** This is me publishing an old draft (2018) that never saw the light of day, and that I think we all need right now in these crazy times! Stay strong everybody **
It’s easy to feel down, constricted in your own surroundings, unable to escape. Sometimes, as much as you would like to be positive and keep on smiling, reality hits you so hard and so often that you start to forget what it feels to be as positive and serene as you used to be or as you aim to be. I have talked about travelling being an escape and, despite conceding the fact that running away is not always the healthiest way of dealing with problems, I do grant that sometimes it really does help. Getting a breath of fresh air, getting out of your comfort zone for a little bit really can be beneficial in some cases. With exam season slowly killing me inside in April, I really needed a break and the thought quickly turned into a short but much needed break in Germany – my true European love. Visiting both Berlin and Leipzig last month, I allowed myself a few days away from cloudy Scotland back to mainland Europe, amongst warmer weather, more colorful streets and the beauty of partying and drinking outside without the police ruining the fun.
Well my friends, my escape worked like a charm. Although I did not do much – definitely not as much as I attempt to do during my travels – I had an absolute blast in Germany, met a bunch of new people and honestly had the time of my life just relaxing in the sun, running on the streets, almost missing buses, planes, trains, getting lost in Berlin, walking 10 km outside of Leipzig by mistake, going to concerts, drinking a shit load of Club Mate, smoking way more than I should have and just fucking living it.
Ever since I got back, somehow life is looking back at me with a brighter smile. I feel SO HAPPY. Because travelling might be good to see places, but it really is the people who make it worthwhile. And travelling never fails to bring inspiration in my life, by discovering new perspectives, uncovering new cultures, getting to know new people and their ways of approaching life and coming back way richer than I was before. Immersing ourselves in new surroundings can have shocking effects on our physical, psychological and spiritual state, forcing us to let go of our daily preoccupations to face our new reality, as we are able to see places and share ideas with new people, gaining fresh insights to re-evaluate our lives.
To say goodbye, I will leave you with a beautiful and haunting song that really made me think and reflect these days!
Wishing you all the best day,
University is kind of a big deal. Although many people will tell you otherwise, it’s just the reality of facts. When choosing your University, you are not simply picking a course over another: you are selecting a city, a set of people, a whole experience over another, as scary as that sounds.
I remember being on the verge of finishing High School and more desperate than ever, trying to figure out which University to choose amongst the ones I had been accepted in.
I distinctly remembered my friends telling me, “if you really have the will to succeed, you will make it anywhere you go”.
And isn’t that true, really? Although life can be difficult, I believe as long as you are ambitious enough, anything is possible. I was and still am sure of that, and made the decision to move to Scotland based on that. Yet, over the years I got to realise that although your ambition is your strongest asset, there are many things which escape your individual will. It’s not only about success, but about who you become and the experiences which shape your growth. Coming to University is more than studying something for three or four years: it is a life-changing experience, which expands your knowledge in new ways and opens up your mind to unknown realities.
So yes, you can be as ambitious as you like, but it’s the place you’re to that is going to define those ambitions. And it’s the place you’re in that is going to provide you with experiences to shape your personality onwards.
My personal example is that my initial plan was, in fact, to study in London. I was in love with the city, the chaotic mess that it is and its constant flow of people, coming and going from all parts of the globe. And of course, the cheap flights too. However, as I gradually got adjusted to the idea, the financial reality of the whole ordeal slowly but steaduly dawned on me, not only in terms of University costs but also of living expenses. Regrettably, I eventually realised that I was not quite ready to spend three years of my life worrying about whether I could really afford that pint with my course mates on a Friday night. In a way, I picked the easier way and chose to attend a course which would grant me an easier life – at least financially. On the other hand though, it was a pretty crazy decision as I knew next to nothing about Aberdeen and I was also abandoning the dream of studying in the British capital.
A friend once told me that sometimes, the most difficult decision is the one that seems the easiest. So there I was, with a suitcase full of mixed feelings, tentatively boarding my one-way flight to the next step of my life, finally beginning the adventure in a completely foreign land.
