Growing up, I used to look forward to yearly trips with family, but travel changed in a BIG way for me when I went on my first Himalayan trek to Kuari Pass in 2015. It made me grasp how meaningful and soul-satisfying travel could be. I was one with my thoughts, away from all the nonsense and distractions of the world -- and I couldn’t be happier.
Since then, I forayed into travel blogging through my blog The Roving Heart, traveled near and far, in and out of the country. After six years of working as a programmer in Bangalore, I finally decided to take a career break and slow travel for three months in Europe.
Solo Traveling in Europe for three Months
I chose Europe for my solo travels as it's favorable for backpackers. Affordable hostels, world-class public transport infrastructure, solo-travel friendly, rich culture, and plenty of countries to choose from, all with a Schengen visa -- meant it required a lot less planning than other parts of the world.
Once I received my Schengen visa with 90 days validity, it was time to put on my planning hat, and take it one step at a time -- flights, hostels, transportation, places to explore, and the likes.
Related: How to apply for a Schengen visa
Starting from Sofia, where my flight landed, I planned to visit 13 countries in about three months. Including Bulgaria, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Sweden, Copenhagen, Germany, Portugal, and Spain. The idea was to traverse through Balkans and then head to the Baltic states, continue to Sweden, and Copenhagen in the Scandinavia, and then back south to Germany, and finally ending in South West Europe in Portugal and Spain.
Related: Planning a 3 month trip to Europe
While I had a loose itinerary, most of the travel planning happened on the go. Also, I made sure that I could travel across most of Europe through public transport, except for a flight from Frankfurt to Lisbon, and then between Lisbon and the remote Flores island (as there are no better options to reach the Flores).
Budget Travels in Europe
Traveling on a backpacker budget can be quite a task in Europe, considering the exchange rates of Euro (1 EUR ~ 80 INR). So, for shorter travels, I found a community based social networking site called Couchsurfing, which connected me with locals who offered accommodation for free as part of cultural exchange. And when I wanted to stay for longer, I signed up for volunteering programs through Workaway, which provided food and shelter in exchange for 5 hours of work daily, for five days a week. The job varied -- from painting walls, making flutes, packaging perfumes, and soaps, creating and editing videos to writing content for a new project -- and I loved the variety of it.
Those days helped me stretch my travels longer - there were weeks I spent less than 20 Euros when I was volunteering.
Additionally, I also hitch-hiked, shared rides with strangers, cooked my meals whenever I could.
As it turns out, when you go out of your comfort zone, the experiences could be exhilarating. I hiked in the most picturesque and bountiful landscapes of Azores (Flores and Corvo). Cycled across the border from Slovenia to Austria. I attended a Cacao (Hot Chocolate) ceremony in Estonia. Also, I watched the city lit up during the festival of lights in Berlin and danced the night away solo in a fancy ferry on the way to Stockholm from Tallinn. All the while, making friends from a whole different way of life than mine. Traveling solo doesn't mean you are alone.
I even got adept at clicking on my own pictures through DSLR using my phone as a remote. I'm also documenting my journey through Europe as part of a video series. Find my Youtube channel here.
Kindness of Strangers
The more I traveled, it became quite evident that the world isn't as scary as the society cracks it up to be. I witnessed the kindness of strangers far too many times. A random restaurant owner offered me her next mornings' breakfast as she didn't have any vegetarian food at the restaurant for dinner and refused any cash in return. My host in Ljubljana offered me meds when I was down with a cold. A random lady offered to buy me a transport ticket in Lisbon. My host in Tallinn gifted me with a wooden wallet handmade by him (one of my favorite treasures from the trip). I realized that a smile is universal, and it's easy to make connections even without speaking the same language.
Misadventures in Europe
Of course, I had my fair share of challenges too. I missed my bus from Vilnius (Lithuania) to Parnu (Estonia) due to the time difference and had to find a hostel at midnight. Almost got detained at Frankfurt (Germany) airport for carrying pepper spray, had sleepless nights while living in a tent due to fierce storm in a remote island, among other things.
Adventures or misadventures -- I can say one thing for sure -- I wouldn't have it any other way. I learnt so much along the way. It was a life-changing journey, one that I'll treasure for a long time to come!
Come join me, as I show you my journey!
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