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The Best Budget Hostels in Europe

For anybody planning a trip to Europe, finding the right hostel which won’t kill your budget or compromise comfort can certainly be a task.

Fortunately if this is your first time hostelling then Europe is a great place to start.

With so many options and ‘styles’ of hostel accommodation to choose from, you will easily be spoiled for choice.

For me, what makes a great hostel is memorability and atmosphere. Despite even staying in some pretty run down places, the staff and people I met were definitely what made the experience worth while.

There are so many hostels I could include in this, especially over the past 12 years I’ve been staying in Hostels but I thought it would be a fun idea to get you started by putting together a small list of my absolute favorite so far.

So here is a list of my top 8 hostels to date, in no particular order:

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1. Ostello Santa Fosca, Venice, Italy

Location – Cannaregio, 2372, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy

About
Ostello Santa Fosca is situated in the Cannaregio District of Central Venice. Looking at the building entrance and courtyard you would think it was once a church and you would be right.

Parts of the building incorporating parts of Chiesa di servi dei Maria, which once served as the 3rd largest Catholic Church in Venice.

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Whats nearby
Ostello Santa Fosca is within easy walking distance to popular Venetian sites and landmarks such as:

– 15 minute walk to St Marks Square
– 10 minutes walk to Rialto Bridge
– 8 minute walk to Museo Wagner
– 10 minutes walk to Santa Lucia Train Station
– 5 minutes away from local food shops and markets

Atmosphere
The vibe of the hostel is extremely relaxed, with a large open plan communal kitchen and private courtyard equipped with deck chairs and picnic tables, this makes this the ideal place to mingle with other travelers.
Inside, the building is light and airy with it’s basic decoration, however what gives this hostel its appeal is the spaciousness and simplicity.

The hostel gives off more of a Riposo (Siesta) vibe than a party hostel which is ideal place to unwind when the tiredness of the busy city tires you out.
Ostello Santa Fosca overall is a very pleasant youth* hostel which is open all year round.

Amenities
I will include a link to their website here.

– No curfew
– Bedding/linen and blankets are included
– Free WiFi
– Hot Showers plus hairdryer hire etc.
– Fully equipped kitchen with cooking facilities
– Wheelchair Access
– Free luggage deposit after check out
– TV lounge/seating area
– Lockers available

My experience
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here, I felt safe, comfortable and found the hostel very easy to find. The staff were extremely friendly and I would highly recommend this hostel if you are looking for a more relaxed environment.

Ostello Santa Fosca is a popular hostel which does sell out quickly, I just thought it was worth mentioning.

The only downside is that breakfast isn’t included, however there are local food shops nearby.

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2. Rossio Hostel, Lisbon, Portugal

Location – Calçada do Carmo 6, 1100-193 Lisboa, Portugal

About
Rossio Hostels wonderfully inviting atmosphere is not to be missed. Located on the very doorstep of Lisbon’s beautifully iconic Rossio Square, Rossio Hostel offers the perfect central location. Just a short walk away from many of the cities sight and attractions.

Rossio Hostel has won many awards such as being voted the 2nd best Hostel Worldwide in 2008 and 2009 as well as 2nd Best Small Hostel Worldwide in 2010. Rossio Hostel was by far my favorite place I stayed in Lisbon.

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Here’s a link to their website.

Whats nearby
Rossio Hostel is in super easy reach of many sites and attractions, either by walking or from the nearby metro station and tram systems.

– 1 minute to Rossio Square
– 2 minutes from Metro Station
– 10 minute walk to Praça do Comércio
– 10 minute walk to the beach front
– 20 minute walk to Castelo de S. Jorge

Atmosphere
The hostel inside is very modern and beautifully decorated with cozy seating areas and wooden beams. The kitchen is fully equipped for you to cook meals and is a handy supermarket located just behind the hostel.

The hostel as a whole is very clean and comfortable and gives off a very laid back yet sociable vibe.

I stayed during winter and although a little quieter, I found everybody there to be very chatty.

It was easy to get to know the staff who were very knowledgeable about the area.

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Amenities
– Towels, Linen and blankets included
– Breakfast included
– Tea/coffee available all day
– Free and fast Wifi
– Bar and Media Cinema Room
– Hot showers/Towels Included
– Luggage Storage and 24 hour reception
– Book exchange

My Experience
The staff were extremely kind and diverse, speaking many languages between them.

I told them of my previous bad experience at another hostel nearby and they went above and beyond to ensure I had a comfortable stay.
The manager was kind enough to upgrade me to a private room with amazing views over Rossio Square for no additional cost.

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3. Avenue Hostel, Budapest, Hungary

Location – Budapest, Oktogon 4, 1067 Hungary

About
Set in the heart of the Oktogon Intersection, Avenue Hostel is a modern and lively hostel which is easily accessible by tram.
The hostel may be tricky to spot at first so look for the corner with Starbucks, from there the hostel entrance is 50 foot to the right. There is a lift available once you get inside so the hostel is wheelchair accessible.

Whats nearby
The beauty of staying in Oktogon means you have direct access to the excellent public transport, trams and buses are the most popular and cheapest way around and only costs roughly €2.00 = 641 HUF in local currency.

– 15 to 20 minute walk to Vajdahunyad Castle, Art Museums and Heroes Square
– 5 minute tram ride to the River Danube
– 5 minutes from Terézváros a popular spot for traditional Hungarian food
– 5 minute tram plus 10 minute walk to the Hungarian Parliament building
– 20 minute bus ride to Fishermans Bastion (Line 105 bus)
– 20 Minutes from Citadella via tram or bus (Line 6)

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Atmosphere
Avenue Hostel is one of the larger hostels I’ve stayed at, offering a simple yet industrial design with a casual yet busy buzz about the place. I found this hostel to be very popular with groups and tours.

Upon return to Budapest quite recently I decided to stay here again as I enjoyed it so much.

The staff were very approachable and always happy to help.
The hostel itself is very spacious and clean and the breakfast is one of the best ones I’ve had. Think continental but with added extras.

You can read more about Avenue hostel here.

Keep in mind during check-in you may be queuing for quite some time, this is a large hostel.

