mermaidale asked:

Apparently, i haven't been following your blog long enough to send fan mail. Fair enough. So an Ask it is then. I just followed you earlier today, spent a good part of the afternoon reading about your backpacking adventures. I wanted to say hello. I think you're brave, smart and beautiful. Your adventures remind me nicely of my own European adventures and I wanted to thank you for the excellent read. <3

Hi there!

Thank you. I can’t express how much your message means to me.

It’s been just over a month since I got home and while I haven’t forgotten my trip or all the cool things I did, it’s so nice to be reminded! I’d like to think I’m a much more chilled out person since I got back and can’t wait to plan my next big trip.

Looking forward to following your blog. I’m working out a way to keep mine alive. So far I haven’t come up with any ideas that won’t away from it in its current form.

Watch this space x

I remember telling people in work that I wouldn&#8217;t be there the next week to follow up on various projects.

"I&#8217;m heading away for three months. Where? Oh, I&#8217;m starting in Spain and I&#8217;ll figure it out from there, I guess."

Even as I said the words, I couldn&#8217;t picture myself in Spain. I couldn&#8217;t picture myself on my own in a hostel, eating strange foods, sleeping in a room with nine other people, not going to work every day, sight-seeing and meeting new people.

Usually a very organised person, I didn&#8217;t pack for my trip until the night before I was due to leave. Because the idea of the trip was so foreign to me, I couldn&#8217;t prepare for it properly, or rather I felt I didn&#8217;t need to.

"What if I get homesick? What if I don&#8217;t like it? I wanted to leave the Gaeltacht early for God&#8217;s sake!"

I was so frightened. But thankfully, that didn&#8217;t last.

I remember beaming with pride when I managed to get from the airport in Seville to my hostel in the city centre, without the help of a taxi. I got on the bus, I bought a ticket, I got off at the right stop, I found the side street and I checked into my first hostel. To many, that would have been a very small and somewhat insignificant feat. But not to me. I&#8217;d survived the first part of my trip.

If I could get from A to B, I could get myself all the way to Z!

I assumed that feeling would go away once I settled into backpacking, but it didn&#8217;t. I beamed with pride every time I found the right platform in the train station. I beamed with pride when I successfully bought stamps from a lady who didn&#8217;t speak English. I beamed with pride when, on one sunny evening in Berlin, it dawned on me that I was completely and utterly content eating alone. Sure, there were times when I wished I was at home - miserable days where I could have hopped on a flight to Dublin without a second thought -  but those days were in the minority. 

Before I left, my sense of adventure risked being overtaken by my fear of humiliation. Do you remember in Sex and the City when Carrie moves to Paris and even though she&#8217;s fabulously well-dressed and is carrying herself with a &#8220;this-is-my-new-life-now-and-I&#8217;m-making-it-work&#8221; confidence, she&#8217;s looked upon constantly as a foreigner. A foreigner as the lowest life form. That&#8217;s what I feared would happen to me but the reality is a far cry from the caricature that is a Candace Bushnell sitcom. 

I learned &#8216;hello&#8217;, &#8216;please&#8217; and &#8216;thank you&#8217; in the native language of every country I visited; Spanish, German, Austrian (that doesn&#8217;t actually exist, I know, but &#8220;Hi&#8221; in Austria is &#8220;Servus&#8221;,  not &#8220;Guten Tag&#8221; like in Germany), French, Italian, Croatian, Bosnian, Hungarian, Czech and Polish. A friend told me that I wouldn&#8217;t learn any languages while I was away &#8220;because everyone speaks English&#8221;. He was right. But wouldn&#8217;t you be appreciative of someone who&#8217;d made the effort to learn a few words than none at all? I&#8217;d like to think I was received more warmly by locals than my counterparts who adopted the &#8220;keep speaking English but louder and slower&#8221; approach to communication.

I haven&#8217;t picked a favourite place. I had different experiences in every city I visited and I&#8217;d feel oddly disloyal to them if I singled one out. But I suspect that when I go back to work and we&#8217;ve wrapped a particularly stressful show, I&#8217;ll find myself daydreaming about a specific time and place and I&#8217;ll know then that that was my favourite. 

I knew two weeks ago that I was ready to come home. I wrote about the turning point. It was the morning when I woke up and the guy in the bed across from me had gone to sleep with no boxers on. Waking up to *that* marked the moment when I knew I was ready to leave. I had seven cities left on my &#8220;To See&#8221; list, and I was going to visit four of them. Then, I was going to get the hell out of Dodge. 

And now here I am. I didn&#8217;t get to the last three cities on my list. Instead I&#8217;ve chosen to spend my last week of freedom meeting up with family and friends, sleeping in my own bed (privacy, sweet privacy!), catching up on the news and, more importantly, Orange Is The New Black. But one thing&#8217;s for certain, my trip has made me realise how big the world is and how much there is still to see. I&#8217;m only 26, but going on a solo, three-month jaunt around Europe was the best decision I&#8217;ve ever made.

