Btw the featured picture is taken from a car on our way to the Alps. One South-Korean guy gave us a ride and I noticed that the coin he used as a key holder is very, very familiar. It is 1 Estonian Kroon that is not in use anymore. He said he got it from his parents. I must say my heart was melting when I saw it. And the damn guy didn’t even know it was Estonian and not a valid money anymore.
Travelling in Europe is right now the only subject I can write about. I haven’t made it further than Palermo from the South, Saint Petersburg from the East and Reading from the West. As you can see, there is a lot to discover for me as well. Yet, I have somehow found time and opportunities to visit quite a lot when considering my age, fact that my parents are not superrich, nor with a traveller’s soul, and that I have not taken any time off from work, nor school, to spend it just for discovering the world. That means anyone can do it, and anyone with the interest should do it.
So, how have I managed it all? First, crab an opportunity when you see it! One of the best ways to travel during your studies is joining a program. I have participated in projects for basic school students about the Baltic sea (so, the age is really not a limitation), Euroscola, and Comenius for highschool students, and last but not least Erasmus for university students. Few of my friends have participated in different projects like workshops as well and have been pleased. Most of the projects are paid for you or the amount you have to pay is really ridiculously small (usually around 30%), so just go and enjoy. And last but not least school trips. From time to time schools organise trips abroad with a bigger group that makes the price per person smaller. I joined my teachers and schoolmates on a trip to Russia, and I must say, I was very pleased. Yes, you cannot really walk around by yourself, nor party, but in Russia you maybe don’t want that much anyway.
I have also spent all of my savings and vacations on travelling and hitchhiking on the road. When it is about seeing the places, meeting the people and having an adventure, you don’t have to worry about living costs and transportation. The only thing to worry about is the food and it has been mostly the only expense we have had. What is more, you can even save some money on that. I like hitchhiking and this vagabond freedom that you get when travelling without guides, planned tours or packages. You never know where you end up sleeping, visiting or who you end up meeting (sometimes can be scary, but still totally worth it).
An amazing thing invented is couchsurfing. Not only you don’t have to spend a single penny for an accommodation, but you can meet very interesting and nice people on your way. One time we were hosted by a woman in her 80s. I must say I had some doubts before arriving, but Tom said she seemed very nice and all my fears faded when I met her. She was like a German grandmother I came to visit after long time. She cooked for us and provided us with anything you could ask for. And what is more, she had so many stories and life experience to share that you just sat there (with your champagne and strawberries) and listened with an admire. If you are scared of staying over at stranger’s, you can always look up for cheap accommodation on the internet. Another advantage here is when you have already some experience with a project/program. Trust me, you get a lot of new friends from tons of different places. People that you meet through those are always waiting for you to visit and happy to show you around.
Another way not to spend money on accommodation is a tent and a sleeping bag. When it comes to hiking it is, of course, essential, but people tend to forget that you can put up a tent almost anywhere (hidden of course as it is not allowed in quite many places). And if not, you can make yourself comfortable in your sleeping bag on the beach when looking at the stars before falling in the sweetest dream you have ever had (been there, done that). The only disadvantage is that you need to keep all of your worthy items close to you. I usually put it in my sleeping bag as I am too short too use the whole length of it anyway.
When it comes to decreasing your expenses on transportation then as mentioned one thing is hitchhiking. Before going to Erasmus I had never hitchhiked, not even in Estonia. Always felt that it is dangerous. But when I saw the faces of my friends when coming back from a hitchhiking trip, I was instantly on the hell-yeah-let’s –do-it- mode. Now, when thinking back of all the drivers I have met, it still puts a smile on my face. Yes true, all of them are not exactly sugar pies, but I believe that kindness and positivity lay eggs. So treat the people like you would like to be treated. Once we got stuck on Romanian-Bulgarian border and it was already getting dark. It was actually exactly right after the crazy Romanian had dropped us off (you can read more about it in my earlier travel post). You can imagine the frustration we had when no one stopped (also can happen sometimes), and we were 40km far from the final destination on that day. Like out of nowhere one old guy stopped, fit all 4 of us in his small car and drove extra miles just to help us out. This kind of experiences make you want to be a better person and see the good in people.