Amenities
– 24 hour reception
– Self catering kitchens
– Breakfast included
– Free Wifi
– Fresh linen provided
– Bar and lounge area
– pub crawls and tours available
– Airport transfers available
– Locker provided

My Experience
I have stayed at Avenue hostel on two occasions during my visits to Budapest, I just really like the location which makes getting around so easy.

I loved that I was so close by to Heroes Square and Vajdahunyad Castle and parks.
In winter you can also enjoy a spot of ice skating next to the castle.

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4. Whole Wide World Hostel and Bar, Zagreb, Croatia

Location – Kačićeva ul. 3B, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia

About
Situated in the Commercial district of central Zagreb, Whole Wide World Hostel was definitely one of the more vibrant and livelier hostels I’ve stayed at and highly recommended by other friends and travelers.
Often referred to as your ‘home away from home’ WWW hostel hosts many themed nights and international holidays taking place.

Be sure to check out the windows of this place which are decorated with flags from around the world. A really cool touch.

Side note: Be sure to book direct with them either on their website or at reception to get the best deal.

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…and the link to their website here.

Whats nearby
– 15 minute walk from Dolac Market
– 15 to 20 minute walk from Zagreb Cathedral
– 20 to 25 minutes from the main train station Zapadni
– 15 minute walk from Old Town Zagreb
– 15 to 20 minutes from the Museum of Broken relationships and St Marks Church
– 10 minute walk from Ban Josip Jelačić Square (also the meeting point for free city tours)
– 1 minute from tram services

Atmosphere
This hostel was an absolute blast, there was always something going on from guided tours and day excursions to celebrating holidays and national/Independence days from countries around the world.

The staff (or ninjas as they’re called at the hostel) are an extremely fun bunch who really make an effort to get guests involved with themed nights, parties and other games.

The guests were very sociable and fun to be around, it would be hard not to make friends here.

A very lively place to be.

Amenities
– 24 hour reception desk
– Linen included
– Free Wifi
– Laundry Facilities
– Communal kitchen with cooking facilities
– Breakfast included
– Bar and cozy lounge area with beds
– Airport shuttle if required
– Food shops nearby

My Experience
I stayed for 4 nights but wish I could have stayed longer. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and I’ll definitely be back.

During my stay the manager was ridiculously generous and made it his mission to offer the best Thanksgiving dinner to the American guests.

As I stayed just before Christmas, the hostel team very kindly took all us guests out for a dinner. A very kind gesture and an amazing experience.

I highly HIGHLY recommend this hostel!

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5. Hostel Tivoli, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Location – Lepodvorska ulica 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

About
Just across the road from Tivoli Park is the small yet cozy Tivoli Hostel. Located just a 10 minute walk away from the city center of Ljubljana.
This peaceful yet friendly hostel has only 3 rooms which includes 1 Double room, an 8 bed mixed dorm and a slightly larger 12 bed mixed dorm.

From the outside the building almost looks like a converted shipping container which is tucked away at the side of a motor repair garage but inside it is a very modern and bright little space.

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Don’t be put off by how this hostel looks on the outside, it truly is a gem.

You can check out the photos here.

Whats nearby
– 2 minute walk to Tivoli City Park
– 10 minutes walk to from Ljubljana train and coach station station
– 15 minutes into Ljuljana City Center where you will find popular sites such as the Prešeren Square, Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and the Dragon
– 45 minute walk to Ljubljana Castle however there are other modes of transport such as the Funicular Railway or buses. I will leave a link here.
– 15 to 20 minute walk to Metelkova

Atmosphere
During my visit in November there were only 5 guests staying so it was very easy to get to know one another and spend in the city together.

The hostel really is quite special.

If you’re one for a peaceful area next to a beautiful park then I highly recommend this place.
Another bonus is that because there were so few people, it meant a great nights sleep with minimal to no disturbance.

Amenities
– Free Parking
– Linen and bedding included
– Breakfast included
– Free Wifi
– Communal kitchenette made up of a kettle, microwave and fridge
– Lounge area with TV
– Laundry Facilities
– Bike rental

My Experience
The moment I entered the hostel I was greeted by extremely courteous staff and given a shot of Viljamovka, a type of Slovenian pear Brandy.

The staff were extremely enthusiastic to share and tell stories about the history of Slovenia and the amazing things to see in Ljubljana.

For me the people of Slovenia were some of the most friendliest people I’ve ever met.

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6. Wild Elephants, Bratislava, Slovakia

Location – Františkánske námestie 8, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia

About
Ahhh the Wild Elephants Hostel, the clue is in the name. It is a wild place which I think everybody should visit at least once.
Cheap in price and perfectly situated in the heart of the city, Wild Elephants is a vibrant arty hostel which hosts a variety of colorful people to match.

Be sure to check out the artwork around this place, it’s spectacular.

Located in Bratislava’s historic Old Town Hall, be sure to look up as the hostel is sneakily located above a Mexican Restaurant.

Here’s the link if you wish to know more here.

Whats nearby
– A 6-minute walk from the Jesenského tram station
– 10 minute walk from the Slovak National Museum
– 10 minute walk from St. Martin’s Cathedral
– 5 to 10 minute walk for Michaels gate
– 1 minute to the main street and markets
– 20 to 25 minute walk up to Bratislava Castle

Atmosphere
Most of the staff who work/volunteer there are also big time travelers so they’re always keen to get you involved with activities such as live music, drinking games and city tours.

At the back of the hostel is a fully equipped communal kitchen with a large table where guests love to gather.

Keep an eye on the menu as vegetarian/vegan meals can be purchased for a small price.

Overall the atmosphere is lively and busy, particularly in the attic bar, so be sure to check that out.
Wild Elephants attracts folks from all walks of life.

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YOU WILL GET DRUNK!

Amenities
– Free Wifi
– Linen included
– TV and lounge area
– Fully equipped kitchen
– Attic bar and smoking area
– Chalkboards and graffiti friendly walls
– Laundry facilities
– Clothes Swapping
– Cheaply priced evening meals

My Experience
The staff certainly know how to throw a crazy party.

Almost every night I was there I ended up on some wild night out around the city.

Tours which take place in and around the city are also offered if you fancy a more relaxing day to nurse your hangover.

