Europe. It brings to mind a plethora of images, from towering castles, meandering canals, and fields of tulips, to ancient ruins and charming windmills.
Backpacking in this enchanting continent is in every traveler’s bucket list, and while it’s a very realistic goal for Westerners, most of us in the Philippines have to make do with just dreaming about it.
There are a lot of travelers like me who work 9-5 so that we can save up for our trips, and dreaming of Europe is as far as we can get.
Or at least, this is what I thought before. Now that I am in Europe for my 70-day solo backpacking trip, I’ve realized that it may not be as farfetched a dream as I had thought it was before for regular people like me. It can be cheap to travel in Europe!
I’m certainly not a millionaire; I have a 30-year mortgage on a small house in the boondocks, and until recently, I’d worked for a nonprofit organization with a salary just enough for me to live on.
What I did have was the belief that anything is possible, that I could achieve something if only I wanted it hard enough (this was what Apollo 17 astronaut Eugene Cernan told me years ago).
For years, I saved up a lot, foregoing shopping for new clothes and buying only what I needed. I made do with jeans and shirts that I owned for years, ate cheaply (but nutritiously), and skipped going to the mall and watching movies.
I also developed the skills I needed to help me become location independent in the future, something that can certainly help keep me on the road.
And with the help of a very good friend last year who became my sponsor in getting a Schengen visa, I am now living my dream: backpacking in Europe for 70 days.
Because I could still earn from my online jobs while on the move, I don’t have to worry about running out of money or using up my savings while traveling. Being location independent, I can backpack in Europe for months without worrying about my finances.
At the moment, I’m spending time in Belgium where my sponsor lives. I’m learning to love this small country (despite up to -20 deg C temperature!)—from its mussels and fries, to touristy waffles, snow, and the hundreds of varieties of beer that I had longed to savor.
I know I have to leave Belgium behind to discover what else Europe has to offer a backpacker like me—from the Netherlands and Denmark, to Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Greece—but strangely enough, I’m loathe to leave this small and beautiful country behind.
It could be the pastries and the other rich Belgian food, or perhaps the sights—what I’ve seen of it so far given the cold!—or maybe the people. Whatever the reason, I’m really finding it hard to leave. I’m consoled by the fact that I still have more than 2 months in Europe—plenty more time to go back to Belgium where I found my happiness again.
I would like to thank the people who have helped me in one way or another to make this trip possible: Meah See of Bahay Tsinoy and Jacqueline Dy for the winter clothes; Hazel Ilano, K, Nis Jensen, Ole Riis, Elma Laguna, and Saskia Hein-Schmidt for the friendship (and the accommodation) given to me; and the numerous Couchsurfing and Hospitality Club hosts who are very willing to show me the best of their culture and their country. Without you all, I would have had a harder time making this particular dream come true!
Do you dream of Europe yourself? Keep on dropping by my blog to learn that it really is possible to make it come true!