Now that I am about a quarter of the way through my trip around Western Europe, I figure I will post some thoughts that bounce around my mind. Like all my posts, I primarily write for myself so this may or may not be particularly interesting to anyone else and it will be quite long.
It is honestly hard to think about traveling for 30 more days. It’s not as if I am having a bad time. I had some down moments, mostly because of a crappy hostel in Madrid, but the positive times have heavily outweighed them. I also don’t regret doing this. But still, the prospect of 30 more days seems daunting. Part of it probably has to do with knowing that I will almost surely have another hostel that I really don’t like in that time, or some other situation that is really unpleasant. But that isn’t all of it. And I am not really sure where the rest of the apprehension comes from.
I have lots to look forward to though. I booked a cheap hotel rather than hostel in Nice. I booked it while I was having a bad time in Madrid so I feel less of a need for it now, but I have easily been spending less than anticipated so I am okay with splurging. Some time to myself will be nice. After that, I am looking forward to two days hiking in Switzerland. I originally wanted to do this but changed my plan but after talking to a couple who had spent some time in a small town called Lauterbrunnen I changed my plan back.
And then Italy. I may end up staying an hour outside Florence in a villa hostel that looks beautiful. I should also get to see my sister, if only briefly, in Rome. I’m excited for all of this, but still a nagging feeling that I won’t have a great time for 30 more days.
I don’t think I will ever travel on this long of a trip alone again. I couldn’t travel for long periods with someone who is constantly around either. I think I would want to travel with someone who is okay to occasionally spend days apart doing our own thing.
I’ve almost doubled the number of shirts I have. I had no intent to buy much of anything on this trip but someone I met suggested we go into some clothing stores and I noticed that clothes tend to be a little cheaper than in Canada. And on top of that, european sizing seems to fit me better. It does mean I don’t have to worry about washing shirts quite as much which is nice as not all hostels seem particularly friendly to this. Despite this, I am glad I packed fairly minimalist. I can’t imagine hauling a huge bag around on travel days and I can’t see much of a benefit to having tons more clothes.
I’m learning that pacing is really important to not feeling burnt-out and to generally having a good time. My original plan was to cram as much stuff in as possible, especially in Barcelona where I wanted to do everything. It did not work out well. I’ve left lots of stuff to do in future trips to Madrid and Barcelona and I am fine with that.
I have read a lot. So far I have finished “An Economist Gets Lunch”, “The Charisma Myth”, and “Steve Jobs”. All good books. Actually the Steve Jobs biography was great. I chose the first because I was hoping it would find me good cheap food but so far it hasn’t been that much help. The best tips seem to be more American focused. I chose the second because I heard it recommended somewhere (Planet Money podcast maybe…) and I want to be more charismatic and communicate better. The third I wanted to read when it came out but school got in the way. I would highly recommend it to everyone. It’s probably a bit better for those who are into computers, or for those into design but there is something in it for everyone.
In the last 12 or so months before this trip I worked out often and did my best to eat a nutritious diet low in refined carbs and high in protein. In the last few months I worked hard to gain muscle. I’m a little worried that a lot of those gains are going to fade due to my lack of exercise and poor diet. I walk a lot, which helps to burn calories, but I have done almost nothing to build muscle in the last three weeks. I’m going to try and change that in Nice a little but ultimately I think I need to face the fact that I will probably head back home with less muscle and worse overall health.
I like European cities so far. London, Madrid, and Barcelona get density “right” in a way that I wish we could do in Vancouver. In Vancouver you have a downtown core with very high density and a few areas with medium density (broadway corridor, some places along the skytrain mostly) and then low density for the bulk of their land. The three European cities I have been to so far are medium density almost everywhere. Almost every block in Barcelona is maybe 6-10 stories with retail on the ground floor and apartments or hotels above. Check out this picture to see what I mean. You can find almost any store or service within blocks and because the density is so high public transportation can be cost-effective to almost everywhere. In Vancouver, service isn’t great or has to be subsidized to reach areas of low density because there just aren’t enough potential users.