Overall Bratislava was a quaint and wrongly overlooked city. I would 10/10 go back.

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7. Cosmopole Hostel, Prague, Czech Republic

LocationSpálená 8/3, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia

About
Cosmopole is a fairly new addition to the city and a beautifully renovated build, holding many of its original features which are spread across 6 floors.
Cosmopole Hostel is a centrally located within the city and just minutes away from the Vltava River and popular attractions.

Whats nearby
– 1 minute walk from the bustling main street which is loaded with shops, restaurants and bars
– 14 minute walk to the famous Charles Bridge
– 15 minutes walk to Old Town Square
– 8 minutes walk to the Dancing House
– 30 minute walk to Prague Castle
– 20 Minute walk to the main train and coach station (Praha hlavní nádraží)

Atmosphere
The atmosphere here at Cosmopole even though a hostel didn’t feel like one, it almost felt like a hotel.
Although fairly quiet during my stay I can certainly see this being a popular spot for groups.

Equipped with an amazing roof top terrace with views overlooking the city, a couple of snooker tables and an on site library which I absolutely adored.

The staff were very informative and were happy to answer any questions I had in regards to walking tours and recommended places to eat.

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Amenities
– Breakfast included
– Lockers included
– Full kitchen and appliances
– Linen included
– Roof top terrace
– 24 hour reception
– Library
– Games room

My Experience
Having come from another terrible hostel in Prague, I felt completely spoiled once I arrived here, I was sad I hadn’t booked sooner.
The other guests in my dorm were very diverse bunch which just proves that Prague attracts people from the world over.
During my Euro Trip Prague was definitely a major highlight for me.

Here’s a link to the hostel website here.

8. Castle Hostel 1004, Bled, Slovenia

Location – Grajska cesta 22, 4260 Bled, Slovenia

About
Castle 1004 hostel in itself was fairly standard, however what really made this place special was the unbeatable location and absolutely amazing views over the town of Bled.

Located just a 2 minute walk from Bled bus/coach station is the hostel situated to the right. If you reach the convenience store you’ve gone too far.

The hostel is basic in design but does have a great roof top terrace, a computer/communal area.

Upon check in you will be given a special wristband which gives you x% off at selected restaurants and tours.

Whats nearby
– 12 minute walk to Bled Castle
– 5 minute walk to Lake Bled
– 2 minute walk to local shops and grocery store
– 10 to 15 minutes walk to the lake side cafes and restaurants
– 90 to 120 minutes to walk around Lake Bled
– 2 minute walk to the bus and coach station

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Atmosphere
The overall atmosphere here was very ‘walking tour’ oriented, I can see why.
Bled itself was everything I had hoped for and then some.
As I mentioned previously for Hostel Tivoli, the people here are so friendly and hospitable, which certainly brought in the right crowd of people.

This place is perfect for anybody who wishes to get back to nature and enjoy a more peaceful trip.

Amenities
Here I will include a link to the hostel here so you can check out more.

– 24 Hour reception
– Daily free walking tours and pub crawls
– Breakfast included
– Rooftop Terrace
– Bed linen included
– Library/Lounge
– Fully equipped kitchen
– Free Wifi
– Free food swap

My Experience
I fell in love with this place, which makes me eager to return. I do hope to come back later in 2019 and explore more of this beautiful country.
I cannot fault anything. 1000% recommend.

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So there we have it, just a hand full of my favorite hostels in Europe.
Hopefully these recommendations will inspire you to check out these hostels.
I will be putting together a part two later down the line as fitting them all into one post would go on forever.

I want to know, have any of you folks stayed at any of these hostels or do you have any recommendations for me to check out?

I’d love to connect and hear your thought on what you think about these hostels.

For now though…

Happy travels.

XO
O8

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30 things to (d̶o̶ ̶b̶e̶f̶o̶r̶e̶) Rock my 30’s – Travel and Lifestyle Bucket List

Last month marked my milestone birthday and whilst browsing through my travel memorabilia box, I came across my ’30 things to do before 30′ bucket list.

After reading it and realizing I’d only ticked half the items off, it got me thinking about how little I felt I’d achieved.

I hadn’t yet bought a house, visited South East Asia or even had a career in plan.

Instead, I spent my twenties jumping from job to job in an attempt to beat the recession and wasted time running around after dickhead ex-boyfriends.

What had I being doing?

One item in particular on my list was to embark on a gap year to New Zealand, so I jumped online to check the age requirements for a visa, I was too old to do it anymore and it broke my heart.

In a world surrounded by competition and comparison, we are made to feel like failures for not achieving the ‘norms’ of what are expected of us by a certain age –

…and by the time the big 30 came around, I was shitting myself.

I turned to other blogs for ideas and inspiration on ways to embrace my new milestone but all I could find were bucket lists titled –

‘Thirty things to do BEFORE you turn thirty’

So I decided to create my own spin on it.

Not having completed your ’30 before 30′ bucket list doesn’t make you a failure.
Or feeling defeated by our 20 something counterparts who have.

This mentality has to change.

So you know what? So what if I hadn’t been to New Zealand yet, it will still be there later.

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So for this updated list I decided to take on a slightly different approach and re-write the rules, aim for new goals and scrap what no longer feels beneficial.

Not only do I want to focus on travel but I also wanted to include more enriching life goals.

Using my twenties as a reflection guide, here are 30 things I want to ROCK in my thirties.

I hope this inspires some of you to set new goals and be okay with the fact that hey, we get distracted. Lets make our thirties even better.

So here’s my new travel and lifestyle bucket list:

1. Attend a Travel Writing Retreat
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen Pink Pangea advertise a travel writing retreat. I always thought I wouldn’t be very good in comparison to the other writers. Until I realized that we were all there for the same reason, to learn.

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2. Learn Spanish
I’ve been saying I wanted to learn for years, I bought the books, downloaded the apps and even tried my had at practicing whilst travelling around Spain. I gave up because I didn’t feel confident enough to speak out publicly and worried about being embarrassed, when really the best way is to make and learn from the mistakes.

