From Vespas in Italy to Skydiving in Interlaken…
I am so. mother. f’ing. excited. to start sharing my travel content, photos and stories with you guys. SO EXCITED!
If I could summarize my six-week trip to Europe in one single photo, it would be this:
Narrowing it down into one single favorite moment or memory, well, not so much.
First: Required Cliff Notes. As you migh tknow, I just spent six weeks traveling through Europe — most of it ridin’ solo — or by myself.
For the most part, I didn’t pre-book hotels, set agendas or itineraries. (It was amazing.)
I traveled by train through Croatia, Switzerland, Italy and France. (I missed a lot of trains.)
I said YOLO and skipped the flight I was originally supposed to take home. (My mom was pretty pissed.)
I’m almost ready to begin recapping my photos, stories, lessons and travel advice — but to be honest, there’s a lot of it.
I must have taken 10,000 photos — at least. Instead of holding off until everything is sorted and ready, I thought a good way to kick things off would be to tell you my 10 favorite memories from the trip.
(And guys, this would’ve been up earlier but I got really carried away with the imagery. At least you’ve got some solid Wanderlust imagery for your Pinterest profile.)
Pin these now — because as our story unfolds, I think you’re going to want to take your own Solo Eurotrip.
I’ll break down each experience mentioned below in their subsequent blog posts, so don’t worry if you feel like I’m leaving you hangin’.
(However, if you’re traveling to any of these locations I will answer any questions you have via the comment form below. Fire away!)
Before we really get into it today, I just want to say: I am really grateful I had the opportunity to get up and go travel in Europe for so long and I never took a second of it for granted. I needed it… Really needed it.
I owe a lot of that to you guys.
My blog would have never transformed into my job/career without you, so thank you for your interest, your support and your time. Your feedback, comments, visits, tweets, and DMs have never gone unnoticed.
Recently, too, thank you for being so eager and curious and joyful in engaging with me throughout my travels. It’ll be fun for us to recap this together — and plan your solo trip to Europe. Yeah?
Now, there seems to be one question everyone wants to know: What was your favorite part?
To be honest, I can’t single it down to just one. Nope.
I experienced so many new things in so many new places that it’d be impossible to do so. In fact, it was hard for me to narrow to 10.
Nevertheless, she persisted. (lolz)
Here are 10 things I did in Europe that you should add to your bucket list immediately.
(And, fine; and if I had to pick — my favorite thing about the trip is what I have at #1 and #2 below.)
10. Spent the weekend at a Chateau in the French countryside — with 15 people I’ve never met. (Medoc, France)
This has to be the most random, amazing, six-degrees-of-separation situation in the world.
Jess and I spent the weekend in Medoc (a wine-growing region of France an hour from Bordeaux) with 15+ people we’d never met.
A quick backstory, since I’ll tell the full story when we get to this part in our travel recaps: Jess was in Paris working with Lancel, a gorgeous handbag company; and her agency client thoughtfully invited us to her friend’s Chateau (CHATEAU, PEOPLE) on his vineyard (HIS VINEYARD) for the weekend since Paris is the only place in France we’d been.
It. Was. Amazing.
What type of thank you gift do you get someone who grows his own wine and summers at his Chateau?
And no, really. Serious question…
9. Sat on the Beach in Monterosso al Mare — and let myself do nothing. (Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre)
Or actually, I read. I read a book!
I actually went to this beach (above) two days in a row — the second day was my last in Cinque Terre, and I felt like I should spend it doing something.
But, like, what was something? I’d already seen each town, and I felt happiest when I was sitting on that beach with a book in my hand.
It’s the moments you let yourself do “nothing at all,” that everything seems to fall into place.
8. Took myself out to lunch at Nessun Dorma in Manarola, Cinque Terre. (Manarola, Cinque Terre)
The food was fantastic, but how about that view?
Nessun Dorma is arguably the most Instagram’ed spot in all of Cinque Terre – and you can probably see why. (That’s actually how I found it!)
The restaurant opened at noon and I knew I wanted a good table, so I headed to Manarola (the town next to where I was staying — two-minute train ride) a bit early and took in the views. There was a line (a “queue” as they called it”) by noon, and the cliff-side restaurant was full by 12:02.
I ordered a fruity-sounding cocktail — apparently the “strongest of entire menu” according to my server.
He wasn’t wrong.
… And then I had a glass of rosé.
