Impulse is a funny thing. For some, it results in online shopping sprees, benders, haircuts, etc. For me, it resulted in an eight-day backpacking trip through four countries. My last solo trip was the product of over a year of planning. This time, I had three weeks.
At first, the thought of not having a heavily researched idea of what I was doing was panic-inducing. I had no idea what I was in for and that scared me. This was the first time I found myself in places where I didn’t speak the language (cut to me making notecards and frantically trying to learn at least a few phrases in four languages before I left). I had also never stayed in hostels before. However, every day that passed brought me closer and closer to my departure and I found my excitement growing along with my anxiety.
Originally, I was just looking for roundtrip tickets somewhere for cheap and maybe I would take day trips or do some sort of loop from there. I ended up searching one-way flights to and from separate countries to see if the prices were comparable. I had been looking into tickets to Copenhagen for a while now, but for some reason was never ready to buy the tickets but when I found tickets to Copenhagen, stopping in Lisbon, and from Amsterdam for only $350, I was sold.
To be clear, Portugal was not on the itinerary for this trip when I was doing my research, but when I found a flight with a 23-hour layover in Lisbon, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. From there, the trip took shape quite rapidly (It had to, three weeks is not a long period of time). I would be backpacking through three countries from Denmark to the Netherlands, stopping in Germany on the way. And Portugal made four. Yet again, the global Eurail pass came in handy as it gave me the freedom to travel when and where I wanted for less than buying individual tickets.
This was also the first trip where I had a clear itinerary set out for myself. I was too nervous about my own impulsiveness, lack of research, etc to let myself just make reservations as I went along. I didn’t feel as trapped in a schedule as I thought I would, because I left some flexibility, but it helped to not have to frantically figure out where I was going every morning or evening. Planning this route was tough because obviously there is way too much to see for a measly eight days to cover it all, but I had to figure it out. I wanted to spend the majority of my time in Denmark and the Netherlands this time around.
So this was the plan. Day 1: New York City to Lisbon, with almost an entire day to explore and see what I could. Day 2: Lisbon to Copenhagen, with enough daylight left to do a little exploration there. Day 3: Taking a train from Copenhagen to Vejle and hiking from there to Jelling to see the museum and Viking burial mounds. Day 4: Short morning trip to Roskilde, then back to Copenhagen. Day 5: Copenhagen to Bremen, Germany. Day 6: Bremen to Utrecht, Netherlands. Day 7: Utrecht to Amsterdam. Day 8: Amsterdam.
I know, I know. One day is not enough to see Germany or Portugal. I have plans to go back. However, right now, I’m living on a pretty tight budget and had to keep the trip fairly short. I got to see so much of the cities I visited in that short time though, it’s hard to believe I saw so much. The trip was kind of over in a flash but left my mind spinning with all of the places I saw, people I met, the experiences I had, and things I learned.
This trip has sparked a whole new range of travel ideas for myself and I’m excited to plan them through and bring them to fruition. The idea that budget travel is not only possible but thoroughly enjoyable has opened up a host of options. I’ve started to plan short and long-term backpacking routes I would love to do, though I’m keeping it flexible because who knows what kind of airfare deals I’m going to run into? I think one of the more important things to keep in mind when planning a whirlwind trip such as this one is that you don’t have to see everything. Keeping in mind that I would return someday made trying to figure out where to go and where to stay a lot easier.
So that’s that. Four countries, eight days. The product of the most impulsive travel decision I’ve ever made. Here’s to many more!