8 Lessons I Learned While Travelling Across Europe

8 Lessons I Learned While Travelling Across Europe

Planning to travel long-term anytime soon? Here is what Wai Kwan learned on his 45-day journey across Europe.

Most of us have travelled to other countries and explored new places at some points of time. However, things can get quite different and challenging if we go for long term travel, like what I experienced during my trip across Europe recently.

Here are the things that I learned from these experiences. I hope these lessons will come in handy for those aspiring to travel long term!

Enjoying the view of Hallstatt on the Dachstein mountains in Austria

1. It’s good to do some planning but there’s no need to plan an itinerary down to the tiniest detail

Before heading to a new place, do some research on what it has to offer. Search online guides and list down places that you would like to visit. Or even better, mark those places as favourites on Google Maps so you’ve an idea on the exact locations and plan your local travels accordingly. However, there’s no need to plan too much in detail in advance. I wouldn’t plan a day up to the point where I must be at certain places at certain times.

Unexpected things (e.g. bad weather or traffic delays…) will definitely happen and make your planning efforts go to waste. Sometimes, it’s better to just play by ear and be spontaneous.

This is how I mark the places I wanted to visit on Google Maps. You’ll know where exactly these places are and which metro lines reach there. Makes life so much easier!

2. You don’t have to do the conventional “must-dos” whenever you’re in a new place

When I was in London, everyone was telling me to go to the theatres because that’s what London is famous for. However, I have zero interest in it. Why should I go to the theatres and waste my precious pounds if I have no interest in the first place?

While in Croatia, people are recommending me to visit Dubrovnik because it’s beautiful and it’s where the Game of Thrones was filmed. Why must I? First, I don’t watch the Game of Thrones. Second, it’s so touristy and expensive there, and there are other similar cities that I can visit.

It’s okay to skip those so-called “must-dos” or “must-visits” if you are simply not interested in them, or if there are better alternatives. Do whatever that makes you fascinated and happy, like how I always loved to hop on random buses to explore the less visited places in London.

Hopping on a random bus in London. You’ll meet some cool drivers on the way!

3. It’s okay if you didn’t manage to go to all of the places you had on your list

Ever felt like it’s the end of the world when you didn’t manage to visit certain attractions and you had to move on? Don’t think too much about that. When you’re travelling in a region, chances are you’ll see similar things again and again and you’ll get tired of them at some point of time.

Missed a certain castle in the UK? There are many others that are more magnificent! Missed the Louvre? There are so many other museums around! Missed a famous restaurant because it was closed? There could be other better restaurants with better food!

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe in the Far North region of Scotland. It’s just one of the many castles dotted everywhere on the British Isle

4. Don’t be too stressed out when tracking your expenditures

I know I have limited budget, but that doesn’t mean I should be stressed about how much money I’ve left every single day. Heck, I don’t even bother to record my expenditures like some other travellers do. It’s simply a waste of time, and I’ll feel miserable when I get frequently reminded on how much less money I have. Just be conscious about how much you roughly spend on things like food, accommodation and transport on average.

For me, I stayed in shared dorms in hostels most of the time, and usually travelled by overnight bus. So I know I would save quite a substantial amount compared to other travellers who usually stay in hotels or travel by train or flight. Also, set a rough budget per day, but don’t strictly enforce it. If you know you have spent quite a bit in a day, you’ll know you’ll have to save a bit in the next day or two. In short, don’t keep on reminding yourself how much you have left, and you’ll be much happier. If needed, just check your bank account balance maybe once in a week so you could roughly gauge how much further you can travel on.

travel lessons in europe

Enjoying Czech dinner with an amazing sunset in Prague.

5. You should pamper yourself from time to time

Treat yourself to a proper meal of comfort food at a restaurant after days of eating sandwiches. Get some drinks at the bar and chat with the locals. Party with a bunch of travellers you just met. Or get yourself a budget private room and have your own space after days of staying in dorms. For a period of time, I only relied on self-made sandwiches for almost every meal, and I felt extremely miserable. Yes, I saved quite a bit of money, but I was not happy with the food that I was eating. Thus, I was a little demoralised when I missed all the comfort food that I have back home.

Saving money may help you go further for your travelling, but you must take care of your welfare as well. Splurge a little bit occasionally and it will definitely boost your morale in travelling further.

Treated myself to scrumptious Chinese meal in Athens after travelling through the Balkans. I ended up going to the same restaurant twice!

6. Sometimes, it’s good to be a little short on time

When I was travelling in Scotland for my work holiday, I took my time to travel around the region. First I was fascinated by Edinburgh because I had never seen such a city that is built like a huge castle complex. Then I visited Stirling, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, etc. Then every town and city started to feel the same. Every castle became just another castle to me. I was getting bored, and I realised it was because I spent too much time seeing similar things within a region. 

Hence when I was travelling Europe I decided to give myself a time limit and booked my flight back to Singapore from Athens prior to my Euro trip. Thus, I had that end destination in my mind that forced myself to travel from UK to Greece overland within 45 days! It was a bit of a rush, but I managed to see and experience most of the main attractions that each and every place had to offer.

travel lessons in europe

Athens, the finishing point of my Euro trip

7. The travel experience is yours

Embrace the freedom to travel wherever you want, depending on your style. There’s no need to compare with other travellers the number of places visited, the travel duration, how much money saved, or even how many mishaps encountered.

Every traveller has their own target, their own budget and their own style. Most importantly, create your unique travel experience that you’ll be proud of, especially when you look back to your epic adventures and realise how much you’ve learned, grown and accomplished.

Touring the abandoned underground air base off the city of Mostar, Bosnia. It was definitely one of the most memorable moments, to learn about the brutal Bosnian war and how the lesson is still relevant in today’s evolving geopolitics.

8. Be comfortable and happy with your travels. Take things at a pace which suits you best!

travel lessons in europe

Road tripping in Montenegro. You decide how you travel. After all, the experience is yours!

This is the main takeaway from my travel experiences in Europe, and it pretty much sums up everything that I’ve shared above. Know yourself, know what you like, and take things at a comfortable pace. After all, you’re the best person who knows how to make your own trip memorable!

About Author

Tang Wai Kwan
Tang Wai Kwan

Tang finds joy through immersing himself in a local environment, savouring street food and meeting new people. He finds transit maps fascinating and loves navigating through different modes of transportation. While on the streets, he's easily distracted by cats, and he often wonders if cats in different countries "meow" in different languages. When he's not travelling, he's often seen consulting maps and exploring creative ways of getting between places for his next adventure.

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