Book Review: Europe on a Budget

Reading a travel book before I travel has been the best course of action for learning about what I should and shouldn’t be doing, both with my money and my time. While a lot of James Feess’ Savvy Backpacker’s Guide to Europe on a Budget has been things that I know I need to figure out, getting some tips on the hows and whys has been interesting.

While the book is a decade old, some of the information has become obsolete, e.g. his section on couch surfing may not be as relevant now as it was back then and maybe the quality of certain airlines have decreased in the last decade, when he talks about his own experience he has made good warnings about how to avoid certain situations and save money in the process.

His advice on booking flights, using the train, finding tours, and saving money tips were well appreciated but as a female traveler on her first trip, he had an entire section on tips for women that were previously mentioned in the book in previous sections. He had 11 tips that he billed as “extra precautions for women”. Of these, seven were in the chapter before about travel safety tips and avoiding scams, two (going as a group at night and joining tours) were just good advice about meeting new people, one was a good tip about availability of female only dorms, while another was the typical “bad things happen when you drink” troupe.

While the book was good for general travel tips, due to the lack of information in his section on female solo travel, I did find five new reads that I will be ordering from my local library to see what tips couple be added to Feess’ sparse list.

Good tips from Feess’ book:

On packing: great discussion on fashion treads and fitting in with the locals as well as separate sections to discuss socks, underwear, and footwear needs and packing tips. This section did change my packing list with many of the clothes I was going to take to my conference also appropriate for European backpacking.

Flights within Europe: It was Feess that got me looking at the flight cost differences between airports, e.g. Pairs, London, Frankfurt, Madrid, and Amsterdam are far cheaper than other airport departure points. While it did give me a hope of going to Paris for a few days, round-trip tickets are also cheaper than flying home out of Budapest.

Traveling by train: Thanks to a tip from Feess, I know to look at transfer points and station locations when booking European train travel. Train travel is not as popular in Canada as it is in Europe so that is something to get used to when I’m there.

Some sections I did not need based on person preference:

Digital cameras: I will be taking my DSLR as this will be the perfect opportunity to practice my photography and get some great photos. Also this is a 10-year-old book so some of his information is out of date.

Buying a backpack: Before I started reading Feess’ book I found my backpack at Cabela’s on sale (another post for later).

Traveling in Winter: Feess did a good job laying out the differences in winter versus summer travel, e.g. costs of things versus what is actually open for tourist locales and attractions, however, I already know that I will be traveling in the early summer so a lot of my notes focus on his tips about summer travel.

Come back for my next posts that I am currently working on:

Things I’ve been advised not to pack but I still am

Going back to my homeland

It’s spreadsheet timebuilding my travel itinerary

My travel book stack

When I first learned that I was going to Denmark one of the first things that excited me about the trip was ordering travel books from the library.

This was because I loved looking at travel books but always felt like I was missing out when I was looking at a book of a place I wasn’t going to. NOW I AM GOING TO THOSE PLACES.

Any recommendations? Would love to hear about books or series that helped you when you were getting ready to travel.

Come back for my next posts that I am currently working on:

Book review: The Savvy Backpacker’s Europe on a Budget

Getting around Europe – Denmark to Hungary

So there is not much planning on my end going into my trip to Denmark. Since I’m going to a conference, I know everything will be taken care of and I have my agendas already saved to my laptop.

It is the after conference that I am currently working on planning.

While exploring the whole of Europe is such a tantalizing idea, I have chosen Hungary as my one and only stop on this journey, and I will get into that in a later post.

The question is how should I travel from Copenhagen to Budapest?

I have two options since I will NOT be driving in Europe, and the quickest plane ride I’ve found is a little over five hours while a train trip is at least around 20 hours. Is extra time worth the money?

Is the extra time worth the money but there are benefits to taking the train including the sightseeing and traveling through different countries.

The whole process has been frustrating since I think I’ve found a great deal on midnight trains from Copenhagen or midnight trains to Budapest (sounds like the name of my eventual memoirs), but then I cannot find the deal again the next time I look.

Reading into train and plane travel in Europe (a post on all my recent reading material I will posted later), there are plenty of things to make travel cheaper which take a bit more work and good timing which just adds another layer of complexity to the voyage. Berlin is a stop along the way by train and it can be cheaper to get separate tickets from Copenhagen to Berlin and then Berlin to Budapest.

I hesitate using a website like Kayak or Expedia since I have heard good things and bad things about these sites and current experience has me bouncing from one website to another through no fault of my own (that is just where the clicking takes me).

Trying to do this cheap has added another layer of stress since I’m not even sure I am finding the cheapest deals and I’m worried about committing to something too soon without knowing I have looked under every rock the internet has to offer.

Beyond all those issues is my hesitancy to set things in stone right now. Everything time I think I’ve made up my mind on something I stop and change my mind.

