Backpacking In Europe

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Backpacking In Europe

A Proper Student Backpacker

“We cannot pay you for the past 2 weeks, sorry.” It was spring 2002 and I was 24 years old working for a start-up in Silicon Valley. We all know what was fated to occur then with big tech.

The writing was on the wall when I watched fellow employees go without their commission checks for months, and the company founders were having difficulty securing their third round of funding.

This inspired me to hop on a plane to Europe for 3 months and enjoy a carefree backpacking sabbatical, untroubled from the dot bomb implosion. If there was a paycheck for me and operational company when I returned… fantastic! If not, I’d deal with the next steps after my grand adventure on the old continent.

Where to first? Spain!

Admittedly, I was a bit envious of my fellow college student friends who spent a cushy semester or two learning abroad, and took 4-5 leisurely years to finish university. My college days were crammed into 3 years to complete a bachelor degree, while working a job to pay the bills.

It was finally my turn to backpack across Europe and the journey began in Barcelona where I’d signed up for a 1-month language immersion school.

Some of my favorite memories were created at the dinner table with my multinational housemates from Russia, UK, Japan and Brazil. Our Spanish Mama cooked us breakfast and dinner and we’d laugh at each other’s stumbling conversation, and cheer each other on if we could answer questions on Spanish Jeopardy.

During the week I’d attend school in the mornings and spend my afternoons exploring the vibrant culture, history and architecture Barcelona had to offer. I fell in love with her spicy dynamics, bustling pace, amazing food and liberating topless beaches.

When the weekend hit I’d grab my backpack and jump on a train or catch a cheap flight to discover other Spanish cities, as well as France for the first time.

These were the days before smart phones, so the tiny maps in my lonely planet guidebook were well-used and often memorized. Arriving to a foreign city, not knowing the language or lay-of-the-land, I was determined to fit in and not look like a hapless tourist victim ripe for mugging. This inspired a quickly-honed internal GPS, bold energetic posturing and a wise practice for safe, solo travel.

I never did get robbed, however I was in the middle of a knife fight stand-off on an overnight train from Lyon, France.

Backpacking on a budget taught me valuable travel skills that I still use present day; my radar is attuned for street-smart mobility, I’m wired to seek out trustworthy resources & alliances with strangers, as well as rapidly identify the best deals on accommodations, transport and food.

90 days went whizzing by so fast, they felt like a tasty appetizer to Spain, France and Italy, whereas I was hungry for the endless buffet.

Europe beckons me back often and I’ve expanded my exploration to many of her incredible nations, alas it is Spain’s bosom that I cleave most tightly as a second home and language.

Was there a paying job for me when I returned to California? Well now that’s another story of its own.

Enjoy the Photo Gallery below – Images are limited to my old-school SLR camera.


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