Monday, October 1, 2012

Our Backpacking Adventure

enjoying the sunset in Florence from the Ponte Vecchio

My husband and I returned from our European backpacking adventure on Saturday.  Chris was just starting to recover from his cold while mine was just kicking into full swing. The flight home was pretty miserable for that reason alone. But I really don't want to complain about our vacation. This was a "once in a lifetime" trip (until we go back, that is) and I want to look at it through my rose-tinted glasses forever!

It really was an amazing trip. We visited 10 different cities in 5 countries in 14 days. It was one of those "whirl-wind" vacations that thankfully didn't fly by! At first, I was afraid that each day would go too fast and before you knew it I'd be back at home where life is normal (and sometimes, boring). Thankfully, each day was so busy with things to see that it actually felt like we were away for much longer than two weeks.  And by the time we needed to come home, we were both ready for our own beds and a little normal.

I want to take my time sharing our adventures with you; so I'm planning to write about each stop separately. In each post, I hope to share a story and a few details like where we stayed, what we ate, how we got around, and what we liked most or didn't like at all. I will be posting a few photos along with each post, but a majority of them will be uploaded to Facebook (as my blog can't handle that many photos!).

Today, I want to share a few things that made our trip really enjoyable. They don't pertain to any one day or location so I think it's okay that I share them here.

- We may have "backpacked" through Europe, but only in terms of how we carried our luggage. We had invested in two internal-frame hiking packs a while ago in hopes that this trip would actually happen. Traveling with a backpack was very convenient. We could easily get up/down stairs without an elevator and the cobblestone roads didn't hinder us in the least. I couldn't imagine trying to wheel a suitcase on those! The only times I regretted having a pack was when I was forced to run to catch my train (more on that later)!

 - My husband is one of the most well-organized travelers I have ever met. He arranged our itinerary to include where we were staying, how we were getting there (which train and which bus) and the cost of each main attraction.  He had done a ton of research before we left (while I did absolutely nothing) which made traveling really easy and almost stress-free.

- We used a website called Air BnB  (like Air Bread and Breakfast) to book places to stay. Most of them were actually people's spare bedrooms in their apartments with the exception of one which was a more like a hostel where several people stayed. This was almost the same price as staying in hostels but we had our own room and in a few cases, our own bathroom. It was definitely cheaper than hotels and gave us a chance to meet and get to know a local! I will share more interesting stories about this later.

- We downloaded an audio tour guide from Rick Steves, he had walking tours for each city we visited as well as many tours of main attractions like the Roman Forums, the David, and many others. This was a great way to learn about the sites we were seeing without paying for a guide! We learned so much this way.

- One thing I did contribute to our trip: protein bars. For months it looked like we might not actually afford this trip so I started collecting protein bars when I found great sales and had coupons. This usually meant I bought them one at a time, but made them almost free. I didn't keep track of all my totals, but I bought about 15 bars for under $10 while they usually retail for at least $1 if not $2 each. Thankfully, we were able to afford to eat on our trip (thanks friends and family for the generous gifts!) but the protein bars still came in super handy. Several times we caught ourselves in the middle of sight seeing at lunch time and wouldn't finish that sight until 3 p.m. So, we'd grab a bar and keep on going until we could get to an affordable (far from tourists) restaurant.

We had a really wonderful time. No huge mishaps, no huge arguments and no injuries! I don't think it could have gone better. Please come back and read my more detailed posts about our trip in the days and weeks to come (and please be patient while you wait)!

No comments: