I first traveled to Europe with my high school marching band when I was 16. We had an incredible time, saw many wonderful things, but we had to adhere to a strict schedule. That was what prompted me to go back and do things my way.
This time around, I was with a tour group for only 10 days. The next two weeks I spent alone. I had challenged myself to travel 2,000 miles with no plans for travel tickets, hotels or sights to see.
With the group, I enjoyed sightseeing in Italy and Greece, primarily Rome and Athens. After those 10 days, the sky was the limit, although I did have a vague idea of what I wanted to do.
Once the group left for the airport, I took a train from Athens heading north. As soon as I got on the train, I finally realized how potentially dangerous and sporadic this trip could be. Doing my best to keep an upbeat attitude and an open mind, I pressed forward into my adventure.
Within a few days, I had worked my way through Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Austria.
I decided to head into a different part of Germany than I had visited my last time around. I picked Munich.
When I got off the train, I was immediately pleased with my decision. Everything there was so clean and efficient. The public transportation took you anywhere you wanted to go and for a very reasonable price.
There was so much to see in this city, even though I spent most of my time gawking at things I didn’t recognize. It made me realize how little I knew about the world. I was standing in a huge city that had been there for I don’t know how many hundreds of years, and I had only known its name up until this point.
After a few days wandering around Munich, I took off for Amsterdam. I had heard so much about it.
On my way there, I didn’t expect anything more than a run-down, dirty city. On my arrival, I realized I needed to stop judging places before I saw them. Just like Munich, this city boasted much to see and do and had a history hundreds of years old.
I started running out of time quickly and made a jump to England.
As far as suggestions go for planning a trip, tour groups do allow for more affordable travel and help to relieve a lot of stress. Seeing things on your own is wonderful, but you have to be ready for anything.
I had to carry all I brought with me nearly all the time (I only packed one small backpack). I never knew where or when I was going to be sleeping or where and what I would eat. I didn’t carry any more cash than necessary for fear of my wallet being stolen.
If you do go the tour group route, find one that gives you a lot of freedom. It’s great seeing the sights that are world-renowned, but it’s the things you discover on your own that make Europe truly amazing.
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