Couldn’t bring myself to leave, it felt like paradise! And then I went drunk souvenir shopping, which we’ll get to when I do a more in-depth post on Cinque Terre.
7. Drove a Vespa through the Chianti wineries in Tuscany. (Tuscany, Italy)
Again, it’s impossible to say one single thing was my favorite, but this was one of the most exciting, memorable excursions I did on the trip. I have ALWAYS wanted to drive a Vespa!
It’ll be some time before we get to Italy (it was my third country and nearer to the end the six-week trip), but the company I went through is Tuscany Vespa Tours (and I booked it the night prior).
6. Interlaken. Period. (Interlaken, Switzerland)
I never thought I’d like Switzerland overall as much as I did — and a big part of that is Interlaken.
After a day-trip to Zurich from Lucerne, I took the train to Interlaken. It was short (two hours if I remember correctly) and more notably, beautiful. Miles and miles of greenery, mountains and stillness.
I went skydiving, canyoning (waterfall repelling, rock climbing, etc) and hiking — but I also did a lot of wandering.
Maybe it was the conquering of a handful of fears (jumping out of a fucking plane, repelling down 60-foot boulders, staying in my first hostel); but in Interlaken, I felt weightless.
5. Spent three days/nights on a boat with six girlfriends — both new and old. (Off the coast of Dubrovnik, Croatia)
We rounded out the trip on the Dream Island Yacht for three days and three nights.
(Click on that link and check out our skipper/captain. Trust me.)
Living quarters on a boat can get cramped, but holy hell was this fun. Jess and I were sharing a bed underneath the front of the boat, and at one point I remember waking up with my ass on top of her legs.
My bad, bae.
At this point in Croatia, a group of us (six girls) had been together for about three days. Traveling with a group can be a bit trick — especially if you’re meeting most of them for the first time — but it’s all about the experience. Luckily, we all vibed really well.
This this story needs it’s own freakin’ blog post, so I’m going to leave it at that. Next week, yeah?
4. Danced my ass off until sundown. (Bol on Brac Island, Croatia)
Hands-down, if I had to pick a moment when I was having the most fun, this would be it.
Our second stop in Croatia was the Brac Island, where we stayed in the town of Bol. There’s not a lot to do here, quite honestly, but one afternoon following a lazy day on the beach, we walked over to Auro Dayclub and grabbed the last table.
We drank rose and danced like idiots until close (which was around 8 pm/when it was too dark to be on the beach).
Oh, and liquid courage is real… Let me just say the ocean was a lot closer to us than the (single-stall) bathroom. Wink.
3. I made friends from all over the world.
And not all of them spoke English. My German husbands above? Not a single word (except beer, lol).
… Seriously, all over the world — I’ve got reunions in London, Amsterdam and Australia on the (distant) horizon!
Meeting people when you’re traveling — solo, especially — can be really intimidating. Scary, even! I’ve got a few tips to make it easier that I’ll share with you Thursday afternoon on the blog.
(And if you have some, feel free to share them in the comments below. Let’s all compare!)
2. I learned that I could be by myself — and really love it.
Like many of you, probably, I was worried that I would feel lonely and bored while traveling abroad by myself for so long.
But I didn’t. In fact, it was the exact opposite. It was wonderful. Cathartic.
Sure, there were times I’d see at a group of friends laughing together over dinner and feel a wish pang for mine; things like that are normal, but I never actually felt lonely.
I’m going to elaborate on this in another post, but here’s what I learned: There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.
Sometimes you just need to disconnect and enjoy your own company.
1. I let go.
… Of everything.
Of my agenda. Of my own expectations. Of other people’s expectations. Of a fear that I’d run out of money. Of heartbreak. Of wondering why. Of job-related anger, sadness and confusion. Of pointless grudges. My fear of the future.
And I finally let go of this annoying, nagging anxiety to constantly be doing “enough” to “make the most of it” during my trip. And of all worry that I was in the “right place at the right time.”
Because that’s where I was. A concept that is simple on the surface, but much deeper when you think about it.
And as they say, the cure for anything is salt water… Salt, tears or the ocean. Sometimes, it’s a combo of all three.
And it felt good.
It’s not that simple, though, to just let go — and as I’ve learned in the last week, whatever you left behind will be waiting for you (another thing we’ll discuss as my stories unfold). That’s life. We only have the here and now.
Nothing lasts forever — except your memories. Make them count.
And the little things?
… Not so little.
More to come…