Nobody talks about it. Not the faintest whisper among the crowds. No one warns you that that early twenty’s can be a little strange. You think it will be finally everything you’ve ever dreamed of. You’re fresh out of college. You’re supposedly this adult who’s supposed to know how to cook, take care of yourself, know the difference between an IRA and a roth IRA (I still don’t get it), and know exactly where you’re heading. There’s no longer this future “when I graduate college I’ll …”

You’ve arrived. Here’s that future. Show us what you’re made of.

That time is here, yet somehow, you feel as though you don’t quite have it all figured out yet. It’s the first time your friends aren’t handed to you on a platter of classmates and teammates as you make your way through school. It’s you and this big world and you feel like you’re floundering around inside of it trying to find anything to grab a hold of that makes you feel like you’re on solid ground.
I remember looking around and seeing others landing the job they’ve always wanted, buying homes, getting married, having babies and here I was living with my parents, just starting my first year of my job and skipping out of a rocky up and down relationship that came immediately after ending a 4 year relationship with another. I barely knew who I was. I hated being alone. I hated quiet car rides and empty space. I hated the weekends that weren’t full of grading, 22 children to look after, and endless people to fill the gaps in the empty space in my mind. Anything to drown out the noise. Let’s face it. I didn’t know who I was and I was scared to find out.

So one day, I made it all change.

I created the “Wednesdays”. As my previous posts mentioned, Wednesdays were my nights. Nights where no one could tag along and fill up the quiet. My phone went on do not disturb. The agenda was created by whatever my heart was yearning for that week. Old book stores, antique shops, record shops, or sipping on tea while tapping my toe to the live  Jazz band, The Gypsy Swing Cats that could serenade you each Wednesday at the coffee shop walking distance from home.

These Wednesdays were crucial. They made me think. They made me fall in love. Not with a man, but with everything that I was. They made me confident. They made me figure out what I stood for, what I wanted, and what was important to me and that those things mattered.

As the Wednesdays were in full swing, I began to fall in love with roaming to places by myself. Out to the mountains for an afternoon of apple cider, dusty drives on old dirt roads, long drive to the horses I always sped past and dreamed of rubbing their fuzzy noses one day, trips to the beach riding wave after wave, alone. Finally, I was free…

As this adventuring became one of my favorite moments of the weekends, I wanted something more. I researched, budgeted and created this dreamy European adventure for the summer. (Teacher perks: summers off with paychecks) Sure, I looked around for any takers that wanted to venture for six weeks through Italian coastlines, French monuments, Croatian cities and more, but I had not one bite, so I figured, well Why not and I bought the ticket for 5 hours after I placed the last third grader in their car at school and locked the classroom door for a few months. See you in August.

I know what you’re thinking! “You went alone as a female through Europe as a small (I am 4′ 10″) woman? Haven’t you seen Taken?”

Yes I have seen it, but if you’re planning a trip alone, here is what I did to make the most of it without being taken:

1. Flights: I searched around on Skyscanner (iPhone and android app) for a few weeks to find the trends of when the flights from San Diego to London were the cheapest to buy. I recommend flying into London. It is a lot cheaper to start there and take European hopper flights to wherever you would like to stop next. When I finally chose a flight, I purchased a round trip direct flight for $880 from British Airways. They were an amazing airline that treated you like royalty with delicious meals and free alcohol.

Best tip I ever got: always get the curry on British Airways flights!

From there, I used airlines like Luthsana, Croatia Airlines, Swiss, Easyjet, RyanAir, AirLingus within Europe in order to get to my next destination that was in another country. Within countries, I used the trains which I will touch on later.

2. Housing:  I was pretty nervous about housing. I could not afford fancy hotels and to be honest, I did not want to stay there. I wanted people to treat me like they would treat a local. I did not want the tourist Scarlet letter stamped across my forehead when I stepped in and out each day from my luxurious hotel. I wanted to blend in and experience these people.

I found hostels and mostly AirBnB to be the answer. AirBnb was incredible because you can refine your search. To do my best to safe guard myself from any Taken like situations, I refined to only females and families in the areas that I wanted to stay. (This worked out in all situations but one. Stay tuned for the Italy post). Staying with families and locals made my trip everything that it was! I highly recommend staying out of the tourist accommodations.