Do I regret it? Hell yes, sometimes. As happy as I am with how things turned out four years down the line, I can’t help but feel that my whole life would be completely different had I chosen a different path. Graduating in Public Relations, London would have been a logical choice – not simply because of the location, but also the amount of events and work opportunities popping up like mushrooms at every corner.
But, have I come to terms with it? I’ve done that too. Because life is often about making do the most difficult way: it is about making choices, hard choices, learning to live with them and make the most of what you’ve got. It is about finding the beauty in all things, and about creating your own opportunity even when there seems to be none around you.
If someone asked me, what I really wish I had known before starting uni, it is that whilst it is true that you can do whatever the hell you want if you really believe in it, you really must work hard to achieve it. And that the environment that you encapsulate yourself in, really makes a huge impact on who you aspire and grow to be. A University, a city, a group of friends, really make all the difference in the world: so choose wisely, always, and evaluate all before making your final decision. Don’t expect opportunities knocking on your door and make your own reality!
Or at least, this is my story. What’s yours?
Have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to the trains you do not take? Where do all those people go and do they eventually reach what they were looking for?
What if trains were not simply means of travel taking you from one location to another, but bridges between realities existing individually and in their own special universe? What if taking the wrong train meant more than finding yourself in the wrong place, but entering a whole different reality where things were not the way they were back where you came from? And if your reality was looking grim, would you consciously take the wrong train knowing that what you are leaving may be lost forever?
Would it be easy to switch back and forth, perhaps expensive, certainly exhausting, possibly worth it, to consciously make a mistake? And would that be a mistake at all, would the big train captain then uncover your scheme, and make you switch back to your original destination? Would consciously buying the ticket to the wrong train infinitely lead you to the same reality you are escaping from?
And what does it mean to take the wrong train anyway, consciously at least? The wrong train would become the right train and the right train would simply be the train you do not want to take, the location you do not wish to visit, the journey you are not prepared to embark on.
So what is the wrong train then, and is it wrong after all, or simply a different path that you accidentally come across? At the end of the day, isn’t life all about possibility and coincidence meeting each other in the middle, giving birth to what is known as existence?
Do we have wrong choices, or do we simply have choices?
Whoever said travelling alone is not as good as having company, is clearly dumb. Although I have enjoyed fun trips with friends several times throughout the years, I can safely say group tours are the devil’s best friend. And it starts from the very beginning, when you’re extremely pumped about your new adventure and have to spend the precious energy getting to know people you will probably never see again in your life instead, who will otherwise ignore you for the rest of the trip making your time abroad absolutely miserable.
Now, I am all about getting to know people, and I love doing that while travelling more than anything. However, there is a distinct difference between meeting people on the road, or friendly locals who will show you around, and being thrown into a tightly-scheduled tour with people that you MUST get to know for fear of being cut out of the group. I just hate the pressure of having to get along with people and communicating with them, even at times where perhaps they just aren’t people you would normally connect with.
Secondly, although group tours can be useful to show you a country deeply, by including several spots of interest in the itinerary, it just won’t be the same as travelling on your own or even with your friends. Because it’s simply not possible to fully immerse yourself into a culture when you have limited time to spend there and are constantly surrounded by other travellers who are as clueless as you about the place. Chances are, you will all end up going to the same touristy spots and, when trying to reach local places to check out, you’ll immediately be labelled as the ‘tourist group’, where locals and other travellers will often be intimidated to approach you or will simply not be interested in it at all.
Thirdly, moving around in groups is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT, especially if you are travelling in chaotic places. People will either get lost, want to do different things, or end up fighting because some people’s interests are prioritised over other people’s. And, if you’re like me, people will get offended when you fuck off on your own and go see what you want to see, labelling you as ‘antisocial’ for wanting to actually see what you came to see instead of tagging along the big group for the sake of social acceptance. Although I do understand it’s nice to be together and would definitely be more into it should time be infinite, since time schedules are usually quite tight I really do not have time to waste. Contextual example is my second trip to London, where I wanted to see so much but was stuck following a friend who wanted to exploit the occasion to go bloody shopping instead. For the sake of being nice, I wasted my opportunity and had to go a third time to see those things and, let me tell you, it was extremely frustrating. Hence, I tend not to do that anymore.
