Kaitlyn Richert is a sophomore double majoring in magazine journalism and informational graphics/publication design, with a minor in Spanish. She is studying abroad in Toledo, Spain for winter quarter 2012.
When you’ve never been out of the country before, you forget that there’s really a world out there. Traveling is so satisfying because it reinforces this idea, even if you forgot that there are six continents outside of North America. Obviously, studying abroad in Spain feeds this starving thought, too. But moreover, the freedom that I have to explore Europe fills my mind with optimism as it digests my options. So, what exactly does traveling throughout Europe encompass? How does one go about planning? And where should you even go? Let me help you out.
Trips within your country
Spain isn’t a huge country – some have compared it to the size of Texas or the equivalent of two Oregon states. That being said, there is still a lot to explore. I am in Toledo, which is in the center of the country, but Madrid is not far (only 45 minutes away by bus). That leaves popular cities like Barcelona, Seville, Granada, Valencia and Cadiz to discover. Even if you are on a strict budget and cannot travel outside of Spain, there will undoubtedly be enough to do in this country, if not Toledo alone. A bus is the least expensive mode of transportation, but sometimes a plane or a train might be a better choice (Barcelona would be a long bus ride, eight or nine hours).
Trips outside of your country
“This might be the only chance I ever have to explore Europe,” I said a few weeks ago. If I never get to cross the Atlantic again, where would I want to go? I thought Paris, definitely. Rome or Florence, probably. I could count off at least five countries I would seriously consider visiting. But one of them that I visited was actually not on that list. I traveled to Lisbon, Portugal with six others in the third week of January and it was beautiful. The city was underrated and I had low expectations, and that made the trip more worthwhile. Hence, I think it is important to go places that you would not think to go. But you should also treat yourself. I have got flights booked for Barcelona (Feb. 16-19) and Florence (March 1-4) because I know that I will not get to do this again. This is, and was, the chance of a lifetime.
So… how do I plan this?
Planning ahead is a no-brainer, but sometimes it can be hard to gather a solid group to go on a trip. You must know how many are going so that you can book a hostel with the right number of beds. Booking a flight or deciding when to take a bus is important and the longer you wait, the further up the price is driven. To give you an idea of this, the payment for my flight to Barcelona started out at 55 Euro. By the time I bought the ticket (the next day), it had increased to 78, and extra fees made one plane ticket worth 124 Euro. And that is for a trip within my country. For this reason, planning accordingly is great. It also saves a lot of stress for happy traveling!