The trip that started it all: Europe 2009

The trip that started it all: Europe 2009

After graduating from college in May 2009, I spent five weeks backpacking through Europe (Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Salzburg, London, Munich, Freiberg, Interlaken, Nice) by myself. Although I’d spent a summer in Provence with family friends at 16, studied in Paris for a summer when I was 18 and had taken shorter trips in France, Italy, Ireland and England with family and friends during college, this was my first big trip on my own.

Christine Amorose at Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

My boyfriend hated the idea, my friends thought I was crazy, my parents thought it sounded like so much fun! (So…pretty much nothing has changed, minus the current lack of boyfriend.) Flipping through pictures of my first trip, three years later, I’m struck by how much my travel style (if not my hairstyle) has stayed the same. I made some mistakes that I learned from–namely, always checking whether it’s a.m. or p.m. when booking a flight (there’s one VERY early morning I’d like not to repeat)–but mostly, I had what I deemed the “trip of a lifetime.” I had no idea that it would simply become a lifestyle–here are the lessons I learned from that trip that have stuck with me.

Go even if you can’t find someone to go with you: I graduated at the height of the recession. With so much economic uncertainty, graduates were constantly told they’d be lucky just to get a job, let alone gallivant around the globe and then come home to one. I couldn’t convince any of my friends to come with me, but I still wanted to go: complaining about the situation to my mom, she told me to just do it. I probably never would have made it to Nice or Australia if I had waited for someone to come with me–and I’m so glad I didn’t!

Christine Amorose in Budapest, Hungary

The job will still be there when you get back: My mom likes to say there will always be jobs for good people; so far, I’ve found it to be true. Everyone was so determined to have a job the second they graduated from college, while I wanted to take advantage of my last “summer.” (I am eternally grateful for the money I saved from working through college, as well as generous graduation gifts from my grandmother and parents, which allowed me to do that.) I did plenty of  outreach before leaving, kept in touch with my first-choice company while abroad, and landed a position in a struggling sector of a struggling economy within two weeks of being home. I’ve found jobs in France and Australia as well: much of it might be good timing, but I think that the independence and ambition that shines through in my solo travel also helps make me stand out in a sea of job-seekers.

Lipizzaner Stallions in Vienna, Austria in July 2009

Seize opportunities when they’re there: When I found out that the world-famous Lipizzaner Stallions were showing in Vienna the one day I was there, I immediately bought tickets. Never mind that I’d never heard of them before my guide mentioned it: they were there, I was there, and I had a spare afternoon. It was such an incredible show in an absolutely gorgeous setting, I’ve never regretted it.

Christine Amorose & Maria Knudsen in London, England

A detour to see friends is always worth it: About halfway through the trip, I was a bit lonely. On a whim, I booked a ticket up to London to see a friend from Paris (no need to stay in Hyde Park hotels–I had a couch to crash on!). It was exactly what I needed to rejuvenate my trip: Maria and I stood under Big Ben, ate cupcakes and shopping for antique pocket watches on Portobello Road, and spent the night at her friend’s English countryside manor. I also spent a weekend in Freiberg with Melissa, a friend from college who was working in a teeny tiny town in Germany (background on Melissa: she fell in love with her conversation partner while studying in Germany in 2008, and just finished her masters in Munich: I stayed with her and Andreas for Oktoberfest in 2010!) Both weekends totally refreshed me.

Paragliding in the Bavarian Alps, Germany

Splurge on once-in-a-lifetime experiences: On the bus ride out to Neuschwanstein Castle, our guide mentioned the possibility of paragliding: it’d be an extra few hundred dollars, but we could do it that afternoon over the Bavarian Alps for a birds-eye view of the castle and surrounding countryside. I turned to the girl I was sitting next to and said: “When else are we going to be able to do this?”  So we laid our credit cards down, creating one of my absolute favorite memories, not to mention most incredible view, of my life.

Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation: I never would have had above-mentioned paragliding experience if Renee and I hadn’t started chatting at the start of our bike tour and realized that we were staying in the same hostel. In addition to our Munich bike tour and our paragliding experience (as part of yet ANOTHER bike tour), we had a picnic in Englischergarten and drank steins at Hofbrauhaus. Since then, I’ve stayed at her place in Sydney, as well as road-tripped the Great Ocean Road and explored Margaret River with her–and she’s coming with me on my USA road trip this summer! You never know where a bit of small talk might lead you.

Christine Amorose canyoning in Interlaken, Switzerland

Do something that scares you: I’ve always hated getting my face wet, but I read somewhere that Interlaken, Switzerland was the place to go for extreme sports: canyoning, in particular. The same book also mentioned that canyoning was illegal in much of the States. I was sold, without having any idea I’d signed up for 130-foot wall rappel and a series of jumps and “slides” (really, just slick rocks) into freezing cold water in a very deep canyon. I was terrified for most of the experience–especially after they told us that the only way you could get out was by medical helicopter. Right. But I felt SO SO SO bad-ass after finishing the run: ultimate adrenaline rush. Do I need to do it again? Probably not. But am I glad I did it? Absolutely.

