I was 19 years old and just finishing up my first year of college when I was handed an opportunity to do some volunteer work in Austria for the summer. I had never traveled outside of the United States. Too naive to understand what was in store for me, I signed up. I even convinced my friend Beth to go with me.

For almost two months, we worked in an 11th century castle called Schloss Klaus in Austria that served as a conference center/hotel. I was a maid and Beth worked in the kitchen. When our time at the schloss was up, we were set free for a month to go wherever we wanted. We mastered the train system and found our way throughout Austria, Italy, France, Spain, Holland, and Germany. We learned how to read maps written in different languages, we slept on the floors of trains, we didn’t shower for days at a time, we carried all of our belongings with us everywhere in our backpacks, and we’d show up in a city not knowing if we would be able to find a place to stay. It was glorious.

I came home a different person. I had toured the ruins of Pompeii and the Roman Forum. I had been to churches like Notre Dam and St. Peters Basilica. I had walked around inside buildings like the Duomo and the Pantheon. I had seen Michelangelo’s David, Pieta, and the Sistine Chapel. How can those things not change you? For the first time I realized that there was a big world out there that I knew nothing about. And I wanted to know more.

That summer was physically and emotionally challenging, but as a result I gained confidence and maturity. I came home with an intellectual curiosity that I had never had before. The world was now a bigger place. Much bigger. I wanted to learn everything I could about what I had seen. My life changed direction as I changed my major from nutrition to history, which took me down a path that would eventually lead me to teaching. And it all started with that summer backpacking Europe.

If you have ever wanted to backpack somewhere, I hope you make it happen! And if you have backpacked already, I’d love to hear about where you went and any stories you have from your trip!

My one regret is that I didn’t take more pictures. These are a few of the pictures that I could salvage from my (I kid you not) disposable film camera. For shame!!

Austria

Above: The view from our room at Schloss Klaus

Below: Just another train…

Backpacking Europe

backpacking Europe 2

holland

Above: Riding bikes in Holland

Below: Trying to figure out where to go!

backpacking Europe 3

Eiffel Tower Paris

Above: I can’t believe that this is my only Eiffel Tower picture.

Below: Austrian Trains!

Β  Europe trains

*These pictures were scanned from film originals, so the quality is less than ideal.

k.h. 2001

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6 Responses to “Europe: Backpacking”

  1. joshsrogers9

    Hello. I am truly fascinated with your blog about this subject. Your trip sounds like so much fun and to be honest it sounds like what i want my adventure to be like in every little detail. I have recently just came back from Paris, i would like to back go backpacking around Europe very much. I have a couple of question’s id like to ask you about your trip?
    1. Did you find you spent a lot of cash?
    2. Which methods did you use to travel between cities ? And finally
    3. Did you stay in Hostel’s ?

    If you could write back to me at some point , that would be very helpful. Thanks

    Reply
    • Kimbernator

      Thank you! I’m so glad someone actually read that post! πŸ™‚ As far as your questions go…
      1. I would say for three months, not including airfare, I spent about $5,000. That includes Euro rail passes, food, museums/tours, and hotels/hostels. But that was over 10 years ago, and of course the value of the dollar has changed since then. I bet you could still do it for under that. I am going to be writing a post soon about how to save money while traveling, and I’ll be sure to consider you when I do it!
      2. We only traveled by train. As you probably know, the train system is amazing in Europe. Sleeper cars are a great way to get to a far away destination without losing a day to explore, they are a little more expensive though. We just slept on the floor in the hall of the train most of the time. You can get really cheap short flights within Europe, but just going to the airport wastes so much time. I would stick to trains and find cool places to explore along the way.
      3. We stayed in hostels as often as we could. I love them. They are usually cheaper, but sometimes hotels will drop their prices to compete with the hostels. Hostels charge by the person, hotels charge by the room, so if you’re traveling with someone sometimes splitting the cost of a hotel room is cheaper. But be sure to make advance reservations in popular places…we got to Venice and couldn’t find a single room open, hostel or hotel, and had to choose between sleeping on the street or getting back on the train that night. As a result, we only got to spend one day in Venice!

      I hope this helps, and I hope you get to go backpacking! It was seriously one of the best times of my life. I am planning on doing it again someday! If you have any more questions just let me know. I love this stuff! And thanks for asking!

      Reply
      • joshsrogers9

        HI. I dont know if 5,000 over 3 month’s is good or not, i suppose it is a holiday and you are visiting very different places. And what the hell πŸ™‚ . I researched the euro rail pass and i don’t think i would qualify for a ticket as i am part of the europe being here in London,England. But there is something about the Euro tunnel, Buying a ticket that costs Β£400 and you can go anywhere you want in Europe for up to One month, Β£800 for two months and so on and so fourth. Which i guess is pretty cool. Thank you for considering me in your next post. I think one way to save money when you are traveling is to not buy whatever you want and research well into popluar event’s such as festival and maybe some gig’s to go along to instead of wasteing money away? That could be one idea for your blog post. I think as far as traveling goes i would be sticking to train’s myself. Their is something about being on a train not knowing where i am going in the summer that draw’s me in about backpacking. I think some hotel’s are just as cheap as hostil’s now because they have realized the massive competetion in hostile use especially among young backpacker’s with all the money. I never knew this and i’m sure it will helpful in the future > ” Hostels charge by the person, hotels charge by the room”, So thank you for mensioning it.

        I am sure i will be going backpacking soon next year, If not backpacking i will be going on holiday , maybe back to Paris or Germany . We will have to see. Alot of people i know as well as people blogging all over the net have been mensioning a new up and coming fashion of backpacking around Thailand. Maybe it’s just a phase?

        P.s; Thanks for the reply.

  2. Kimbernator

    Sounds like you’re going to make it happen! πŸ™‚ Yeah, it’s a lot of money, but if you can save it up and pay cash (I’m big on avoiding debt) then I think it’s a great investment. I think I remember England not being included in the pass, and it makes sense that you’d have to take the chunnel and get to the mainland to get into the rail system that the ticket applies to. You can also just backpack one country at a time, if you don’t have the money or time all at once. My husband and I are going to be backpacking England and Scotland this summer, just for a couple weeks. And yeah, I have several friends who have backpacked in Asia, and Thailand is a popular destination right now. It’s beautiful and cheap! πŸ™‚ Thanks for the ideas for my post on saving money…I’ll be using them! Keep in touch and let me know how your trip goes!!

    Reply
  3. Joshua R

    Yeah I am going to make it happen. I have a lot of plans for 2013 and the majority of them are traveling and seeing the world. Yes getting in debt for me is a very big no no. It’s no fun. Be careful if you go to Scotland remember to pack your waterproof coats! It can even rain in the summer over here in England. I will be in touch about backpacking, i might have some new question arise nearer the time. For the time being ill be looking to be inspired to travel some places mainly in Europe first! Thanks for the write back you’ve been very helpful and i am grateful!

    Reply
    • Kimbernator

      I’m so excited to keep in touch and see what you decide to do and how things go! Thanks for the raincoat tip. I’ll bring a raincoat for me and my camera! πŸ™‚

      Reply

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