31 March 2014

The name of the blog

The name of this blog was inspired on a common search I am used to make. I often use Skyscanner as a price comparison tool when I want to browse for flights for some specific dates. Usually I insert my departure place (Portugal, but you can choose a city if you're interested in just that one airport) and as a destination I choose "everywhere". Because I am, literally, willing to go from Portugal to the world :) there's still so many places I wish to see and some other places I wouldn't mind going back to (or just use their airports as an arrival point and gate to other still unknown destinations), that I usually go with the flow and see what are the cheaper destinations for the dates I have available and start planning my trip from there.

Inter-rail (June/July 2010)

In 2010 I decided to do an inter-rail in my summer vacations, mainly for 3 reasons:
  • This was the end of my student life (I had just finished the academic part of my Master's degree and was going to start working in a law firm after the summer), so I wanted to take advantage of my last long vacations' period;
  • I had done Erasmus in Barcelona the year before, so I had friends spread through Europe that I wanted to visit;
  • I was going to do a summer school of 2 weeks in Salzburg in July, so I could take the chance of being in the center of Europe and squeeze this educational part in the middle of some wandering around.

So, I decided to do the following itinerary (5 weeks in total), to combine all of the above:
  • Oporto-Charleroi (flight)
  • [1 week in Belgium visiting Brussels, Antwerp, Gent and Brugge]
  • Charleroi-Bratislava (flight)
  • Bratislava-Vienna (train)
  • Vienna-Salzburg (train)
  • [2 weeks in Salzburg during the summer school, in which I visited Vienna again (by bus) and Innsbruck (by train)]
  • Salzburg-Munich (train)
  • Munich-Heidelberg (train)
  • Heidelberg-Frankfurt (train)
  • Frankfurt-Cologne (train)
  • Cologne-Muenster (train)
  • Muenster-Hamburg (train)
  • Hamburg-Berlin (train)
  • Berlin-Bergamo (flight)
  • Bergamo-Milan (train)
  • Milan-Lisbon (flight)

The places in yellow are the cities I passed by. The places that are underlined is where I have friends, so I stayed in their houses. In Salzburg I stayed in a students' residence that opens for tourists in the summer and is cheaper and with more facilities than a hostel. In all other places, I stayed in hostels, always in shared female dorms.

The flights I made were with Ryanair and Easyjet. In Belgium I bought the Go Pass 10, which is a travel card for people under 26 that costs 50€ and allows you to do 10 trips from/to anywhere in Belgium. For Germany I bought the InterRail One Country Pass, which allowed me 6 days of travel within Germany. For all other trips I bought just a regular train ticket. I decided to make a stop in Milan in the end because the tickets from Berlin to Portugal were too expensive, so I ended up paying the same but with the chance of visiting these two cities in Italy.

As luggage, I only took with me this backpack from Decathlon. It fits the hand luggage rules of the airline companies and has plenty of pockets and space to store whatever you need. I had the advantage of traveling in the summer, so I could pack light. I took clothes enough for 1 week and then, every week, I would wash them (either in my friends' houses or in the students' residence, that had a laundry). This was perfect for all the packing/unpacking I had to do (especially during the Germany part, where I only stayed for 1 or 2 nights at each place) and to carry with me through all the traveling. I packed basic things (for example: 1 pair of jeans, 1 skirt, 1 dress, 1 pair of shorts, 1 t-shirt per day... all in fabrics that are easily washed and don't need much ironing).

Surprisingly, the weather was fantastic during the whole 5 weeks! Only in Berlin it rained a bit and I had to wear my warmer jacket, but in all other places it was sunny and hot. It was very easy to travel through these destinations, as everyone speaks English and is willing to help. No problems also in being a solo (woman) traveler in some of the places. At night I would always return to the hostel, but in some places I stayed outside until late (for example, in Frankfurt, where I went to the top of a building to get a view of the city at night) and felt no discomfort. I chose mainly hostels close to the train stations of the cities, which is an area usually a bit sketchy, but even so I had no problems. 

In the hostels I stayed I always met other girls traveling alone and it was easy to bond, so I also did a bit of city exploring or eating out together with them. After a while, especially because the last part of my trip was more of me traveling alone, I started to become eager of returning, as I was a bit tired of being such long time away alone and in this "travel routine" (catching a train, checking-in at the hostel, putting my stuff in the lockers, meeting the other roommates, visiting the city... and then doing it all over again the next day). So my conclusion is that it's always better to travel with company, either it is someone you're really close to or someone you just met recently and get along with, because it's great to have someone by your side experiencing the same things as you and with whom you can comment on things.

I planned and booked everything in advance (flights and hostels), so I was also quite lucky that nothing prevented me to follow the plan and be at the places when I was supposed to. I bought a Lonely Planet book of Germany and would read everything about the city I was heading to during the train ride before arriving. I followed many of the tips they suggested there and it all went fine. I also explored many of the local supermarkets, especially when in my friends' houses and during the summer school in Salzburg, so I could eat healthier and cheaper. But I also always tried the local's famous dishes.

Overall, it was a great experience! I got to know so many cities all together, met very nice people, had the experience of planning a big trip on my own, got to see where my friends live and learn about their countries and culture by watching their real life experiences (and not in some touristic way), so it was great. It also felt good to return home in the end, which is something I don't usually feel when I do trips that last for just a couple of days (in that case I usually regret they were too short!). I really recommend you to do an inter-rail if you have the chance, especially when you're still studying as it's easier to have a full month of vacations that you can use for this purpose.