I can’t begin to describe the learning experiences, both about the world and myself, that I had while I was in Europe for three weeks. I not only feel that I grew as an individual, but learned to be okay with enjoying experiences by myself. And I learned how to be comfortable as a female traveling solo, even in the most uncomfortable situations, which I will elaborate more on in a future blog post. Although I would have, in retrospect, enjoyed a traveling companion, it was nice to be able to dictate my schedule, sleep in and wander aimlessly.
A lot of people have been asking, where did you go, what did you do, how did you do it, you went alone!?…so before I delve into individual posts about the great experiences I had, I’ll explain some of the logistics.
First off, I have to thank my generous parents for financially sponsoring this trip, especially to, at the time, their unemployed, broke, post-grad daughter. Initially, they had invited me to come with them to Rome, Italy, where my dad had a work-related conference. But since my older sister was also going, they had exceeded the hotel’s limit of people per room (Rome hotels are weird about occupancy for some reason). For me to go, they would have had to get another room and pay additional fees to the travel company, and it would have cost them something like $4,000 extra, as opposed to the $2,000 it would have normally cost had they not exceeded their guest limit. So they gave me (well kind of my idea), but they gave me a budget of $2,500 to book my own trip to Europe, so long as I met up with them in Rome when they arrived.
And the Pantheon, where Raphael (the artist, not the Ninja Turtle) is buried
Roof of the Pantheon – the circle in the top is open – did you know this was built in 126 AD? (Are you wondering “How on Earth did they build this that long ago? Isn’t that caveman times!?”) Apparently not, and they built it by carving out the rock from the inside, kind of like building an igloo.
When I booked my trip, I was unemployed, and so the whole taking time off wasn’t a huge issue. I would, if I became employed, provide that time frame as a stipulation for being hired. My thought was, if I’m going to Europe and spending close to $1000 on a flight, I wanted to go for an extended period of time. I ended up starting a temporary job and moving to Washington DC a few weeks before I left, so I told my new job that this trip was already in the plans.
I had always wanted to go to Spain ever since middle school Spanish classes. Spanish is the only other language I can “kind of” understand (but not really) and I wanted to go to a country where they didn’t speak English, but where I could communicate “un poquito” (a little). Also, I have always been amazed by the Catalan artist Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces (Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Casa Batllo) which are located in Barcelona, so that’s where I decided to make my first stop from November 2 – November 6. I ended up returning here after a week (November 7 – 14) in Rome and stayed with some friends of my next door neighbors. The reason for the return was because flights were less expensive flying in and out of the same airport.
A view of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea from Gaudi’s Park Guell on a lovely day
View of Barcelona from La Sagrada Familia’s towers
To keep within my budget I stayed at spare rooms that I found on Airbnb. If you’ve never heard of this website before, and it basically allows people to rent out their spare rooms or full properties for days to months at a time. In Barcelona, I stayed at a place with a very weird/curious cat for around $25/night – cheaper than the hostels!
In Rome, I stayed at a place that was about $60/night and on the 5th floor. Rome is such an expensive city (3 star hotels go for minimum $150/night, so I saved a lot! As well as got a good workout in hiking up all the stairs 😉 I forgot to take a picture of the Rome room, unfortunately. Anyways, all the people I stayed with were super hospitable, and also gave you the space you needed. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is traveling on a budget and doesn’t want to stay in a hostel.
So there’s the logistical information about how I organized my trip, where I stayed and how it was funded. I would definitely recommend taking a gap year (or a few gap months in between jobs) if you have the funds and travel! I’ll definitely be posting more about some of the sights and places to eat in both Barcelona and Rome, so stay tuned!