This blog post was pulled from the old 2015 HW blog archives
…all photos were taken on a phone, prior to learning photography.
After leaving behind my old life as an actress, I needed to begin the new chapter with a great story. So I did what any writer – *ahem* diarist – would do: I went traveling for two months.
I spent the first six weeks of my 21st birthday backpacking trip traveling solo, something I had always dreamed of doing since I was 15. I spent a lot of time not only socializing and meeting people from all over the world but also finding time to be introspective and reflective. I would pick up new books in hostels, read them during my long train rides and leave them in places for other travelers to find. It was a glorious time, here’s how it began…
My journey began in Copenhagen, Denmark.
My two month trip across Europe was a dream I had been thinking and planning since high school. Although I was excited to go, I began my trip so nervous and unsure as to what would happen in the next two months. Instead of stressing, I intentionally chose not to plan or expect anything, and instead to go with the flow and let my adventure unfold day by day.
If I had one piece of advice for adventurous backpackers out there, it is to be spontaneous and to not plan out the details. The days when I wasn’t sure what direction to go were my most memorable.
The Almalfi Coast
“Paradise” was my word to describe Almalfi. Gorgeous seaside cliffs, blue waters, and wonderful friends that I made during my three days there. I befriended a group of girls at my hostel and we spent days riding boats, kayaking, jumping off cliffs into the crystal clear waters – the waters so salty that you could easily float, exploring the grottos, and eating lots of gelato. The Mediterranean in Italy quickly became one of my favorite spots across Europe.
Positano was my favorite spot along the Amalfi. A definite recommendation for girl group travelers, honeymooners and older travelers!
When I arrived in Hamburg, Germany after an exhausting day of travel from Copenhagen, Denmark (my train broke down and I had to transfer to two non-air conditioned buses, a ferry, and another bus to get there!), I was super overwhelmed and combined with all the non-English speakers and signs in German that couldn’t read (I should have expected it, but I was tired.), I sat on the curb and thinking aloud as to why I was even on this trip! Luckily, a nice English-speaker helped me find a bus to get to my hostel, and while I was on the bus, I befriended a girl sitting next to me. She lives in Hamburg but had even backpacked America several years ago. She was so sweet, she invited me to her friend’s barbeque and I had the wonderful opportunity to meet tons of people and go bike riding at night around Hamburg with them. But that’s not all – she even let me sleep over at her beautiful loft! I felt so lucky to meet her on the bus, especially at a time when I was feeling so low. It goes to show how magical the Universe can be at giving you signs! Hamburg, in general, was not a favorite city of mine. But the experiences and people I met on my trip there was one of my favorite memories of my entire trip.
I remember feeling alone and isolated in Berlin. And when that feeling hit, I knew I had to make a plan. So I spent my time hanging out with my bunk buddy in the city: we saw the Berlin Wall, the Berlin Wall Museum, and the Jewish Museum. After a horrible breakup with his long-term girlfriend, he was biking across Europe to think about his life and get to know himself again. What an inspiring way to reintroduce yourself again…
Budapest, Hungary was one of my favorite spots and for one reason only: the ruin bars. Back during World War 2, a lot of apartment buildings were destroyed, with the roofs falling in and collapsing. With the roofs completely gone and only viewing access to the starry skies above, these apartments and buildings were transformed into bars. But not just any regular bar, a 3 story bar filled with rooms for concerts, karaoke, dancing, restaurants, drinking games, and arcades. And the art displayed in these bars are so unique and interesting. Pieces hanging from the ceiling, twinkly lights rimming the walls – it was magnificent! I went to a few ruin bars, but here is a picture of my first night in Budapest with a group of girls I met in my hostel and a few English backpackers. Unfortunately, I don’t drink alcohol, as I believe more problems are created from liquor than solutions. But I did thoroughly enjoy the experience, without needing to be intoxicated.