3. Go to Finland
Even before attending Finnish language classes back in 2009 I obsessed over visiting this mystery country. Despite travelling around Europe for the past 13 years I still haven’t been. Perhaps it was the price putting me off, or that I was low key worried that it wouldn’t be as magical as imagined, either way I still want to get my ass over there.

4. Move out! Properly
No more cruise cabins and shared accommodation with annoying house mates. Even though I still don’t feel ready for a mortgage I would still like to rent my own apartment. Possibly one with a high view over the skyline.

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5. Volunteer for a cause I believe in
This one is pretty self explanatory, I want to get out there and help out with more charities. Homelessness along with mental health and emotional distress is an ever growing issue in my home town. I would like to get on board and do my part to help these people. Even if it just requires a listening ear.

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6. Visit Myanmar
Myanmar has always been a quite an unusual place I have wanted to visit, purely because I hear so little. I’ve always wanted to admire the beautiful architecture of Shwedagon Pagoda. Forever fascinated with uniquely special builds. Maybe in a past life I was an architect.

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7. Attend Photography Classes
My DSLR has been sat gathering dust for months, it’s time to branch out and learn some skills. A fear of mine is being approached by another photographer and me not understanding what they are talking about. Silly I know but a task I wish to remedy and of course to build confidence.

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8. Visit family in Australia
I’ll never forget the Christmas I witnessed my Australian cousin experience snow for the first time, she ran straight into the garden, no shoes! (Her first time in the UK)

I want to experience that feeling for something new in Australia and have the opportunity to get to know my long distance family some more.

9. Blogging to the next level
My hobby, my side hustle. I’d love to turn blogging into a real job on the side. I’m still in the very early stages.

It took me years to finally take the plunge and throw myself into the world of blogging and I’m so glad I followed my heart.

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10. Be more daring
No longer do I want my anxieties to get in the way of living, I want to be more daring and chase the adrenaline rush, like going skydiving or bungee jumping.

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11. Visit Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
You only need to see the photos to see what i’m talking about.

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12. Learn to fall in love again
I’m just going with the flow on this one. No rush.

13. Hang Gliding in Rio de Janerio
A friend of mine worked for British Airways and would share her stories with me from all around the world, one particular tale was her experience of hang gliding in Rio and how free and exhilarated she felt.

I’d love to experience that feeling too.

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14. Visit the Bolivian Salt Flats
A popular choice amongst travelers but for obvious reasons, I’ve found photos online and have never seen anything else quite like it. The first time was whilst watching a ‘Where the hell is Matt 2008’ video. It looked like he was walking through the air.

15. Get my UK drivers licence
I drove a little whilst living in California and hated it. It actually made me realize just how much more civilized us Brits do drive back home. Every other day I would witness pile ups on the highway. It truly was a scary experience for me.

This time I’ll take my dad’s advice and learn to drive a manual stick shift.

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16. Visit Plitvice Lakes National Parks in Croatia
Unfortunately I missed out during my last visit to Croatia, I fell sick with a really bad cold but I have every intention of visiting again. I badly want to visit this beautiful national park and explore the waterfalls.

17. Dip my toes in another Ocean
I’ve visited both the Atlantic and Pacific but I want to venture out to other seas such as the Indian Ocean.

Its just something I find quite accomplishing to do.

I’ve even contemplated dipping my toes in the Arctic ocean but have a feeling I may regret freezing my feet off.

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18. Visit the end of the world in Ushuaia, Argentina
A little more out of the ordinary but what is there not to love about wanting to visiting one of the southernmost towns in the South American continent, the only way south from there is Antarctica.

19. Try Yoga and meditation
For years I’ve struggled with costochondritis and would love to tackle this issue in a more healthier and organic way.

A way which doesn’t involve pumping myself with tablets/medicine.

This I plan to start once I move to the beach later this year.

New place, new start. A perfect hobby to practice.

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20. Write a book
Oh yes I went there. If there’s anything I want to leave behind after I’m gone it’s a book. As for subject matter I am unsure yet, possibly a travel memoir.

Stay tuned.

21. Work for my dream company
It’s no secret, I want to get back into aviation. No more corporate offices or short haul turnarounds. I wish to go all the way and work for my favorite airline/travel company.

Side note: What most people don’t know is that I’m also a BA collector. I have accumulated books, tags, tickets and even airplane figures. Some may call me sad but I love it.

Anything to keep me motivated to achieve.

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22. Take a road trip around Alaska
Most folks would choose Route 66, however I would love to take a trip from Washington State and through Canada and up into Alaska, stopping off at some of the most natural beauty spots along the way. Away from deserts and busy city life. Just me, the car and a tent.

23. Ride the Trans Siberian Railway
This one I simply cannot explain why, I just have this urge to take the worlds longest train journey. The idea of sitting and watching the world pass by seems so peaceful to me… and a perfect way to catch up with blogging and getting to know other travelers.

Maybe even learn a few Russian phrases too.

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24. Take a flying lesson
This one is really pushing myself out of my comfort zone but something I would like to try anyways, I may love it or completely crap myself.

I once looked into taking flying lessons at my local airport but felt I could never do it due to the cost. Nowadays I just think screw it and have a blow out for once.

Give it a shot, even if its just the one lesson.

25. Create Travel Vlogs
I already have a couple of mini travel vlogs on my YouTube channel but I’ve never really bothered to share them as I know they’re pretty poor quality.
Now I have a shiny new DSLR camera with a ‘record video’ function, I’m eager to try it out.

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26. Dye my hair a crazy color
I’ve always played it safe with either copper highlights or a full head of dark burgundy. For once in my life I want to try a crazy color such as mossy green or electric blue. Purely for fun and because many of my previous jobs haven’t allowed me to do it.

27. See the northern lights
Either in Iceland, Finland or Canada, this too is a popular item on many peoples bucket lists but I want to experience the Northern lights, just to be in awe of something absolutely unique.

28. Take a tour around South East Asia
Where would I begin with this?
Please if you have any itinerary suggestions then hit me up in the comments.

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29. Take my parents on holiday
For once in my life I hope to be in a position where I am able to afford to take my parents on holiday, after all they have done for me, they deserve something special. A wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time together.

30. Take a year out
Lastly, the big one.
I hope to take a year out to go explore the world. The ultimate goal on my bucket list.
If not in my thirties then I hope to be well on my way and prepared for my fourties.

