‘T is for Travel’ was published in Scotcampus in April 2015
For many of us, student loans are a fundamental method of survival. You might not know when Mother’s Day is this year but you know exactly when SAAS is due next month, and that’s all your landlord cares about if you have one. But what about putting a couple of those precious pennies aside each month and saving for a character-building trek across the globe?
The benefits of travelling are mammoth. Your university years might already be the best years of your life, but there is so much more adventure on offer outside of studies, bars and clubs. You get to experience cultures away from the chip shop and Kelpies back home and it’ll hopefully be in the glaring sunshine (goodbye Fake Bake). You find yourself in situations that challenge everything you ever knew and you’ll be swimming in opportunities (literally) to learn about yourself.
From deciding your route to packing sensibly, here are some of the things I’ve come to learn while planning my summer travels.
Heads Up: It’s not all about getting rainbow hair braids, investing in denim shorts and changing your name to Sunshine for the month.
Plan your route and learn to commute
By far the cheapest way to explore the shores of the world is via train – particularly InterRailing. It’s fundamentally a one-off payment of up to £300 for 22 days of movement across Europe. This might sound like a lot of dosh when you consider the price of your rent, but take a moment to think about your friends – the poor souls – and what they’re paying EACH for a mere eleven day escape to Malaga. Interrail.eu is the most outstanding value for money, and there are plenty of YouTube users who have used the InterRail pass who can prove that for you.
If funds permit, why not document your own trip using a detachable video camera, such as a Go Pro?
- Eliminate those “how am I getting there?!” anxieties by choosing your next train out of the country when you pull into each new station. This will help you stick to some kind of vague plan so that you cover what you want to in the shortest time. None of this nonsense about having to skip the Berlin Wall because you spent a full day mystified by Amsterdam’s Sex Museum.
- While you will have paid for your right to travel in Europe, some services will apply a separate charge to reserve a seat in the carriage. This charge could be as small as €8 or as high as €18 and will apply almost every time you board a high speed or overnight train.
- Assign €5 minimum each day to account for any other journeys to cover buses, subways, taxis etc.
- Just because you’re not going through airport security, remember to take your passport at all times. Checks will still be made when entering each new country.
One of the things people always mention about their trips is the people they meet, usually in their accommodation. Often, the ones in the beds beside yours end up being your new BFFs. So have no fear! Approach those mysterious Russian mountaineers and ask them where they bought their hats.
The golden rule
Hostels are the one of the cheapest and most convenient, they don’t need to be booked in advance and you can check in usually just after midday.
However, some countries (like Italy) are much more expensive than others to stay in purely because they’re in high demand for tourists. For this reason, it’s worth using apps (hostelworld.com and Hotels.com) on your phone to price compare hotels and campsites in the same area because there might not be much difference (and you’ll have your own bathroom – hallelujah!)
No slacking when it comes to packing
While I admire your determination to continue looking like Beyoncé as you trek across the globe, realistically you’ll still be carrying the equivalent of a small child on your back.
That backpack might be eight times larger than your go-to satchel but it’s maybe a good idea to leave some room for souvenirs. Pack like you’re preparing for a zombie apocalypse. Only take the essentials.
- Baby wipes: you will likely evolve to fully appreciate the extensive abilities of the everyday life saver.
- Bin bags: For your washing, and all the free leaflets you went to town on.
- Savlon blister plasters: That is all.
- Flip Flops: Do you want a verucca to match that new henna tattoo? No. Then take them for the communal hostel showers.
- Leggings: An 11-hour train journey out of the Swiss Alps calls for only one thing
- LUSH goodies: Palm-sized shampoo and conditioner bars for less than £6? Winning! They last up to three times longer than the medium sized bottles of shampoo which are £2 more expensive. To make it even more exciting, there are even palm-sized tins to keep them dry in also available to buy.
“Je ne parle pas français!”
You might think that you are safe in the knowledge that the majority of foreign countries can speak English, but it is ignorant to assume everybody will cater to your liking. Wouldn’t it be fun to practice your standard grade languages in real-life situations?
Crucial phrases to learn
- “Good morning/good evening/hello/goodbye”
- “We are looking for *insert title of fundamental tourist hotspot*. Which way is it from here?”
- “I would like to order (the)…”
- “Could I have one student/adult ticket, please?”
- “Can you tell me where the toilets are please?”
- “Do you speak English?”
Oh, and if they look at you with eyes wide like portals deep into their souls, yeah; chances are they have no idea what you’ve just asked them.
Enjoy the ride.