Despite all of these bad things, group tours aren’t all that bad. If you do have limited time and would like to see as much as possible, they are a good opportunity to hop onto a flight or bus without having to worry about getting tickets or organising each single day of the trip. Just follow your guide and know all the important stuff is getting covered so to say. And, it can be a fun experience to make friends on the road and never feel alone or find yourself lacking company to do stuff as a group. I tend to still venture on these sometimes and, I must say, they have been more than exhaustive in terms of touristic value.
However, despite these perks, I find myself preferring solo travelling most of the time, where I am not pressured into doing things, socialising with people I don’t connect with, or wasting my time over things I am not interested in. Plus, this all comes at costs which are usually higher than planning your own trip, so… do we really need it?
How about you? Have you ever been on a group tour, do you prefer them to regular travelling or are you more like me? Let me know!
I wish you all a beautiful day ❤️
It’s no secret that travelling can be costly. Especially if you’re planning a fancy holiday to a hot destination, you might need to start saving up way ahead of that date and be prepared for lots of cash to flow together with your tears. If your main objective is exploring though, with no high standards and just a will to see what’s out there, I’m happy to inform you that you can easily do that in a number of ways, which we’re going to talk about very soon in this blog post.
When travelling, your main financial issues are three: transportation, accommodation, nutrition. How to get there, how to live there, how to survive there. Just like anywhere else in the world – easy peasy. So let’s start with the first bullet point in our list, which is transportation.
What does that mean?
Transportation includes getting to your destination and moving around and, fortunately for you, there are multiple ways to do that cheaply. So let’s get into it.
If you’re planning to fly or if you’d like to book a holiday but aren’t sure where, Skyscanner will be your best friend. This website allows you to not only look up for flights, but to filter them in very unique ways. Firstly, if you’re unsure or where to go, or would like to just unplug for a while but not spend too much, Skyscanner has the amazing ‘anywhere’ option. This means that, when looking up flights from a specific destination, the website will either make you select an arrival destination or let you select the ‘anywhere’ option, which will then show you the cheapest flights you can get, to any destination, from your specific point of departure. Pretty amazing right?
Secondly, you can also either choose a specific date or be broader, in order to be able to select the cheapest day possible to fly. Indeed, instead of selecting a date, the website allows users to either choose a whole month to travel, or ‘the cheapest month’, which will lead to the cheapest flights in a selected time of the year (in the case of Europe, these seems to be January, June and November most of the time).
If you’re travelling in Europe, Flixbus will be your best friend. Although planes can be faster and save up time, buses arguably have some distinctive advantages that can turn them into your means of choice. Aside from usually being cheaper, they also offer a proper look at the country you are visiting, rather than a plane which takes you up in the sky where hardly anything is visible. Secondly, if sleeping is easy for you, a longer bus journey can actually help you rest and pick up strength before starting your new adventure, as well as helping you save up on accommodation if travelling overnight. Flixbus definitely wins the medal in this field, offering trips across the whole Europe at very cheap prices – and a 10% discount for students sporting an EIC card.
Although Flixbus is only available in Europe, similar alternatives can be found elsewhere. In the UK for example, Megabus and National Express provide likewise services, whilst outside the continent buses are becoming a growing alternative to traditional means of travel. On a side note, you can read about my Flixbus misadventure here.
Not a fan of busy buses with barely any space to breathe or move? Then bla bla car is the choice for you. Developed as a way to increase collaborative mobility, this service allows you to hop onto someone’s car with a similar destination to yours. By simply signing up to the website, you can look up rides which go from your location to where you need to be, often at a fraction of the price compared to a train ride.
This service is cool because you can actually look up who is going to be driving the car, who will often have reviews from other users who have travelled with them before. For people scared of driving with strangers, this can ease out the worries by providing some sort of reference to who you will actually be travelling with. The website also allows you to write a bit about yourself and – most importantly – select whether you’re a ‘bla’, ‘bla bla’ or ‘bla bla bla’ kind of person, meaning how much you like to talk during your rides. This can help you choose someone that won’t hammer you with constant conversation for the whole trip, or will keep you away from creepy drivers who don’t speak a single word the whole way.