After all they say life begins at forty.

So why not aim big?

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I hope this post has inspired some of you to get creative with your bucket lists and to remind you that life is not a race.
Who cares if you haven’t ticked off all your 30 before 30 lists.
Embrace your thirties and set new boundaries and goals.

They don’t all have to be extravagant travel goals, set some time aside for self care and development.

You got this!

Lastly I hope you enjoyed this post and I look forward to connecting with you. If you wish to add something or share with me your ‘Rockin 30’s’ goals then leave a comment below or hit me up on social media.
I look forward to chatting with you.

XO

PS: Where are all my blogging thirty-something sisters at?’

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3 Months Winter Backpacking with only a 25L Rucksack

This post was inspired by the overwhelmingly positive feedback I received in regards to my tweet.

‘How I traveled Europe for 3 months with only a 25L rucksack’

So I’m here to share my journey.

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Pin it!

1. Why I travel light

Growing up me and my family were not the materialistic type, this was largely down to space and money. My mother, barely in her twenties was a single working parent who raised me and my two brothers. We moved house a lot (due to financial hardship and work) and by the time I was 14 we had moved 9 times.

I recall one particular day getting into a taxi with my mum and brothers, our lives stuffed into four black sacks between us.

As a result, me and my brothers really were taught to always appreciate what we had and that materialism didn’t equal happiness. Instead of gadgets and new clothes every few months we would get creative elsewhere, such as baking, using the sewing machine and spending as much time outside as possible (then again being a 90’s kid there weren’t many other options)

My mother was and still is pretty boss when it comes to living fruitfully on a frugal budget, which over the years has definitely rubbed off on me.

Nowadays I seek adventures over possessions. I don’t own a car, I’ve never bought a house and I choose to carry my life in a backpack.

Having less stuff gives me more time and energy to focus more on what really matters, despite being 30 and still figuring things out.

*Disclaimer – This post is not a ‘How I think you should live your life’ everybody shares their own personal journey and values. This is just my story.

Over the years I’ve learned some pretty nifty tips on how to travel light.

2. My 3 month trip across Europe

90 Days, 8 Countries, 1 Rucksack.

My journey began early October 2018. I was working from home which allowed me to take it on the go with me, So I said goodbye to friends, gave the cats a hug and to my mothers relief (after years of telling her how much I just wanted to pack up and go) I grabbed my rucksack and left. My first stop, Florence.

I hadn’t planned anything beyond Italy and decided to play it by ear. I didn’t know where I’d ended up. With only a small rucksack in tow, I was free to go where and when as effortlessly as I wanted.

Here’s a list of destinations I visited over October – December period:

Austria, Vienna
Croatia, Zagreb
Czech Republic, Prague
Germany, Berlin and Munich
Hungary, Budapest
Italy, Florence, Pisa and Trieste
Slovakia, Bratislava
Slovenia, Bled, Bohinj and ljubljana

2. My 25L Rucksack

Given how little I brought with me, finding a suitable rucksack was easy to find. After scoping out a couple of shops and trying on a few options I decided on the Eurohike Nova 25L Daysack.

Nova25

It certainly isn’t anything advanced in terms of what a long term traveler would consider a ‘proper’ backpack but for me it was just what I needed. Small, sturdy and inconspicuous. (I didn’t want the ‘obvious backpacker’ attention drawn to me.

A few features I particularly liked where the half dozen of zip compartments which meant that I didn’t require any packing cubes, along with the breathable mesh padded back and shoulder support which were an absolute godsend when it came to my Costochondritis and if I didn’t fancy wearing my coat I could easily attach it to the front elastic bungee for external storage.

Inside the front compartment there are some claps which I clipped my keys and padlocks to so they were easily accessible. Of course I would always keep a spare on me too.

Solo travel minimalism

3.The perks of travelling light

Here are a list of perks when travelling light:

▪ Airport life becomes easier when it comes to check-in, nowadays many airlines offer online check-in as well as self check-in kiosks. There will be no need to queue to check your bag, you can head straight to security.

▪ Almost every Airline allows one free piece of hand luggage on-board, so if your packing light, you’re good to go. (however do check with the dimensions for your chosen airline)

▪ You will save money, by only packing a small carry-on, you will avoid any unwanted baggage fees.

▪ Airport security and bag searches (if any) will become a smoother and faster process as you will have packed minimal items.

▪ You will learn about restrictions on the amount of liquids you can take in your hand luggage and pack accordingly. (Check with your chosen airline)

▪ Storing your hand luggage will be easy and convenient, you can fit it under the seat in front of you, such as planes, coaches and trains.

▪ Ease of access in busy areas, because your only carrying a small backpack you needn’t worry about bumping into people and things.

▪ You’re in control of your items and can keep track of everything as it’s all in one place.

▪ Your back and feet will thank you.

▪ Walking to your accommodation from the train/coach station will be an easy task, also keeping your backpack close and hands free for using your phone when looking up directions.

▪ You won’t be phased if you reach your accommodation to find out there is no lift, stairs will be no problem.

▪ Everything will fit into one locker so you don’t have to leave your bags out in the dorm/room.

▪ Repacking your bag will be a quick and easy process, particularly if you have a method in place.

▪ Due to fewer clothing options, getting ready will be quick and no fuss as everything will mix and match.

▪ Doing laundry will be a breeze, as you can fit everything into one load, meaning less money and time spent, plus if you have packed dark clothing you don’t need to worry colors bleeding.

The list could go on…

25l rucksack
2 weeks in and still going strong with my Eurohike backpack.

4. Steps on how to pack like a minimalist

▪ Declutter, my biggest tip is to go through your items such as clothes, shoes and books and start by completely eliminating everything you know you don’t want. By cutting down to begin with this will help you feel more confident about your decision making when packing later.

▪ This is self explanatory but buy a smaller backpack and stick to it, now I’m not saying that everybody should rush out to buy a 25L rucksack but even just swapping out your bag for a smaller counterpart is a great step to learning to pack less.

