“We’ll figure it out.” That was the motto of my European vacation. Going overseas had been a dream of mine that I’ve always wanted to fulfill blah blah blah. Everyone knows that story. The truth is, I turned 23 and hadn’t really been anywhere in the world. I decided I had just enough cash in the bank (and high enough credit limit) to get my arse on a plane and experience more of the world than just Nebraska cornfields. But as our motto suggested, jumping on a plane and traveling Europe isn’t all flamingo dancing in the streets and sangria on the beach.
A brief prequel to my trip: I traveled with a long-time friend who was as impulsive as I was. We bought our plane tickets four weeks before jetting off, our hostels two weeks before leaving and planned one thing per country the night before leaving. We kept track of everything in our Travefy account which saved our butts more than once. We had a rough plan to travel to London -> Amsterdam -> Berlin -> Barcelona -> Dublin -> London all in about 15 days.
Fast forward to take off. The Fast and Furious and Hobbit movies got us overseas and into London. Right off the bat we realized what our greatest obstacle would be, no GPS. We wouldn’t figure out until day 13 about Google Maps offline mode, which allows you to download city maps and get directions without WiFi or service. DOWNLOAD THIS! We wandered around for about two hours, lost as can be in a country where we speak the language. Imagine how lost we got in countries we didn’t speak the language. We determined out of 15 days, we only walked in the correct direction on the start of going anywhere about five times…
The Actual Trip
For the sake of bounce rate, I’ll break down my trip by city and provide my professionally amateur opinion on what we enjoyed most about each.
We only spent a total of two days in London but had the chance to see all the sights and experience the nightlife. We had a great time going on a few pub crawls and exploring the London nightclub scene. The Zoo (a club, not an animal zoo – I caught a lot of grief about this) is a must-see if you’re in London. If you’re traveling alone or in a small group, these pub crawls are a great way to meet people also traveling abroad. I definitely recommend bringing along a few quid to get a cab ride home, unless you think your drunk navigation skills are up to par and can navigate the Tube back. Ours were not.
The local food and people were so kind it was…just kidding. The “coffee shops” (hi dad!) were fantastic. Whether you enjoy this potentially legal substance (looking at you, Colorado) regularly or are pure amateurs (like myself) the coffee shops are a friendly atmosphere and the staff is generally willing to help you out and show you the ropes. While there are coffee shops all over the city I definitely recommend hopping on Yelp! and finding a highly rated shop. Much like a bar, the atmosphere can be different in each one. Our favorite was Amnesia. Oh, and be careful of the cupcakes…
Street food.Hands down, the Currywurst, Doner, and history. These street food specialties are incredible. You can find them all over the city and make a great mid-day meal as you tour the beautiful historic sites or late night snack. Of course, every beer you drink in Germany is bound to be amazing so we spent most of our evenings eating street food and drinking beer, this is where most of our European weight gain originated. If you’re looking to experience the incredible club scene in Germany, I can give you the advice we were given when attempting to enter a club (we did not get in). As told by a few of our German friends whom we met on our trip: “Wear all black, don’t speak English while standing in line and don’t show any facial expressions.” Best of luck.
This beautiful, beachside city is known for having some of the best clubs in the world. Which is true. Your Hostel will most likely have a shuttle to the clubs and you can purchase a pass to pay for your cover charge, which is much cheaper than you’d pay at the door. Definitely worth checking out, unless you’re two awkward, nearing broke Americans, then you may opt for option two. We often chose to head to the beach and drink a few beers (which you can purchase from anyone on the beach for 1 euro – never pay more) with whatever friends we had made that day. Barcelona goes hard, till about 5 A.M. so if you’re looking for things to do during the day I’d recommend La Sagrada Familia. Otherwise, try to nap off the hangover.
This was by far our favorite city. You can find live music at every pub and an amazing selection of whiskey everywhere you go. I’d recommend the Jameson tour over the Guinness tour, the Jameson tour is still led by an employee and is done in small groups. The Guinness tour, while really cool, is essentially a museum and self-guided tour. This was also our favorite city for food. Meals were hearty with meats and potatoes, something we were craving being from the heartland of Nebraska. Overall, Dublin is a place we’d love see again and spend more time seeing the cliffs and countryside.
All in all our trip was a major success and a big check off the bucket list. If there is any advice I can give on a European adventure it’s to be flexible and don’t always have a plan – some of the greatest adventures come from getting lost. You’ll never tell the story of how you got from point A to point B with no trouble but that time you got lost in downtown Barcelona after losing your money and phone and trying to find a way home before giving up and napping on the beach, you’ll never forget. Enjoy the journey because getting lost is sometimes what you remember the most.