Euro Trip 2017: Best Travel Moments

 

In May 2014, just days after graduating from college, I arrived in Amsterdam and thus commenced my first Euro trip. This July, after two years on the continent, I set off on my second.

These are the best travel moments from my Euro trip!

Image Credit: Annie Spratt (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)

A personal tour of Munich

After a night out, which began with a rowdy bar crawl and ended in the packed hostel bar, I woke up for my first full day in Munich a little later than I’d hoped. The late start meant my traveling companions and I missed the start of the free walking tour. Ordinarily that would have been a total bummer, but our new friend, Conner, who we’d met on the bar crawl and had attended the walking tour the previous day, half-jokingly offered to guide us. He was fantastic. Not only did Conner take us to all the important spots, but he recalled an impressive amount of German history! I’ve been on a lot of walking tours, but this one was the best—which is saying a lot considering our hangovers.

Here are the best travel moments from my Euro trip!
Prost! I can barely lift that stein to take a sip!

Not knowing anything about Slovenia

When I was planning this trip, I realized I had a few days to kill between Munich and meeting a friend in Stuttgart. I considered a slew of destinations including Switzerland, Greece and Italy, but in the end, I decided on Slovenia. For less than 20 euros, Taylor and I traveled from Munich to Ljubljana. The five-hour ride included a 20-minute stop at what has to be the most beautiful gas rest area in the world, located in the heart of the Julian Alps. I arrived knowing very little about the country but quickly fell in love. Between the rad feminist history in Ljubljana to the gorgeous nature in Bled, Slovenia turned out to be exactly our scene. Sometimes no travel prep is the best travel prep. Expectations often ruin a destination.

Here are the best travel moments from my Euro trip!
We spent a beautiful day at Vintgar Gorge in Bled, Slovenia.

Shots at Sweet Memories

In June, I had the pleasure of hosting my friend, also named Alex, in Madrid. In July, he returned the favor in Stuttgart, Germany. We’ve been friends since sitting next to each other in eighth grade algebra. So, starting our night out at Sweet Memories seemed right. It was a total dive, complete with creepy old German men, and the bartender charged me 20 euros for three shots of knockoff Jägermeister. But, being with an old friend definitely made for a sweet memory.

These are the best travel moments from my Euro trip!
Alex and Alex in Esslingen! We took the train to this picturesque little town just outside Stuttgart.

Couch surfing in Krakow

After Stuttgart, my ever-faithful travel buddy, Taylor, and I parted ways. I was on my own and decided to couch surf. For me, it wasn’t about a free place to stay. Even my limited budget would have afforded a couple nights in one of Poland’s famously cheap hostels. I wanted the chance to discover the city from a local’s point of view and perhaps even make a new friend. Utilizing Couchsurfing, a social networking website that connects travelers with hosts, I met Maja and Anna. Not only did my hosts provide me with a place to stay and information about the city, but they also went out of their ways to include me in their plans. I left Krakow having made two new friends.

These are the best travel moments from my Euro trip!
Krakow is an almost perfectly preserved medieval city. Unlike most of Poland, it wasn’t bombed during WWII. Image Credit: Dennis Jarvis

Berlin living up to its hype

The 11-hour bus ride from Krakow was an absolute nightmare (potholes, potholes, potholes), but I was willing to do whatever it took to get to Berlin. I’ve wanted to visit Berlin ever since I planned my first Euro trip, and although high expectations for a destination sometimes lead to disappointment, Berlin lived up to the hype. Famous for its music, dance and art scene, Berlin is known around the world for having a genuinely cool vibe. On my second day, I joined the Alternative Berlin walking tour. After three hours of learning about the city’s street art and graffiti culture, the tour ended at Yaam. It was there I got chatting with the guide and ended up having one of the best nights of my Euro trip. The sun was rising as I got back to my hostel.

Here are the best travel moments from my Euro trip!
I’m not usually one for churches, but I liked the Berlin Cathedral, which is located on the city’s Museum Island. Image Credit: Jörg Schubert

 

Have you ever done a Euro trip? What were the best travel moments?

WiFi Woes: What to do when everything isn’t perfect

I wish I could write that moving to Mexico has been smooth sailing. That everything has been perfect and wonderful and according to plan. But, that would be a lie.

You see, we still don’t have WiFi.

As much as I love Mexico, my first month here hasn't been without its challenges. Primarily, our WiFi woes.

Image Credit: Scott Webb (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)

WiFi Woes

Earlier this week, Taylor and I spent two hours in line at the customer service desk of our (someday) internet service provider. We signed a contract with Megacable on Nov. 1 but have yet to hear anything regarding a definite installation date.

The customer service associate told us we could expect installation to occur sometime within the 17 days following our signup date.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Okay, 17 days sucks, but you’ll survive. You don’t need Netflix to live!”

It’s much more than simply streaming our favorite tv shows. Without WiFi, we aren’t able to work. Yes, a big part of teaching English online is being online.

The WiFi situation has been frustrating to say the least. It’s forced us to rent an Airbnb, cancel classes and reevaluate our finances. Not exactly what we had in mind for our first month in Mexico.

As much as I love Mexico, my first month here hasn't been without its challenges. Primarily, our WiFi woes.
Image Credit: Thomas Verbruggen

Attitude Adjustment

Leaving the Megacable office, we both felt incredibly down. Our efforts to contract service with other companies have been fruitless. At one point, we had an installation appointment with a company called Wizz only to receive a call an hour before the technician was scheduled to show up and learn our area didn’t have coverage.

We were and still are out of options. All we can do is wait and hope that Megacable contacts us. Our 17 days ends this Saturday.