▪ Take into consideration where and what time of year are you travelling. Summer, winter, little bit of both?
Summer items and even just partial winter items will be much more space efficient over a purely winter pack.
I traveled during winter so naturally I had bulkier items to tend with, so I had to get creative with my space.

▪ Identifying the difference between needs and wants. Think about what you will be doing. Will they benefit your trip?
In my case I wanted to pack my glittery flats with it being Christmas but were they practical for my trip? Absolutely not, instead I chose memory foam, sports trainers and my feet felt great throughout.

(I chose comfort over aesthetic, however in summer you can be a little more flexible)

▪ Gather all of your chosen items and pack about half a weeks worth (3 to 4 days) remember it’s perfectly normal to wear items such as jeans and sweatpants for more than one day so don’t feel gross, as for t-shirts I usually pack a few more than I did bottoms.

The general rule is about 2-3 pairs of bottoms and 3-4 t-shirts (including the ones your already wearing when you leave) 1-2 sweaters/jackets and on average about 2-3 pairs of footwear (including flip-flops)

▪ Learn how to layer. Keep your items simple and experiment before you go. Layer short sleeved t-shirts over a long sleeved t-shirts and vice versa, wear a plaid shirt and add a sweater under/over it, tie a cardigan over your shoulders or waist, experiment with different ways to style a scarf.

If travelling in summer, experiment with different ways to style a sarong, add shorts or a tie a plaid shirt around you waist to go with your bikini top, or a cardigan or jacket for cooler evenings.

▪ Be comfortable with repeat outfits. Don’t be phased by wearing the same clothes over and over, with each destination you visit you will always meet new people, chances of meeting the same people again (unless planned) are slim. In most cases, almost all of the backpackers you meet will be in the situation anyways and trust me, they really won’t care.

5. Practical packing and space saving tips for Winter backpacking

Clothing.

▪ Wear your bulkier items when travelling, its a no brainer really.

▪ T-shirts which are simple will go with everything plus they’re easy to clean and compact.

▪ Pack a couple of fitted t-shirts, particularly ones with Lycra as these will stretch out the creases once you start wearing them.

▪ When packing t-shirts opt for darker/neutral colors, trust me white t-shirts will get noticeably grubbier and stained quicker (but if you wish to pack white shirts I wont stop you)

▪ As I mentioned earlier, experiment with layering. Remove for warmer climates, add for colder.

▪ Sweaters, bring two, wear one. Choice of thickness is down to you, a regular knit/turtle neck will do but you can opt for just 1 thick sweater or two thin if you prefer.

▪ Dark bottoms, black jeans, sweatpants something warm and comfortable if your planning on hiking you can swap the jeans out for hiking pants.

▪ Get yourself some warm fleece lined leggings, an absolute staple. They’re thick enough to not look like leggings, wont show you’re underwear and go with everything.

▪ Roll clothes instead of folding, they will save space and create less creasing. It’s magic.

Outerwear

Whilst travelling in winter I took only one coat and wore it throughout the duration of my travels, along with 1 hat and scarf. That’s it.

Alternatively you can swap this out for a hiking jacket or waterproof/fleece lined jacket if you prefer.

▪ Wear your coat or bulkier item whilst in transit.

▪ Find a compact jacket/raincoat, the ones which can be folded down to the size of a tennis ball.

▪ Bare in mind cities will be a little milder than out in open spaces, just a thought.

Footwear

▪ Wear your bulkier footwear and stuff socks into the second pair in your backpack to utilize the space.

▪ Get yourself some memory foam insoles, they’re perfect for lots of walking.

▪ Check out some lightweight yet durable/waterproof trainers, the easily washable the better.

▪ Pack flip flops, useful for dirty showers and an alternative to trainers if your feet really are butchered up (although I would keep to the accommodation)

▪ Pack some thermal socks, your toes will get cold.

▪ Before you go break in your new footwear, you don’t want blisters.

Toiletries

I have a short post about my go to hair and skincare products for the backpacker on the go here.

▪ Purchase solid versions instead regular liquids when it comes to hygiene products. Useful if you’re concerned with exceeding liquid restrictions on the plane. (eg: Shampoo)

▪ Invest in a shampoo/conditioner bar, they’re super convenient and come in a reusable tin which makes it easy to take on the go, I bought mine from Lush and lasts up to 80 washes, even longer if you have shorter hair.

* Bonus, the Lush shampoo/conditioner bars in particular are also organic and can be used for face and body too as there are no nasty chemicals. (Not Spon)

▪ Pack a regular bar of soap and store it in a compact tin.

▪ Stock up on only travel size (100ml) toothpaste, moisturizer, deodorant, contact solution etc and pop them in a clear plastic bag.

▪ Pack some lip balm, that icy wind wont do them any favors.

▪ Don’t feel pressured to go overboard when packing hygiene products (or for the ladies tampons and pads etc) these can be replenished throughout your travels.

▪ If you want to completely eliminate pads/tampons altogether then look into other options such as a menstrual cup and find one that works for you.

▪ Towels are optional as many hostels/hotels will either offer them regardless (or for a small hire fee) however if you do choose to bring one, go for the microfiber option as they are less bulky and dry much faster than regular towels.

▪ Grab yourself either a tangle teezer or one of those compact brushes with the mirror attached. They’re easy to stuff into the small compartments of your rucksack.

Girl ABOUT Europe minimalist female solo backpacker in europe

Cosmetics

▪ Again this is self explanatory, purchase travel sizes instead and be sure to pack any liquids and powders into a clear plastic bag along with your hygiene products.

▪ Store them safely in a small makeup bag to avoid any accidental leakages.

▪ Remember you can stock up throughout your travels

If you don’t wear makeup, even better. You can skip this step.

Tech and Miscellaneous

What tech/gadget you decide to bring is your personal choice and do be mindful of space when doing so, however don’t forget to include:

▪ Mobile phone charger/USB charger

▪ Universal Adapter

▪ Earphones (much more space saving than headphones)

▪ Spare Camera battery and charger

▪ Earplugs and eye mask (for when your drunken room mate at the hostel stumbles in at 3am and switches the light on)

▪ Mini first aid kit

5. Lastly What I packed

So by now some of you may be wondering what I packed for my 3 month adventure.