I could use some tips from any seasoned travelers out there.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Come back for my next posts that I am currently working on:

Preparing for jet lag

Things I’ve been advised not to pack but I still am

Going back to my homeland

Book review: The Savvy Backpacker’s Europe on a Budget

Best reads of 2021

So of course with COVID, there has been little opportunities to travel this year.

However I have made multiple trips to words beyond through my yearly reading goal.

Out of the 100 books I did get through this past year, here are my top 10 and this was a difficult list to make.

Storyteller by Dave Grohl

No wonder the Foo Fighters front man has written so many amazing songs throughout his life. Dave Grohl’s autobiography is a beautiful read as he flows from funny story to lessons learned and back again in his story about going from discovering music to creating it, both with Nirvana and the Foo Fighters. I loved that he didn’t tell the story of his life chronologically but moved through his life like waves on a beach as past points of his life intersect. I listened to this masterful read on audiobook and Dave’s telling of it just makes an amazing read even better.

A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost

So I’m playing with my dogs in the yard and I have Jost on audiobook — which he, just like Mr. Grohl, reads himself and again makes a hilarious read even better. I am surprised my neighbours didn’t call the police on me because I sitting on the grass laughing to myself as Jost reads on.

He doesn’t hold back on embarrassing moments or funny SNL stories but there are some beautifully touching stories as well, like the work his mom did during 9/11 and how that impacted his own life. Once again, a beautifully written, hilarious account of a life well lived.

Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

A fictional account of a Northern Ontario First Nation community as the world falls a part around them.

I cannot get over how much I loved this book. While it is fiction, it addresses numerous issues that we as a Canadian society have to face about our relationships with each other. Beautifully written as the author addresses racism, traditionalism, hope, and self-reliance in the times of the end of the world.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

I am a sucker for a good World War II heroine and Kate Quinn always delivers (also see The Alice Network, and The Huntress while I am also excited to read her latest novel, The Diamond Eye. I also highly suggest Kristin Harmel and Kristin Hannah). Quinn takes this compelling point in history and creates strong, flawed, and yet relentless characters that rise from their circumstances even though they are in a terrifying and horrific point in time. While these are fictionalized accounts of the women of WWII, the represent a group of people that had just as much to fight for as the men on the frontlines and in secret offices.

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

A beautiful and heartbreaking mastery of Indigenous storytelling, Boyden took a point in history and painted a picture of death and pain, but also hope as he reunites a family following a soldier’s battle during World War I. This is actually Boyden’s first novel and I cannot get over his depth of Xavier and Niska’s characters as they fight to hang on to family and identity in a world set against them, including their own people. A fascinating read set in a dark time while there is still hope.

How to be Famous by Caitlin Moran

This is book two of Caitlin Moran’s story of Johanna Morrigan (AKA Dolly Wilde) as she tries to navigate love, sex, and womenhood in the early ’90s British music scene. There is so much I love about both books; from Johanna’s own power to rise above her own mistakes to her willingness to keep living her own life despite her past, she is a powerhouse character who is flawed in her perceptions of who she is and who other people want her to be. She knows what she wants but at 18, she doesn’t exactly know how to get there and that is half the delight of the story.

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

For the first time of my life, I will officially say that the book and the Netflix series are equal in my opinion. I love Julia’s writing and the first of eight of the Bridgerton books about Daphne and Simon is a fantastic and sexy read. Funny and charming in telling the reality of 17th century society while still creating a realistic portrayal of love and marriage, I immediately fell in love with the Bridgerton family. Unfortunately, Julia’s plotting for all eight Bridgerton siblings does become formulaic after about book four, especially with the unmasking of Lady Whistledown, a large proponent of societal storytelling and plot device that disappears after her unmasking. However, when you throw in the television series, there is so much that the writer’s add to the story, especially when it comes to sexuality, race and diversity, not just as their own pat on the back for diverse casting choices but also as an alternate historical account for how the world could be in terms of African power in society, as well as the reality of being gay in a time when it was literally a death sentence.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I cannot overstate how amazing Michelle Obama is, I do not have the words. I’ve read other books by Barack Obama and loved them all but hearing about the life of a political wife, especially in the case of how the Obamas worked and were treated, Becoming is an amazing story. Delving into her personal and family life and how that has been impacted by Barack’s politics and policy making is an amazing adventure into how there are real people and real families behind who we see on television. Again, I listened to the audiobook read by Michelle which made the book that much more special.

Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty

This was an inspiring read and nuggets of wisdom were littered throughout the pages. I highly recommend his book to anyone trying to figure out their life. Here are a few of Jay Shetty’s words that really spoke to me:

“Purpose and meaning, not success, lead to true contentment.”

“You can’t be anything you want. But you can be everything you are.”

“Dharma is passion in the service of others. Your passion is for you. Your purpose is for others. Your passion becomes a purpose when you use it to serve others.”