If you are in a rush and don’t have time for hitchhiking (or simply don’t want to stand on the road), don’t worry, there are few options left. First, you can pick up a blablacar. It is for sure cheaper than flight tickets (usually) or trains, so can help you to save some cash as well. For cheap flight tickets we probably need another post to cover all the sites and ways. The last but not least is walking/biking. If you don’t have a year off you probably don’t have time for walking around the world, but you should consider it when getting to know a city/town. Don’t hop on the first city bus, rent a bike or put on your sneakers, and get to know the city by yourself. Not only is it cheaper, but you can see exactly the places you are interested in. In many big cities there are rental bike “stations” where you put in few coins, and can ride it as long as you want. By the end of the day just need to take it back to one of the “stations”.
Now the most important thing, FOOD. I am that kind of person who wants to experience the very authentic local life. For that I insist going to a restaurant or a pub (not expensive ones of course) in the country at least once. First, you feel yourself like a worthy human being and you can enjoy an amazing meal that you probably would not get at home. If you want to do it cheap there are few thing to remember. First, don’t try to find a cheap place in the center of the town/city. Go on the suburban areas and I am quite sure you will find something nice, and what is more, affordable. That doesn’t usually apply for shops though. Small “village shops” tend, on the other hand, to be a bit pricier than supermarkets.
When travelling then most of the times we cook for ourselves on the camping gas, though. It is cheap and rather quick (dependent on the weather though). After a long time in the mountains or waiting on the road the taste of unseasoned pasta becomes so fantastic that you start thinking about cooking like this at home. Of course the amazing taste fades with the hunger and you will never eat it at home. One day, when I will be a pro in this, I will let you know how to cook like a master vagabond! Right now I settle with pasta, lentils, rice or oats.
Another way to cut down on your expenses on food is dumpster diving. I must admit I have never done it myself, as most of the places I have visited are not that kind of areas where you could dumpster dive. I know people who have done it in Denmark and got really fresh and good stuff. Probably it will work better in more western countries, where you can find completely fine food already put on top of the bin, so you don’t even have to dive. But as you don’t want any kind of disease or a diarrhea, watch what you put in your mouth!
If you are one of those people who enjoy guided tours, but think it is way too expensive, I have a good news for you. In most of the big cities there are free city tours with a guide. These are walking tours, so be prepared, and put comfy shoes on. At the end of the day you can simply give the guide as much as you think the tour was worth. There are many sites you can look it up, like freetour, freewalkingtour, neweuropetours etc.
The tricky part in all of this is the time. That can be the most valuable expense. When going hitchhiking during a vacation you have to consider the fact that you might not get a ride as fast as you would like. For avoiding your boss’ mad face on Tuesday morning take more time. Add a day at least at the end of the trip to spend just on getting to the airport at the right time, or getting the ride home at the right time. It will also not hurt to look up some public transport options in case you will be stuck on the road. Because, the thing is, you move on the road as fast as someone who is willing to take you. Sometimes it means that you are half a day ahead from the driver and you need to stand there and wait for him to catch you up. Some other times you get the ride fast but he needs to take care of things on the way, gets lost, or is just simply a slow driver. So, take time and enjoy your way (if you remember my experience with fighting the time).
As you can see it is not that difficult at all. If you have the money or time, it will be even easier. Be safe and discover the Earth!
The song for this post I was really choosing for days. When I remembered the FUN, I knew, this is it. I wanted to add a song that would be inspiring. This song makes me feel like I can accomplish anything and maybe it will make you feel the same. This is the song that finished my high school years, one long chapter in my life. I must admit the summer right after graduating was one of my best summers ever. All my friends from that time have still stuck together, even when life has happened. Love you guys, you inspire me!