I dreamed of travelling in Europe for as long as I can remember; told myself that by the time I turn thirty, I should explore the other side of the world. So I prepared everything for this dream to become a reality; I saved, had some sidelines to earn extra money, gave up frapuccinos, cut off unnecessary expenses and saved more. I made a list of places I wanted to see, learned French language and prayed that my dream will all come to past.
Last February, I turned thirty and got a birthday gift printed in my passport, a Schengen visa! I am ready for Europe!
Having a Schengen visa allowed me to choose 26 European countries to visit. For 19 days, I covered 5 countries and 11 cities. All places are unique and charming-parks, museums, churches, houses, piazzas, buildings and iconic landmarks.
Italy was the first country I visited; words can’t describe how I love this country, its ancient monuments and modern buildings left me breathless. What made this trip la dolce vita is its magical food; I forgot my name as I devoured every single pizza, pasta, gelato and drank all welcome wines from my couchsurfing hosts.
I flew to Belgium and went straight to Ghent, a quaint city with cobbled streets, gothic churches, guild houses and a stone castle that took me back to the medieval days. The food is awe-so-delicious; waffles and fries are to die for. I also had a chocolatey affair in this small country.
My journey continued to Netherlands where drugs are legal, bikes dominate the road and canals are countless. There are beautiful fields where colorful tulips are in full bloom, the streets are interesting that I can’t even pronounce it. Ouderzijds Achterburgwal..what?
My last destination was France, seeing Paris on top of Eiffel tower at night was amazing; no wonder it’s called the city of lights. I enjoyed navigating the famous Louvre museum that houses priceless collection of art.
Every country is uniquely beautiful and has lots of things to boast about. But I realize that it’s not the destination or how many places you’ve been, it’s about the people you meet along the way that makes your journey worthwhile. The warm smiles, meaningful conversations and random acts of kindness of people made this trip unforgettable.
One of the reasons why this trip was special is because of Couchsurfing; an online travel community where a traveller looks for a host to stay a night or two. It’s more than just free accommodation but an exchange of culture, ideas, talents and more. I am blessed to have hosts who shared their couch and also took time to show me their city. They cooked delicious food, introduced lindy hop dance, taught me secrets of Italian cooking, and how to speak their language. Through my hosts, I was able to see each country on a local perspective, and I am very thankful to have known them.
Even though I travelled solo for weeks in foreign lands, I never felt alone. During my travels, I encountered strangers who’d pop out from nowhere, the next thing I know, I have a companion circling the Colosseo, a new friend touring me in Sempione Park, a kababayan sharing her meal in Como, a local strolling me in Amsterdam, a new buddy taking photos in Keukenhof garden and the list continues.
They say Europe is best enjoyed with a lover; the overwhelming beauty of cities, elegant restaurants, picturesque towns and rich museums gives this continent a romantic atmosphere. I don’t have a lover with me in this journey but it’s good to know that I enjoy my own company. Of course, there are moments when loneliness hits me; sometimes it’s nice to have someone to hug you in a cold weather, but thank God I have a cappuccino to keep me warm and that’s enough for now. 🙂