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Pregaming Europe

September 17, 2010

A trip to Europe is guaranteed to be an adventure full of new foods, new people and new experiences.  Ours is certain to be no different.  Living out of backpacks. Countless train rides. Language barriers galore. And never really knowing what the next day will bring. This trip will be a boundless journey throughout some of the most beautiful, historical and culturally injected places on the planet. Are we ready for something this extreme? This huge? This life-changing? Well there are only so many ways we (or anyone for that matter) can truly be “ready” for something like this. Beyond that is the true beauty of travel. I’m excited for the things that will catch us off guard and that we never could have prepped for, no matter how detailed the guidebook advice may have been.

All of that said, there is certainly a great deal of adventure and roller coasters before the trip even begins, and we’ve certainly been along for the ride.  It’s the part of the Europe experience that I like to call “pregaming.”  I’m sure that everyone has a different way of pregaming (read: planning) a trip of this caliber. However, I’m here to share with you a glimpse into our process and to give you some advice as far as I have seen it.  For me, it has definitely been a combination of trial and error, dead ends, hidden gems, working connections, and some good ol’ fashioned research. Whatever the resources, it has been a time of discovery, excitement and FUN.

Although a trip like this has been a dream of mine for quite some time, STA Travel more recently inspired me to make it a reality.  This is where it all began for me.  I came across their website, and then started to explore and found an array of resources and links to other resources.  They offer great deals, especially for students and youth (under 26).  They do flights, hotels, railways, insurance, gear, and the list goes on.  Definitely check them out.

From there, I was also led to a wonderful person and resource, Lindsay Clark at  She won STA’s World Traveler Internship a couple years back and has since created a fantastic website with buku info for anyone even thinking about traveling.  Fellow travel bloggers are an EXCELLENT resource and there are plenty out there.

Lindsay is young and very well experienced.  She knows the questions and content that a lot of people have and want, and she addresses it all.  And in case she has missed anything, she is quick to respond to any additional question or comment you may have.  This was a great resource for me, especially with lots of smaller or more specific questions that aren’t always covered in guidebooks (i.e. how do you budget food, how do you protect your computer, etc).

Guidebook, you say?! Why yes, I used several guidebooks and other sources of hard copy travel jargon. Colin and I happened to still be in school as we began to formulate our European dreams, which meant we had a fantastic resource to tap into.  We checked out tons of books from our school’s library.  We also used InterLibrary Loan to get more recent books or books our library didn’t have.  We visited a second hand bookstore, perused the shelves to find books we thought looked helpful and bought them for dirt cheap.  Although school made it convenient, these types of resources are open to anyone. Use them! (For more specifics on guidebooks, stay tuned for another post).

As far as the logistics of travel (i.e. flights over there, the rail system, hostels, etc), the Internet can really be your best friend.  We used the Eurail website a lot to plot out our trip.  This helped us narrow down the places we were going to as well.  Greece, for example, was going to be very complicated to get to by our means (wah wah).  Colin was the mastermind behind plugging in countless scenarios and figuring out cheapest and most logical way for us to go.  Of course, all of that could easily go kaput when we get there and hear of something super awesome that’s not even on our path.

And a final resource, the people around you.  Literally as soon as we said we were going to Europe, friends, family and sometimes strangers jumped on the opportunity to share their stories, experiences and advice.  I will caution you here though.  Everyone has their own personal 2 cents about what to do or where to go in Europe.  Don’t get overwhelmed by this or let it make you feel you have to change your trip.  You don’t have to have their trip.  Have your own.  But let them inform you.  Especially if they know someone or have a connection that can get you a cheap or free place to stay.

So there you have it.  More or less, that’s the process we’ve taken.  Take it or leave it.  Because at the end of the day, we were really just making it up as we went along.  We’re still studying and learning new things everyday, and I’m sure we will throughout the whole trip.  The most important thing I can tell you about this process, and something that Lindsay Clark reassured me of, is to enjoy this part of the trip.  The planning part can and should be exciting and fun.  The possibilities are endless.  Marinate in that.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2010 5:42 pm

    Well that was worth the wait! If I ever get over there I know 3 guys who can plan my trip for me.
    You are all so good at expressing your thoughts about this trip, I know once you get there I will feel like I am there also. Colin. heard an old song today that made me think of you. It is by the Kingston trio and it is called rasberries strawberries. You have to change the girls to guys ( minor detail ) and then think of Paris, never know what you will find
    Mama J

  2. jeff caldwell permalink
    September 26, 2010 10:02 pm

    Are you going to Paris? You HAVE to go to Le petit St Benois in St Germain des Pres district. It’s down home French cooking like you wouldn’t believe, and affordable. Near the Latin Quarter, which is great for students. (Might be St Benoit….)


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