“To walk down the same old path and find a new stone is to open your mind.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

I have yet to actually read anything by Stephen King; horror is not one of my favourite genres, but I still respect his work and his process. Learning about that, as well as his life as a writer, is a wonderful journey to go on with him. The book is split into two parts; one about his life and growing up and how writing was always a big part of living and then his own tips for writing. Once again, an audiobook was my medium for consuming this book and I need to buy my own copy so I can put post notes in it and leave them there for when I need inspiration myself. A man of true dedication to his craft, there is so much to learn and absorb into our own processes and he is more than winning to share it with fellow writers. I swear his actual work is on my bucket list for books to read before I can read no more.

All images courtesy of GoodReads.

On the road to Europe

Well it is FINALLY official. This is my travel blog and now I can actually begin talking about my travels outside of Canada.

After decades of dreaming of this day, I have started planning my trip to Europe to attend the International Federation of Agriculture Journalists Congress in Vingsted, Denmark just outside Vejle.

With 15 days of vacation time, after the Congress I will also be doing some backpacking around Europe with Budapest being a near definite destination.

So this being the first trip out of the country I am working through a number of tourism books and Google searches and starting from square one in the planning process. The Canadian government’s website has been a great source to get started.

My first thought was the Visa but being Canadian I do not need a Visa to travel around the Schengen Area as long as my trip is no more than 90 days, which is great since none of my plans right now are concrete, e.g. where I am going or for how long. Next thought, my passport is up to date and I have another year to actually use it for the first time. Before anyone asks, no, I haven’t been to the United States and I didn’t want that to be the first country I visited outside of Canada anyway. No offense, Americans, but I wanted somewhere with an overseas international flight, just my personal preference. After this trip, some destinations in the US are definitely on the list, including New York City, some cities in California, and both eastern and western seaboards.

Next thing I thought about was COVID-19 and what that means for traveling anywhere. Right now, Saskatchewan has dropped all mandates like vaccine passports and masking indoors but that doesn’t mean that a) COVID is over and b) that other mandates don’t exist in other countries. That being said I am making sure I am being as safe as possible and I am going to self isolate before I go. I am not going to spend the next four months planning this thing just for COVID-19 to mess it up.

Being fully vaccinated with the booster, I will have to produce a negative COVID test before getting on the flight but I will not have to isolate when I get to Denmark. I will also need to produce a negative test for the way home. I already have a plan in my head about what to do when I return so I do not bring COVID-19 into the country but that will take some help from family and friends.

Next thing I did was register for the Congress which is done with early bird pricing. Thanks to a generous bursary from the Saskatchewan Farm Writers Association, I will have $2,000 to cover the cost of flights and registration which I am beyond grateful for. I will also have the pleasure of presenting about my trip to the SFWA however, I do not have a word or time requirement yet on how long they will let me ramble on about my experience.

The checklist of things to pack and do before I go is long, including getting through the large stack of books I have borrowed and bought for the planning process and the subsequent list of need-to-knows and helpful tips that I will be taking note of (you should see my post-it note and highlighter stash).

I am trying to go the cheap route so I am looking for cheap flights, cheap train rides, cheap activities, cheap everything, however I may splurge on food.

Here are somethings that I have been advised to do to:

Photocopy important documents;

Making two packing list since I am actually itching to physically get packing, one for Denmark and one for backpacking;

Make my travel itinerary (I will talk about my brand-spanking new spreadsheet in a later planning post);

Make list of things I want to do and see (again, highlighting my guide books like crazy);

Purchase plane tickets;

Doctors appointment to talk vaccines.

Writing about the experience does help me keep my head above water and I hope writing about my successes and my failures will help others in their travels as well.

Learning as I go will present a steep learning curve, I know, but hopefully I can laugh about somethings before I start to cry about them.

Come back for my next posts that I am currently working on:

How much did I spend at Cabela’s?

Travel discussions with my husband

Getting set to enjoy that hostel life, but which one should I choose?

It’s spreadsheet time: building my travel itinerary

Guidebook recommendations

Hail to Fandom

I clung to my fandom early and no matter the jeers and insults thrown my way for finding my own place within Gotham, Middle Earth, Hogwarts, and the Star Wars universe along side superheroes, wizards, and jedis, I never forgot or forsaken my love of all things fantasy and other worldly.

We just got back from Star Wars: The Last Jedi and despite the “problems” they seem to be having with box office draw and opening revenue, Last Jedi reminded me of how much I love worlds that are not my own.

The Star Wars franchise cannot seem to win in the last couple of years with Force Awakens being bashed for being too much like a New Hope and Last Jedi not being enough like the original series.

I am not a purist. I do believe they watered down Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith but I still enjoyed the Force Awakens and Rogue One was beautifully done, acted, and executed.

What I found in Last Jedi is a resistance that is continuing to fight. New alien life, the reality of war and death, and yet that same sense of familiarity in words and gestures that tie the new movie in with the vision George Lucas had in the first place.

This is still a world worth creating and while I have read some of the novels within the Star Wars universe, I know that the movies are making their way away from that world. I still believe that these new visions and new life given to the franchise has a lot more to offer than people are giving the directors and crew credit for. This is still an amazing universe and it is a place where I still believe I belong.