March 18, 2013

Saving Up for Europe & Becoming More Responsible in the Process

Doesn't this picture just give you chills?! Look at all of that! There's a whole world out there!

   Many moons and many issues of National Geographic Traveler ago, I made a post about my longing to visit Europe. I guess my insane desire to see and experience everywhere is probably rooted in too many viewings of Mary-Kate and Ashley movies as a child (looking at you, Passport to Paris), but whatever the origin of the obsession is, all I've ever wanted to do was travel (Europe, especially).
  Anyway, to summarize that post, during Winter Break of 2010, I convinced my mom to vacation in Europe for two weeks in the summer of 2012. If you've stuck around since the summer, you know that mine didn't involve life-changing adventures in foreign lands, unfortunately.
          Why not? Finances would be the most basic answer. Finding this out last January was genuinely devastating; a tragedy in my eyes. My entire life pining to experience the world (or, begin to) was in sight, then the rug was pulled out from under me. Being so near to my dream (more like destiny) then immediately being so far from it just destroyed me.  I didn't know what to do with myself or what would keep me going.
Picture of Neptune fountain in Gdansk
  Anywho, before last September, this was the way I felt every day. During that month, though, I saw a movie that completely changed me. Really, it was one detail that changed me: the stories that a backpacker would tell every so often, and the sights he could say he had seen. Walking out of that movie, I realized something: that's who I want to be. That backpacker. I want to travel and backpack and see sights no one in my town could ever imagine; visit places I couldn't even dream to exist. I want to say, "Hey, I've been there!" in passing, send people postcards from places they've never heard of but look pretty darn great, not know where I'll be sleeping that night but be okay with that because I get to be in that place for a night.
Photo: Top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France
  This was an epiphany of sorts. I knew I couldn't rely on my parents to take me, and realizing this made me realize I was going to have to become completely independent and own my dream; I realized I'd have to pay for every part of it, even if that meant saving for years and years. I very roughly mapped out the cost; websites said backpackers could live on $50 a day in many cities, $70 in bigger ones, like London. Then I needed a plane ticket, a bus pass, insurance... I decided I would aim for going for sometime in college, even if that crazy saving and budgeting necessary would mean giving up regular teenager activities, liking going to the movies all the time or shopping at the mall every week or sitting home when the "game of the season" is being played because I just can't afford that eight-dollar ticket. But I didn't care then and I definitely don't now; I said this, Europe, is what I'm going to do, and I've been saying that ever since.
Photo: Canal near the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam
   Well, since my revelation, I've found some guided tours that are actually pretty affordable. There's one that covers the countries I want to see the most-- Belgium, the Netherlands, Paris, Austria-- along with several others. The entire trip is about four grand per person, including the ticket. I realized that I didn't have to wait for college for that, if I started saving immediately. Sure, it was no dirty and spontaneous backpacking trip that I've been romanticizing for the last six months, but it was freaking Europe. I ran it by my mom, and we're going to try it. Basically, we're each paying our own way. She'll save up her 4k, and I'll save up mine. If all goes as planned, we'll earn a trip to Europe in the summer of 2014. Cross your fingers for me!

  Every so often I'll make a post in a new feature "If I had 24 Hours in...". I'll give an hour-by-hour itinerary of a day in a city I want to visit (not necessarily a European one... Since I want to travel the whole world, there's an awful lot to choose from. :)

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