Would it be a complete traveller-on-a-budget checklist without the inclusion of good old hitch-hiking? Present since the dawn of popular cars, hitch-hiking is by far the most budget-friendly means of transportation: it’s FREE. Simply pick up some cardboard and a pen, write down your destination and hit up the road with a smile on your face, and be prepared to wait for some time as rides can take hours to show up sometimes. When they do though, it’s totally worth it!
Although sometimes tiring and definitely not the fastest means of travel, this form of travelling can be extremely cool as you get to meet tons of people on your way, who will happily share some stories while enjoying your company for the length of the ride. To really make the most of the experience, I always suggest bringing something – even as small as a pack of cookies – to share with your driver in shining armour, so that you can repay the favour even a little bit by offering them a sweet treat. Also, take a look at who offers you a lift before accepting – hitch-hiking with strangers comes indeed at the cost of safety and therefore you must always be sure that you are in control of the situation.
Definitely not for the faint hearted with distant destinations, bikes can also be a very budget-friendly choice when visiting a new place. If the weather allows it, why not rent a bike instead of using public transport, and move through the city with that instead? This will allow you a) to live the city more deeply rather than moving with the metro or the bus, b) be more environmentally friendly and c) have the freedom to move wherever you want and whenever you want, without the limitations of transport schedules or routes. Also, riding a bike is really really cool and it gives you the opportunity to workout even while travelling. What’s not to like?
The bike can either be yours or, especially in places like the Netherlands, Denmark but increasingly anywhere, you can easily rent one out for the length of your trip, or even use apps such as MOBIKE to be able to take it and leave completely hassle free. By signing up to the service, the app will indeed allow you to access a map of all available bikes in the area, which you will be able to unlock automatically through the app, and lock again once you’re done with it, with all expenses – which are very slim – going directly to your selected method of payment. It can’t get easier than that.
If travelling long way destinations, cycling can also be an option – albeit perhaps in the warmer months or with some heavy-duty clothing to protect you from colder temperatures. I have met loads of travellers who opted for this means of transport and, especially if you don’t have strict timeframes for your trip, it’s a nice way to live the country more fully by letting you stop in the most random places ever when you’re needing a break!
Pretty random, right? I found out about this when I was living in the Netherlands, and the price of return 1-hour ride to Amsterdam was over €30. How about no. I was convinced I’d only be able to visit when I had enough money to actually reach the place, until some local friends advised me to look for Facebook travelling groups. Basically, numerous groups existed on Facebook to organise ‘group travels’ around the Netherlands, at a fraction of the price. Whereas a single ticket was ridiculously expensive, group tickets for around 10 people came up to a sum that, divided per all participants, was much lower than the original one. Although this method only applies to countries which actually offer schemes like this, it doesn’t hurt to try and find out in your nearby area. If present, this will save you lots of bucks while still travelling in stylish trains across the region.
So there you have them, my best tricks to move around without having to spend your entire paycheck on it. Also, as an extra tip, be sure to check out VISA COSTS to wherever you are going and perhaps try to go to places where they are not so high (or non-existent) if you wish to cut down your expenses there too. Also, if you have any more advice, feel free to let us all know in the comments below! ❤
With that said, watch out next week for my tips on saving up on accommodation, followed by feeding your belly while on the road.
Until next time,
I wish you all an amazing day
Monday travel inspiration: BAVARIA, GERMANY!
To keep in theme with the Christmas spirit, this week’s travel inspiration is a bit less original but definitely a great spot to check out if you’re a festive lover like me. Located in the Southern part of Germany, Bavaria – or Bayern – is a region with lots to offer.
Previously inhabited by the Celts, Bavaria is the largest German state by land area, bordering with Liechtenstein, Austria and Czech Republic and hence easily accessible from all three. With its sky-grazing Alps and the dramatic Danubian planes, it’s been described as a place with ‘something for everyone’, able to answer travelling needs for both city-break seekers and nature loves.