Lets break it down:

4 short sleeve t-shirts (wearing the 5th)

1 long sleeve shirt

1 Plaid shirt

1 sweater (wearing a 2nd)

1 pair of fleece lined leggings

1 pair of dark jeans

1 pair of lightweight pants (which also doubled up as pajama bottoms)

1 woolly hat and scarf

4 pairs of underwear (wearing the 5th)

3 pairs of socks (wearing the 4th)

2 pairs of footwear (wearing the 2nd pair)

1 lightweight microfiber towel

1 Coat

1 Cosmetics bag which fit my hygiene/makeup products:

▪ Shampoo/Conditioner bar, deodorant stick, small bar of soap, travel sized toothpaste, toothbrush, tinted moisturizer, mascara, compact powder, eyebrow/eyeliner pencil and makeup brush.

▪ Tangle teezer (not spon) and a handful of hair ties

▪ Netbook and charger (for work, blogging and watching movies)

▪ Mobile Phone and charger

▪ European adapter

▪ Mini organizer which held my passport, copy of health insurance documents, plane ticket, notepad and pen.

▪ Purse and a small sunflower tote (bag) to store all the paperwork/techy items.

😮

Follow me

and that’s it!

Packing appropriately can be a challenge even for the experienced traveler, however learning to adapt a minimalistic approach will change your travel game forever.

If you don’t believe me, I have a video here (I suck at making videos so bare with me) 😂

So there you have it, how I travelled Europe with only a 25L rucksack.

I really hope you enjoyed this post and found some use tidbits to add and change up your packing routine.

If you have any other tips and would like to share, I’d love to hear them.

My socials are all @girlabouteurope (IG and Pinterest) and Twitter @girl_about_EU

once again thankyou for reading and happy travels.

xOx

Image

Bedbugs, Bruises and Backpacks – Travel Mishaps and what I’ve learned from them

After travelling on and off for the past 12 years it will come to no surprise that I’ve experienced my fair share of travel mishaps, from almost being denied entry to the US to being held at knife point in Paris.

Although some of these experiences were terrifying they also taught many valuable lessons, not just on how to become a safer traveller but a smarter one too.

Here are some of my most memorable travel mishaps and what I learned from them.

Ps: If you’re reading this mum, sorry for the grey hairs.

1. Hostel from hell – Prague, Czech Republic

Being messed around in what I can only describe as one of the most sketchy and worst hostels I’ve ever stayed in.

Having just arrived from an overnight coach from Slovenia I was tired, hungry and aching. As always I booked my coach for a 2pm arrival to avoid waiting around for check in.

When I arrived I knocked and waited patiently for staff to answer… nothing. I knocked again, still no answer, called the number, voicemail.

I decided to grab a bite to eat and return later. Already experiencing a pretty sketchy feeling about the place I put together a backup plan by researching other hostels nearby.

When I arrived back at the hostel I banged loudly on the door to which a nervous guest answered instead. At first she hesitated to let me in as the hostel owners said not to let anybody enter without a booking. I explained to her that I had one and pulled out my phone to prove it and said I’d been waiting since 3pm to get in. It was now 4.30pm

She told me that this was a pretty oddly run hostel and that the owners were barely ever here. Another guest entered the kitchen and stated that the owners did nothing whatsoever.

Between them they started listing everything wrong with the place, not that they needed to convince me, the place was dark and dirty, ants crawling over rotten food, a broken leaky bathroom, smashed windows, no locks, mouldy walls and matresses which reeked of urine.

In the dorm room I noticed that the girls had opened up their sleeping bags and created make shifts bed on the floor with their bags and clothes. The mattresses were grotty with black mould and crawling with bed bugs. I took photos and video footage of this.

I asked the other girls why they decided to stay here and they told me that the manager had fobbed them off and had already charged them in full, he refused to refund them. One was a student visiting a friend and the other had just moved to the area and needed an affordable place to stay whilst she was flat hunting.

It was clear that they were just as pissed off and I was but now I was also worried that I wouldn’t get a refund either.

By 6pm the manager had returned and I started questioning him about the bedbugs and being late. He immediately got defensive with me and accused me of bringing the bed bugs with me, I told him that was impossible as I’d just arrived a few hours ago and hadn’t even touched the bed as I was waiting to check in.

I also pointed out that:

A) The website stated that only the first night would be charged and the rest to be paid on arrival but he took the full payment from me.

B) That the photos did not accurately represent the hostel, they were completely different photos.

C) That I’d been waiting almost 4 hours to check in but nobody was here.

He threw every single excuse at me, saying that he ran multiple hostels and that they were awaiting repair work but the maintenance guys didn’t turn up and that guests just left bad reviews because they didn’t want to pay.

I asked again for a refund but he told me that he didn’t know the log in details to booking system, I called bullshit.

He was the maanger and a compulsive liar at that, I told him that I worked at hostel back home and that it was impossible for him to not know his own log in details, he knew how to charge me!

In the end I just grabbed my bags and left, accepting that he was zones theif. He robbed me of €60 and I was furious.

I vowed to warn every Backpacker visiting Prague to avoid this place, otherwise they would catch the plague… literally.

What did I learn from this

Despite doing my research this was just a simple case of being mislead by thieves.

I checked out the hostel website, reviews, location and booked with them. It pirely was just a case of bad luck.

I should have just gone with my gut feeling upon arrival and booked elsewhere but either way I still lost €60 and then had to fork out extra for a new hostel.

I later learned from other backpackers that the manager had been deleting negative comments from social media and their website, so when travelling do talk to other travellers.

I don’t like doing this but I’m calling them out and warning you all:

Since visiting Hostel Marrakesh in Prague they have changed their name on booking.com to ‘Backpackers Hostel’, and have removed most negative comments. I know this because I went to screenshot my comment to add to this post but it has disappeared, however you can find recent reviews on Facebook.

2. Death in Amsterdam – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Even though this wasn’t a mishap on my part, I still wanted to include this story to highlight the severity of peoples actions.

This was by far the most shocking wakeup call ever to witness and took place during short visit to Amsterdam.

It was around 11pm when I arrived and had 12 hours to burn, so instead of hanging around the airport I decided to head out and do a little night-scene sightseeing.

