The world is bigger than we could ever possibly imagine, and it’s scary to think we will never even scratch the surface in this lifetime. Even if we do travel to the same places, we see the world through different eyes, creating a unique experience. As I dive head first into travel, I am inspired by each of your adventures and am starting Sonderlust Secrets as a series showcasing this. Interested in being featured?For some reason, people seem to be really impressed whenever I mention that I have gone “backpacking.” I think the surprise is less about where I have traveled to and more about how I managed two weeks in Eastern Europe with just a backpack.
That being said, it’s entirely possible to fit two weeks worth of clothing, toiletries, electronics, and books into one tiny pack that I bought in high school to carry my textbooks in for $9. In order to allow myself the freedom of movement, I opted to pay to store my huge suitcase at Dublin Airport, where I would ultimately be flying home from.
The feeling I had when I stepped off the plane in Pula, Croatia was amazing. Freedom. I was free to do whatever, go wherever, frolic however… because it was just me and my backpack and we didn’t owe anything to anyone (except for the overpriced cab fare to get me to my rental apartment). Croatia marked the beginning of my first solo journey. It was unforgettable. Within the first two hours I made a friend who offered to show me around. She brought me along the coastline to her favorite secret spots, into the city to show me the Roman architecture, and treated me to the best pizza place. This was the best thing that could have happened to me and eased me into my first solo adventure nicely.
In Pula, make sure you explore the coastline, try all the seafood, and venture into the city.Next on the agenda was Budapest, Hungary–actually, make that Brussels because the easiest way for me to get from Pula to Budapest was to fly all the way back to Belgium for the afternoon. Though not in my initial plan, I spent a day in Brussels searching for my next read, the best chocolate, and tasty Belgian brews. I learned that my attempts at French give my Americanness away instantly and that Greek gyros are magical.In Brussels, make sure you eat chocolate and waffles and visit La Grand-Place.After a long detour, I made it to my Hungarian dream. I knew absolutely nothing about Budapest before going there. Seriously, nothing other than knowing that I had a burning desire to go there. The city blew me away. The architecture was exquisite (Parliament, I’m talking about you), the people incredibly kind, the Turkish baths breathtaking, and the food amazing. Everyone I met there was so interesting, friendly, and full of suggestions for my travels. Old Town Buda is colorful and I never wanted to leave.
In Budapest, make sure you spend a day at the Turkish baths, see Parliament, eat everything, and explore Buda.
My fourth destination on my trip was Vienna. Up until this point I had been enduring 100 degree weather. Vienna was much cooler and called for me to relax, put on a soft sweater, and recharge. The city’s color scheme and fashion reminded me very much of London, except everything was in German. I couldn’t stay away from Naschmarkt’s delicious food choices and went there for most of my meals. The bratwursts in Vienna are amazing. I may think they are the best because I haven’t been to Germany yet, but oh my goodness they are heavenly. My absolute favorite part of my time in Austria was the afternoon I spent at the Belvedere. This exquisite art gallery is a #1 must-see.
Finally, I ended my adventure in Prague, Czech Republic where I met up with a close friend to finish off my solo time. Prague was the best city to explore with another person and I’m really lucky our itineraries matched up here. The architecture is somewhat akin to that of a fairy tale. Going on the walking tour of the city was hands down the best decision I made. I walked away realizing how much of the world’s history and current events that we don’t hear about at all in the American school system.In Prague, make sure you visit Old Town Square, drink beer anywhere, go on a walking tour, visit the Jewish Quarter.
I highly recommend backpacking through Eastern Europe because everything is exquisite and all of the people that I met were wonderful. Though I had a rough idea of which cities I wanted to make it to, I booked everything about 1-2 days in advance and allowed myself to be as spontaneous as possible. After traveling solo, I now approach almost everything with an “I can handle anything” state of mind and I think you should too!
Tara is a 22-year-old book lover and foodie with restless feet. She wants to spend the rest of her life reading books in beautiful places and she is moving to New Zealand at the end of January. Follow along with her adventures on Read To Travel.