be safe and to allow yourself to enjoy the local food.
As for where to go, as photographer Eric Kim explained, “It is better to spend more time in fewer places than see more places in less time.” He advises not to be afraid to ask locals where the hot spots are and always purchase a map. Check out Hostelbookers.com for some cool places to visit.
As far as lodging, hostels are a terrific, inexpensive way to swing a fun and affordable backpack trip across Europe. It doesn’t hurt to check out where hostels are located in the area you’ll be traveling. Not only can you adjust your budget better ahead of time but you can also book hostel stays and take advantage of discounts that Hostelworld.com offer.
The last thing you want is for your European backpacking experience to turn into a peddler’s burden of begging for money and food. Don’t make preventing identify theft and protecting your money and passport a priority after you’ve been robbed.
Signing up for coverage with the Lifelock Identity Alert system assures that you’ll be more concerned with beer and local spicy food you just consumed more than the security of or your finances while on the trip. Lifelock boasts a proactive approach to broader identity coverage, notifying you by email, regular mail, phone … everything short of smoke signals.
The Savvy Backpacker cautions using your credit card at foreign ATMs, as you will be nailed with enormous fees. It advises to use an ATM or debit card instead. It also gives you plenty more information on the Euro and British Pound Sterling and exchange rates.
With Identity Strong protection, you’re not only protecting your physical items, but your virtual items, as well. Yes, pickpocket thieves are good enough now to steal your identity without even taking anything out of your wallet, thanks to technology.
If you did your homework, then by the time you’re actually ready to pack you’ll know one thing for sure — pack light.
There are only two things you need to keep in mind when packing, and that’s organization and weight distribution, according to Wildbackpacker.com. From having the proper-sized backpack to deciding on what’s a luxury and what’s a necessity, packing your backpack is perhaps the most essential part of planning your trip.
Once you’ve sorted between luxury and necessity, lay all your necessary items — clothes, phone adapter, compass, lighter, insect repellent — on the floor and then pack from least used (to go to the bottom) to most used.
Europe isn’t all flat, soft terrain, so do you a favor and prepare for outdoor exercise. To learn more about light backpacking, go to Backpackinglight.com.
Remember, there’s plenty of mystery and the chance in backpack trips through Europe, even if you prepare.