I’ve never been one for smoking pot or drinking but I was still keen to try out some food and visit the Red Light District.

I dropped by a small cafe and ordered a coffee and some crepes and sat outside to watch the world go by.

Whilst relaxing there was one guy in particular who caught my attention on the other side of the canal. He was stumbling around and blatantly under the influence. Other people passing by dodged to get out get out of his way.

Suddenly there was a loud splash. He’d tripped on the cobbled stone floor and stumbled head first into the canal. Tourists started running to see what had happened and within seconds a huge crowd gathered.

By this point the guy had been submerged for around 2 minutes but all I could hear was the chattering of a dozen languages, I overheard an Australian guy behind me saying that people weren’t advised to jump in the canal to save anybody as the undercurrents of the water would drag people under.

It was at that moment that the streets lit up bright blue from the incoming police vans, followed by an ambulance, sirens wailing.

People being forced to back off. In jumped the scuba divers.

There was an eerie silence across the street. More tourists gathered, waiting. It had been almost 10 minutes now since the guy fell in and still nothing. 15 minutes, 20 minutes.

Eventually the scuba divers emerged from the water, body in hands. Officers scrambled to help pull him onto the ambulance bed but there was no movement. Paramedics rushed to his side, conducting CPR but there was still nothing.

A blanket was placed over his body and he was loaded into the ambulance.

I stared in disbelief… followed by a wave of disgust as I watched other tourists around me, phones out recording and taking photos of the events. I couldn’t believe these people.

I decided to head back to the airport early.

What I’ve learned from this:

On average there are about 18 deaths in Amsterdam, mostly by drowning caused by inoxication.

I can’t stop anybody from doing anything here but the lesson is to be mindful of how much you drink or smoke. Never mix drugs with alcohol.

Stay with your friends, don’t buy from dodgy street vendors. Only licenced cafes as you never really know what you could be smoking.

The risk is never worth it.

3. Knife point in Paris

What was meant to be an exciting and spontaneous getaway to Paris, soon turned into a terrifying nightmare.

After landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport pretty late at night me and my friend decided to head straight to the hostel. We catched the metro and then transferred trains to our destination. Everything seemed pretty fine, just a regular Saturday night.

The train was pretty crowded but we kept our guard as people entered and exited the train.

But then…

Out of the corner of my eye that I noticed a man staring at me, I didn’t want the attention and turned around to face my friend, whispering to her that the guy behind me was creeping me out.

The train stopped and the guy gave up his seat to other boarding passengers and made his way over to stand behind me.

A surge of uneasiness crept over me as I felt the pressure of this guy leaning into me but I tried my best to keep calm, all the while my friend grabbed my hand. Looking at me and acknowledging my discomfort. She had been watching his every move.

It was plain as day to anyone that we were not locals and not a single other person spoke up or said anything to help.

In that moment I felt a cold sensation against my skin and peered down to find that the guy had a blade held against my side, next to the strap of my backpack. He was standing so close that nobody else on the train could see what he was doing.

Was he planning on robbing me? Was he going to stab me?

In my mind I’d always played out what exactly I would do in a situation like this but when faced with the srality, I just froze.

My friend whos eyes widened at the sight of my face turning bright white, I whispered ‘We need to get off this fucking train now’

She peered to the glass window opposite the carriage and saw the reflection of a blade in the guys hand.

She whispered back into my ear ‘When we pull up, run left”

There was no other choice but to run, I could live with my bag being stolen but I didn’t want to get stabbed.

The train slowly pulled up to the next station and without any hesitation a dropped my backpack off my shoulders in hopes of knocking his hand and blade away from my back. We legged it, barging past everyone who was in our way. No fucks were given as we pushed and dived our way off the train and down the platform, jumping the ticket barriers.

We didn’t stop running for about half a mile.

We weren’t sure if the guy followed us but we didn’t take any chances.

What I’ve learned from this

Moral of the story, keep your belongings separate. I wasn’t prepared to risk my life or slow myself down with a bulky heavy backpack. Everything that was important to me (apart from my wellbeing) was in a small crossover bag on the front of my body. Passport, money, phone.

Research the area in which you are staying, steer clear of any known danger zones and avoid travelling at night if possible.

As hard as this may be, try not to stand out too much as a tourist.

The biggest mistake I made was travelling with a backpack embellished with world flags patches, making me an OBVIOUS tourist. Opt for a smaller plainer rucksack instead.

4. Almost being denied US entry because of an Instagram fail – Newark, NJ, USA

After an 8 hour flight and hours of queuing at US customs I was so ready. This was my first ever visit to the states and had saved for over a year and planned 3 months worth of amazing adventures.

Once I was called over to passport control, I walked over and handed the officer my passport, plane ticket and ESTA paperwork.

He frowned at me whilst holding up my passport and asked,

“What is this?”

“It’s my passport sir” I replied, I was confused.

He then proceeded to take my fingerprints and photo and then called over another officer to escort me to secondary screening whilst they investigated my documents.

I couldn’t understand what I’d done wrong.

After about 20 minutes the second officer called me over to explain that they had problems with my passport due to damage. He asked me if I had been tampering with it. I said no.

He asked me why it was so damaged?

(The penny finally dropped)

I told him I’d previously dropped my passport in a Venetian canal whilst trying to take an Instagram photo, I was aware that my passport had some water damage but I didn’t think it would be an issue as lots of backpckers I’d met had battered passports.

The officer legit laughed the me.

After further questioning (and realising I wasn’t a psychopath) he allowed me to enter the United States on the condition that I got my passport renewed as soon as I returned home.

He said he would make a note of this on my entry/exit records to the United States.

Eventually I got through, just about.

What I learned from this

Don’t risk your possessions for the sake of a cutesy Instagram photo.

Do get your passport renewed if it gets damaged, don’t chance it like I did. It almost cost me my travels.

US Border Control is shit scary.

————–

If you’ve made it this far to my post then congratulations! You’ve survived part 1!

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post, even though quite a long one for me.

I was initially going to make this an 8 point post but realiased it was so long. So if you folks are interested in a part 2, let me know in the comments.

Now I want to know, what are some of your most memorable travel mishaps?

Happy travels xo