Indeed, from its beautiful landscapes to its characteristic small towns, there is nothing to dislike about Bavaria. Head over to its capital Münich, Nuremberg or Stuttgart, and you’ll be met with some of the biggest and coolest Christmas markets. Head over to the wild nature and you’ll find mountain peaks and lots of castles to gaze at with dreamy eyes.
Watcha waiting for? Book a trip!
Do you also like Christmas markets, or do you hate the chaos that usually comes with? I personally love strolling about the stands with a warm glass of glüh wein (mulled wine) in my hand! 🎄
Photo credit: https://dissolve.com
🎶 This week’s busker comes a little late – apologies for that! I have chosen to introduce you to a guy I see often in the streets of my hometown Genova, and who never fails to make me stop and listen.
Rodolfo Bignardi has a really cool range of performances, and you’ll easily find him playing somewhere between Via San Vincenzo, De Ferrari, Piazza Matteotti as well as pubs around the city.
Definitely takes the cheerful vibe of the city up a notch with great music to accompany it! 🎶
Some of you may know that I recently finished my University studies in Scotland, meaning that I had nothing left to do in the country. After four years away from home, I then decided to make my way back to Italy and try to integrate myself back in the Italian routines, whilst figuring out what my next step is going to be. As I wrote a blog post about British culture shocks not too long ago, I thought it would be fun to list out the things that – four years down the line – actually made less sense in my own country than they did when I was growing up.
You knew this was coming. I am pretty sure every Italian expat – especially after moving to a painfully polite country as the UK – has been extremely vocal about this issue, arrogantly criticising the barbaric habit as if suddenly thrown into a cage of wild animals (‘why do you guys do that?’ ‘This is just unacceptable’ ‘Ahem – why are these people not queueing??’ – as if ANYONE ever queued in the history of Italian public transport). So I am totally guilty of this. But, to my defence, it is a REALLY UNFAIR SYSTEM. And if you are an Italian travelling to the UK, beware of the queue or people will stone you.
You have been warned.
Who said money makes you happy? I can for sure testify that, when a £3 ‘coffee’ in the UK used to make me hold my nose as I drank so I wouldn’t feel the taste, this is simply a flat out lie.
Although the introduction stated that I would list things that made ‘less sense’ after repatriating, here I am cheating as I think this makes A LOT more sense in a way. What is the actual cost of making a coffee? I always found the UK (and other European countries for that matter) to be extremely absurd with their coffee prices, especially considering the downright poor quality of their service. Because of this though, I also do find it a bit strange that a country which actually makes GOOD coffee would be the one with the cheaper prices. It really is true that not all heroes wear capes.
This might just be something to do with my own city, who knows. Point is, it happens and I absolutely hate it. People wobble, change sides, or simply keep walking without the smallest attempt to move out of your way. And this is made worse by the fact that I always accused French people of being like that – until I came back and realised my own nation behaved the same way. The horror.
To face this issue, I have started doing the exact same and not even trying to move out of people’s way. So you’re coming my way with no intention of moving slight to the left? Well me neither pal. So we’re walking in opposite directions and we both have an umbrella? Tough luck. Gone are the days where I played the British tourist and moved out of people’s way after apologising profusely. You wanna walk into me? I DARE YOU TO.
In all honesty, I admit I have been starting to consider this might have just been everyone’s response to the problem, creating the most classic vicious circle ever. But what can we do?
Nothing works. When I was in the UK and I needed something, the biggest worry was that I might have to queue to get it. I never considered the idea that the staff could be unhelpful or that they would refuse my request or that they would start an endless circle of referrals where I keep hopping from office to office until I cease trying simply out of exhaustion. If you’re ready for that though, welcome to Italy my friend. The land where time stands still.
