I was recently asked by a friend on MySpace, Magaly, whether I had any thoughts on backpacking. She is going to Europe for the first time and was looking for some advice. While I admit that after sleeping in a barn in Austria, camping in Iceland (not by choice) and eating more sardines than I ever will again, as long as I live, there are few bits of advice that are worth much. Mostly I have fond memories of being young and roughing it without concrete plans or a map in Europe. The cultures I have experienced along the way from Ireland to Hungary still strike a chord and have changed me for the better. The people are also unforgettable — yes, even that guy I fought on a crowded, sticky train station floor in Warsaw.
My advice for newbies backpacking Europe
1. People first, attractions second.
2. Trust you instincts. Most people you will meet will be great, few will be creepy. Say no to those who make you bristle.
2a. Be without fear. Chances really are microscopic that anything really bad (beyond annoyance) will happen.
3. Find time for yourself (you’ll be surprised how many people you’ll meet and want to tag along)
4. Go wherever you want because you don’t know when you’ll be back.
5. Be flexible. Travel comes with inconvenience, but many of these inconveniences have become stories and my most fond memories later.
6. Even if you lose your entire backpack on a ferry to France, you will be fine
Written by Devin Galaudet