I don’t care if this sounds dramatic, but this situation has left me feeling pretty hopeless at times. My absolute lowest was when Taylor asked me if we were going to have to move back to Michigan.

Before I could answer, “F*CK THAT” flashed in my mind like a giant neon sign.

Not everything was going to be easy. I knew that, and I still wanted to move to Mexico. I was fully aware that there would be bumps in the road. Ups and downs.

Yet, I encountered the first hardship and forgot all that. Time for an attitude adjustment.

When you decide to follow your dreams, you better be ready to take the good with the bad. Despite what your favorite travel blogger might post on Instagram, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

As much as I love Mexico, my first month here hasn't been without its challenges. Primarily, our WiFi woes.
Image Credit: Mark Adriane

Moving Forward

I don’t know when we’re going to get WiFi. It could be tomorrow. It could be Saturday. It could be never.

What I do know is that I’m going to embrace this and whatever other challenges come my way. I don’t have to like it, but I can acknowledge it as part of my experience and, in doing so, feel a little bit better.

Have you ever moved abroad? If so, what challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?

How I Found an Apartment in Querétaro, Mexico

Finding an apartment in Querétaro turned out to be a lot harder than I’d anticipated.

In the weeks leading up to our departure, I actually told Taylor I was looking forward to apartment hunting! Can you believe that?! I figured that after the nightmare that was the Madrid rental market looking for an apartment in Querétaro would be a breeze.

I was wrong.

Here is everything I have to about how to find an apartment in Querétaro, Mexico! Suerte!

Image Credit: Mario Rodriguez (Text Overlay: Backpacking Brunette)

Finding an Apartment in Querétaro

During our search, we utilized a variety of sources (some successful, some not):

  • The internet. In Madrid, Idealista displays the majority of apartments for rent. However, of the websites most commonly used in Mexico (Segundamano, Vivanuncios, Trovit, Lamudi), none come close to Idealista’s user-friendliness. It was difficult to tell where in the city many properties were located as many owners neglected to include even general location markers.
  • Pounding the pavement. When the internet came up short, we decided to hit the streets. In Madrid, you could hardly walk a block without seeing a Se Alquila (For Rent) sign. I booked an Airbnb in the heart of the city center for just this purpose. Certainly we’d see something while we were out walking! Nope. Taylor and I canvased the neighborhood for hours without so much as seeing a single Se Renta sign (in Mexico, they use a different verb).
  • Newspapers. Trying to stay positive, I suggested we pick up a newspaper and check out the classifieds. That’s how people used to do it, right? For 10 pesos, we bought a copy of the Diaro de Querétaro. Sitting on a park bench in Alameda Hidalgo (Querétaro’s main city park), we started circling ads to call. Unlike the websites, the majority of properties listed were located in the center. We saw the first property we called, and although it ended up not being the one, our spirits were lifted.
Here is everything I have to say on how to find an apartment in Mexico! Suerte!
One of Querétaro’s many beautiful plazas! Image Credit: Alejandro

My wishlist

During our final months in Madrid, Taylor and I loved imagining our future home in Querétaro. After two years in a 45m2 apartment, we’d learned to live modestly. Our wishlist was far from extravagant:

  • Located in the city center. Since we don’t have a car, we needed to be located within walking distance of…well, pretty much everything.
  • Separate work spaces. Since Taylor and I both work from home, we needed space for our offices. Because we teach English online, sharing a single work space was out of the question.
  • Outdoor space. In Madrid, I suffered from major balcony envy. In our new home, I wanted an outdoor area where we could sit and enjoy a glass of wine at the end of the day.
  • Furnished. I wanted to be able to unpack my bags and get right down to enjoying la vida méxicana. Our furnished apartment in Madrid made life so easy!
  • An oven. I said many sad goodbyes in Madrid but bidding farewell to our two-burner stove top was not one of them. I should be able to make cookies when I feel like it!
Here is everything I have to say on how to find an apartment in Mexico! Suerte!
The colors and architecture give this city such a cool vibe! Image Credit: Alejandro

Compromises

The very first place we saw was unfurnished, and if I’m being perfectly honest, it was terrifying. The thought of furnishing an entire apartment (especially without reliable transportation) overwhelmed me. I told Taylor I only wanted to consider furnishing a place as a last resort.

Several showings later, we saw a furnished apartment. It was horrible. The mattress was lumpy and dirty. The dishes were mismatched and cracked. The tv was a hulking relic that took up half the living room.

The Querétaro rental market has few furnished apartments to offer, and the ones that it does have (within our budget) are hardly places I would ever seriously consider living. When the owner suggested we simply flip the mattress over, I decided I was ready to take the leap and furnish a place.

Here is everything I have to say on how to find an apartment in Mexico! Suerte!
Templo San Jose de Gracia is located in the heart of Querétaro. Image Credit: Traveling Otter

Our New Home

After an unsuccessful showing, Taylor and I were walking back to our Airbnb and decided to stop for a drink. When the server brought our cervezas, I told him we’d had a long and difficult day of apartment hunting. He sympathized with us because it had taken him a year to find his apartment in the city center.

A year?! And I thought booking a second week in an Airbnb would be extreme!

The server, Eduardo, said he knew a place we might be interested in. The apartment next door to his friend was for rent. He said we seemed like good people and would ask his friend for more details.

Eduardo put us in contact with his friend, Paulina. Paulina, in turn, put us in contact with the owner of the apartment. Without ever even having met us, Paulina told the owner that we were her friends. We saw the place Oct. 21.

It was and still is perfect. We’ve been living in our new home for a week. Minus coming furnished, it met all the criteria on my wishlist. Pictures to come!

Have you ever house hunted abroad? What challenges did you encounter? Let me know in the comments below!