To illustrate my point, I’m going to tell you the story of my University career in Italy. But you studied in Scotland, you might say. What you don’t know though, is that before that I was an official Architecture student at the University of Genova. So what happened, you ask. Essentially, it so happens that once you enrol into Uni, the University office is supposed to give you a badge with your name, your pretty face and your matriculation number on it. As I paid the full fee when I passed my entry test, I naturally had to have this thing at all costs (pun intended). It didn’t matter that I wasn’t going to attend the course – I paid hundreds of bucks to get in and I wanted some sort of proof that I had made it, even if it didn’t actually serve any purpose.
However, the University people had a different thing in mind. After sending me from office to office for MONTHS (basically, each time I went back to Italy I tried), I finally got to my fifth appointment to be told that ‘it was too late to retrieve my University badge’ and ‘I should have come earlier’. Are you kidding me.
Italy and the UK present a fundamental difference: timeframes. Whereas in the UK shops open at 9am and usually close around 5pm, Italy is a totally different (and happier) story. Perhaps conscious of the fact that no working people would otherwise ever be able to shop during the week, Italian shops close much closer than British ones, usually staying open until varying hours which go from 6pm to 9pm. Similarly, Italy has ‘bars’ – kinda like British cafe’s but definitely more rustic and less curated – which have much longer opening hours, offering a warm breakfast from 5/6am, and which stay open until later into the night, serving a good old coffee when you most need it.
Altogether, these practices make days feel much longer, as everything starts earlier and shuts later. Similarly, going out is definitely a more relaxed activity and, at least in my hometown, the earlier people hang out is 10pm – although the wait can protract until 11pm or even midnight before people actually venture out of their homes. The result is a night out where you actually spend the NIGHT out, instead of starting ‘pre-drinks’ at about 8pm, being smashed by 10pm and crawling home around 2/3am.
Personally, I prefer this lifestyle because I find that I achieve so much more in Italy. I could do 10 things in the morning and still have the rest of the day to dedicate to other activities, go for a coffee with a friend (in a place that doesn’t shut at 5pm) or go shopping without having to rush.
Italian hospitality is a re-known stereotype. And do not worry – I am not here to heartlessly step over that myth. However, I do want to specify the parameters within which such hospitality can be received and where, on the other hand, the line is drawn.
Because the truth is, Italians don’t like to make new friends. Sure, we love to introduce people to our culture, welcome our friends’ friends into our homes and exchange stories with perfect strangers.. just as long as we remain exactly that. Which is why whenever you go abroad, you will find most Italians sticking with other Italians, commenting food and comparing it to our own, looking at places as tourists rather than explorers in most cases. Back home, this is made worse by the fact that whereas in the UK you could literally talk to a wall and it would talk back, Italians like to stick to their own groups and, especially if you’re an outsider, you are going to find it extremely difficult to get to know the locals on a deeper level (although this might be true in my city more than others).
Italians are close-minded, which I explained in this previous blog post about acceptance and love. Despite our system being downright fucked, Italians take immense pride in their culture and, to most of them, nothing will ever be better than their home country. ‘If things just worked a bit better, we’d be the best’ is their favourite motto. Followed by ‘we’ve got all the cards to play it well’ and the occasional nationalistic, anti-European, anti-globalism comment putting the blame on anything outside of Italy for our disastrous economic situation. .. All right then.
So these are the main culture shocks I had when I got back, although the list could go on forever pointing out all the small details that make Italy such a different place compared to the UK. To validate my points, I do want to say that I absolutely love Italy and that… if just things worked a bit better. 😉 The Italian culture, food, artistic scene are absolutely incredible and there isn’t a day where I regret having been born and growing up in this beautiful patch of land. But this does not in any way mean that Italy is perfect and there is much to be worked on, just like in any other place. And vice versa, the list is in no way universal and I can gladly testify that not everybody is like that – especially so people who have been abroad.
After living in both UK and Italy, I can safely say no place is perfect, and we all are bound to simply find somewhere where we feel more at home than others and settle there. That shouldn’t stop us from venturing out there, exploring and discovering new places, being open-minded and sometimes having a little fun comparing different realities. Because the glass can either be half full or half empty, but as my British comrades would say, at the end of the day… it’s the drunk ones that have the more fun.
With that said, I hope you are having a lovely week and I will see you at the next post!