Prague was another one of my favorite cities, as it looked like it came right out of a medieval storybook. The old astrological clock, the cobblestoned alleys, the torches, the castles, the bridges, the little shops lining the winding streets. Prague was glorious. I wish I had spent more time there. I was actually originally planning on skipping Prague and Budapest and seeing Amsterdam instead, but gosh, I am so glad I changed my route last minute. I met a friend named Olaf while on a free walking tour, and we spent some time eating the famous sugary breads and eating fruits at the farmers market.
Venice and Tuscany
Horseback riding along the vineyards in Tuscany was one of my favorite parts of the trip! But let’s just say it was an awkward time riding him; my horse was farting the entire trip! My tour guide would often get annoyed with me because I wasn’t staying with the group and often would allow the sweet horse to eat the shrubs nearby. I also didn’t wear long riding pants and consequently suffered some painful burns. But the rolling hills and golden sun along Tuscany was an experience I truly love!
Listening to a Rick Steve’s audio guide at the Pantheon in Rome. Rome was my top favorite city in Europe. I use the word “magical” to describe it because it is indeed a magical place unlike any other city in energy and ancient history. The food is not only amazing, but there is takeout pasta to-go! The lights in Rome are all lit yellow at night, almost looking like old torches lighting the small alleyways, as it did back in the gladiator days. It was so lovely to be exploring there. Although there were a lot of tourists, I think Rome is one of the most incredible cities in Europe, and I can’t wait to go back someday!
Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken Switzerland
My favorite stop besides Rome was the Swiss Alps. I stayed in a little cabin right in the mountains – I had to hike and take a cable car to get there! I spent 6 hours hiking to the top of one of the alps, went canyoning in Interlaken video here and met new friends, cows with magical cowbells, wandering sheep, and glorious mother nature.
If anyone gets a chance to go, go stay at Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald, Switzerland, about an hour hike past Lauterbrunnen and a cable car up the mountain. You won’t regret a trip to the Swiss Alps, I can assure you.
Meeting Up With My Boyfriend in Lucerne
There is something so special and wonderful in sharing a traveling experience with another person. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, or a romantic partner, there is nothing quite like traveling and making memories with someone else. Alex had wanted to go back to Europe for a while now, as he had grown up in Vienna and Paris, so what better way to go back and see his old home, then to join me and get to do both! It was also really helpful for me, as he speaks many languages and knew his way around Austria and France. A total win-win! We met in Lucerne and I share all about our meeting here.
Caught in a wicked thunderstorm, with purple lightning striking down and buckets of rain pouring onto the vineyards below! This was in Stuttgart, Germany. One of my favorite stops in Europe because we stayed with Alex’s friend and girlfriend! They showed us all the local spots, including a small cute town outside of Stuttgart and an Onion festival! They also were so sweet to give us a traditional German breakfast and let us use their washer and dryer.
One of our first conversations that Alex and I had back in January of this year was about my summer backpacking trip to Europe (waaay before he decided to come meet me). He mentioned for me to make sure to eat the little breadsticks on my table in Italy, as they were a good, crunchy snack to munch on while waiting for my food. Little did we know that 8 months later, we’d be eating breadsticks at a dinner table in Verona, Italy!
Vienna and Salzburg
South of France
We later ventured to France where we spent time exploring the castle fortress of Carcassone, Monaco, and Nice – where I first fell in love with Alex.
Most of the days were in Paris were rainy, cloudy and cold. The leaves were changing colors in August and the air felt brisk and chilly, so much so that I was forced to purchase a sweater! For my best tips and itinerary, read here.
Surprisingly, Disneyland Paris was BOTH one of our favorite stops on our three-week trip. I knew it would be mine, but Alex liked it just as much! So it goes to show, you don’t need to be a silly kid to enjoy Disney. You can also be an adult and still enjoy the wonders and magic that Disney brings.
I originally had planned on seeing beautiful Brugge in Belgium but with a last minute flight from Belgium to Denmark, Alex and I decided to hit Brussels instead. But here is where I got to enjoy a traditional Belgium dish – Moules and Frites! Grand Place was exquisite with plenty of Belgian chocolate shops, waffles and young people sitting in circles on the square, strumming guitars.