TIP: Be sure to double check the address that you got and use google translate to check that where you found it on the map is the correct location. Stay tuned for the France post to learn how I learned that the hard way.

3. Travel in the Cities: For travel between cities, I highly recommend using the train systems. It was cheap, easy to navigate, and very efficient to get to places. I used this inside of Italy to get from Corniglia to Roma. I did not buy in advance like some places recommend. I only repurchased flights and my AirBnb locations as I wanted freedom to change my schedule if needed.

4. Itinerary

June15-July 6- London, Zagreb, Split for two weeks teaching

7-Jul Split – Paris Eiffel Tower Metro

8-Jul Paris Notre Dame, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe Metro

9-Jul Paris Walk Seine River, Visit Louvre, Cheese, Crepes Metro Paris

10-Jul Paris – Killarney – Dingle Sheep farm, Killarney Nat’l Park, Dingle pub

11-Jul Dingle Drive Dingle loop, Dingle pub

12-Jul Dingle – Kilkenny Drive north, Killarney on way

13-Jul Kilkenny – Dublin Glendalough hiking, pub Dublin

14-Jul Dublin Walk around Dublin, Jameson Pub Dublin

15-Jul Dublin – Pisa – Cinque Terre (Corniglia) Arrive Pisa at 6pm, Vernazza by 8pm Train Vernazza

16-Jul Cinque Terre Beach/hike Train/hike Vernazza

17-Jul Cinque Terre – Rome Train south – Stop at Florence? Montepulciano? Train Rome

18-Jul Rome Colisseum, Roman Forum, night walk Metro Rome

19-Jul Rome Vatican City, night walk Metro Rome

20-Jul Rome – London (arrv AM) Hillsong London, Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace Metro London

21-Jul London Oxford? Stonehenge? Shakespeare? Metro/Train London

22-Jul London Countryside? Metro/Train London

23-Jul London More London stuff (Theatre show?) Metro London

Trip extended to July 25th- Stay tuned to hear why!

TIP: Never lock down your itinerary too tight. Leave room to extend stays or move on, or say yes when needed.

5. Check In’s :  Like any normal mother would do when their 23 year old daughter is heading alone into multiple other countries without cell service, knowledge of the language, or a back up plan, my mom asked me to register with the US embassy along the way. Here is how it works. You go online and register your itinerary with the embassy within those countries and when you are expected to be in those countries. If an emergency happens, you are priority to be sent home and for other services. Also, with your passport information, individuals back home can login and check where your passport was last scanned so they can be sure that you made it to your next stop on time! It’s very simple and honestly, probably a good idea. Let’s be honest, it also calms everyone back home’s nerves.

6. Luggage:
I did not go into this trip trying to “backpack through Europe”. I knew I would be traveling a lot and would be the only one carrying my luggage and trying to fit on public transportation, so I wanted to go light.

I brought one pair of pants, 2 short sleeves, 1 long sleeve, one sweatshirt, one sun dress, one bathing suit, 5 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of socks, a money bag that goes under your clothes, a camera, toiletries, passport, a brush, 1 pair of shorts, 1 bra, 1 set of workout clothes, 3 pairs of shoes (flops, running shoes, vans), beanie, hat, and sunglasses.

I bought an Ikea luggage that zips a small backpack off in case I wanted to take it for day trips to museums etc.  It was cheap, but very sturdy.

That was basically all of the planning that went into the trip. In total, I budget 3,000 for the 6 weeks that it ended up being. I spent a total (food, museums, housing, flights, travel, souvenirs) 2,300.

I forgot to get money exchanged before hand and had to pay large fees in the airport. If you want to be better prepared, plan ahead on that part.

Otherwise, pack your bag, book those flights, and search the AirBNB databases.

I think everyone should travel internationally alone. It’s almost a right of passage. It opens your eyes to the world, people different than you, yourself, and it build confidence in your self that nothing else could do.

Check back next week for the first stop: London!

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