Christine Amorose on Fat Tire Bike Tours in Berlin, Germany

Go on bike tours:  The perfect way to get familiar with the layout of a new city, squeeze in a workout and meet new people. Plus, the guides are usually really informed and witty. On this trip, I did two in Berlin, as well as ones in Prague and Munich: loved them all! Also, buy clothes with bikes on them and wear them on bike tours: you’ll never fail to have someone start chatting with you.

What did you learn from your first travel experience that has stuck with you? 

  • I love this post. It’s incredible how the lessons you learned on your first solo trip still apply to how you travel today!

  • Caroline Eubanks

    I’m ready to get back to Europe!

  • Amazing :). I guess my trip that “started it all” was my year studying abroad in Santiago, Chile and Strasbourg, France. Unsurprisingly, my biggest fear before going and my most important lesson learned is one in the same: on making new friends. I was afraid of leaving everyone I loved (a boyfriend too, at the time) and embarking on an experience without knowing anyone that I’d be sharing it with, but I found that finding people with whom I develop a special bond with wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d thought. I became close with my host families in both places, truly befriended quite a few people in my program, and made a few ties with locals and expats in both cities. I even keep in touch with most of these people still! I love them dearly. I think it’s this comfort and knowledge that gave me the courage to embark on my own solo adventure, a 6-week cross-country road trip all around the United States.

  • LOVE this post!!!!!! This is so inspiring. I think it’s so awesome that your parents are supportive of your traveling. Not a lot of people have that kind of support.

  • Wonderful article!! I could really relate to this – I did the same thing as you, backpacking through Europe after graduating university in 2006. I had never been anywhere on my own, and here I was heading off for 6 months with no real plan or destination. It ended up changing my entire life…I’ve basically been on the road since then, only stopping to live abroad for a while to save more money.

    I’d say the biggest thing I learned, other than what you listed, is to be open-minded. Keeping an open mind has led me to career opportunities, to new countries, to falling in love, and to reshaping my entire life’s goals. I really owe a lot of that to my first trip. 

  • hi,
    this article is so useful to know new thing and good way life….

  • budgetjan

    We always try and do a bike tour.  Our last one was in Barcelona a few weeks ago.  Fantastic. Inspiring article.

  • camorose

    Glad you liked it! I love thinking back on this trip–such a huge part of who I’ve become!

  • camorose

    I can’t wait to go to France and Croatia this summer!

  • camorose

    I definitely believe that you can make some incredible friendships traveling solo! The people I met are some of my favorite memories from this trip.

  • camorose

    My mom studied abroad in high school and college, so she definitely knows how it goes–we’ll see how long the support keeps up, I think they’re keen for me to come home for the long-term soon!

  • camorose

    I did one in Barcelona a few summers ago–loved it!

  • Completely agree with you on this one!  My first trip to Europe was when I was 22.  Couldn’t find anyone to go with me, so went on m own.  It still is my favorite trip of all time!  Bike tours are a great idea as well as walking tours.

  • My first trip started with a month to Europe in 2004.  I went to 6 different countries and stayed about a week in Paris at the very end.  It was an awesome trip – I had some ups and downs as this trip came during an tough point in my life.  However, that was the one that kick started everything and I’ve been going ever since!

  • My first travel experience (outside of family vacations when I was a kid) was going on a road trip with a friend to Vancouver and Seattle. It taught me that travel is possible, and that I didn’t have to go too far to go somewhere new. 

  • camorose

    How awesome! I totally thought that those five weeks in Europe would get the travel bug out of my system–but it did just the opposite 🙂

  • camorose

    So true–there’s still so much of my own country left to see, definitely why I’m looking forward to the USA road trip this summer 🙂

  • Steve

    Love your blog.  If our paths cross on the road, you will not be traveling alone!!:)

  • camorose

    Glad you’re enjoying it!

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  • OMG. We did the same Neuschwanstein & Swan Lake tour back in 2006. Our guide had told us about the paragliding activity and Q & I were hesitant  about doing it. An hour later we decided we wanted to do it. Then our guide told us that the winds were too strong and they couldn’t take us anymore. 🙁 Oh well, we still got to paraglide in Interlaken. Not a bad option.

  • camorose

    How funny! We were both going to Interlaken later and thought about waiting, but the winds were good that day so we figured it was a sign! SO much fun–although Interlaken was sooooo beautiful as well 🙂

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  • Izyan

    I was on a language immersion in 2010 and travelled on my own for two weeks. While a lot of backpacking was visiting as many places, I learnt that I’d like it better to go slow. I’m now planning my real backpacking trip. Happily excited!

  • camorose

    Definitely have learned a lot about my travel style since then–I prefer to go much slower now too!

  • Kristina

    So cool! Sounds like you hit up a ton of awesome stuff in a relatively short amount of time. How much did you spend or how much would you recommend budgeting for this type of excursion? I’m in love with your blog and your honesty! <3

  • camorose

    So glad you enjoy the blog! Honestly, I’m not the best at ever tracking what I spend and this was a few years ago–AND it was in expensive Europe, at the height of tourist season. Not cheap, but fully worth it. Sorry that’s such an unhelpful answer!

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