I remember telling people in work that I wouldn’t be there the next week to follow up on various projects.

"I’m heading away for three months. Where? Oh, I’m starting in Spain and I’ll figure it out from there, I guess."

Even as I said the words, I couldn’t picture myself in Spain. I couldn’t picture myself on my own in a hostel, eating strange foods, sleeping in a room with nine other people, not going to work every day, sight-seeing and meeting new people.

Usually a very organised person, I didn’t pack for my trip until the night before I was due to leave. Because the idea of the trip was so foreign to me, I couldn’t prepare for it properly, or rather I felt I didn’t need to.

"What if I get homesick? What if I don’t like it? I wanted to leave the Gaeltacht early for God’s sake!"

I was so frightened. But thankfully, that didn’t last.

I remember beaming with pride when I managed to get from the airport in Seville to my hostel in the city centre, without the help of a taxi. I got on the bus, I bought a ticket, I got off at the right stop, I found the side street and I checked into my first hostel. To many, that would have been a very small and somewhat insignificant feat. But not to me. I’d survived the first part of my trip.

If I could get from A to B, I could get myself all the way to Z!

I assumed that feeling would go away once I settled into backpacking, but it didn’t. I beamed with pride every time I found the right platform in the train station. I beamed with pride when I successfully bought stamps from a lady who didn’t speak English. I beamed with pride when, on one sunny evening in Berlin, it dawned on me that I was completely and utterly content eating alone. Sure, there were times when I wished I was at home - miserable days where I could have hopped on a flight to Dublin without a second thought - but those days were in the minority.

Before I left, my sense of adventure risked being overtaken by my fear of humiliation. Do you remember in Sex and the City when Carrie moves to Paris and even though she’s fabulously well-dressed and is carrying herself with a “this-is-my-new-life-now-and-I’m-making-it-work” confidence, she’s looked upon constantly as a foreigner. A foreigner as the lowest life form. That’s what I feared would happen to me but the reality is a far cry from the caricature that is a Candace Bushnell sitcom.

I learned ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in the native language of every country I visited; Spanish, German, Austrian (that doesn’t actually exist, I know, but “Hi” in Austria is “Servus”, not “Guten Tag” like in Germany), French, Italian, Croatian, Bosnian, Hungarian, Czech and Polish. A friend told me that I wouldn’t learn any languages while I was away “because everyone speaks English”. He was right. But wouldn’t you be appreciative of someone who’d made the effort to learn a few words than none at all? I’d like to think I was received more warmly by locals than my counterparts who adopted the “keep speaking English but louder and slower” approach to communication.

I haven’t picked a favourite place. I had different experiences in every city I visited and I’d feel oddly disloyal to them if I singled one out. But I suspect that when I go back to work and we’ve wrapped a particularly stressful show, I’ll find myself daydreaming about a specific time and place and I’ll know then that that was my favourite.

I knew two weeks ago that I was ready to come home. I wrote about the turning point. It was the morning when I woke up and the guy in the bed across from me had gone to sleep with no boxers on. Waking up to *that* marked the moment when I knew I was ready to leave. I had seven cities left on my “To See” list, and I was going to visit four of them. Then, I was going to get the hell out of Dodge.

And now here I am. I didn’t get to the last three cities on my list. Instead I’ve chosen to spend my last week of freedom meeting up with family and friends, sleeping in my own bed (privacy, sweet privacy!), catching up on the news and, more importantly, Orange Is The New Black. But one thing’s for certain, my trip has made me realise how big the world is and how much there is still to see. I’m only 26, but going on a solo, three-month jaunt around Europe was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Beautiful Wroclaw (“vrots-wahf” - I know, nothing is pronounced how it looks in Poland!).

Seventy percent of the city was destroyed in WWII but instead of restoring it to its former appearance, the authorities decided to restore it in various styles which would showcase Wroclaw’s rich and colourful history. So, when you’re staring adoringly at the colourful renaissance and baroque facades, know that they’re all pretty new with modern builds in the back and were given another lick of paint ahead of Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1997. Despite the facades’ lack of authenticity however, the city has got an amazing history and its evident all over - from the Market Square, to the Jewish Quarter and Cathedral Island.

From above:
That’s me heading over to Cathedral Island
Two shots of an old market hall which is still in use today
The town hall and one of Wroclaw’s famous gnomes (they’re dotted all over the city, 300 of them)
Corpus Christi celebrations
B&W shot of Cathedral Island

Bad hostel versus good hostel…

This photo was taken in my hostel in Krakow, Poland. I’ve heard stories of hostel owners asking guests not to review them at all unless they’re going to give them 100pc and while this place didn’t go that far, I still found it laughable that they’d put this up. The place was awful. 

I’ve been lucky over the course of the last few months, I’ve had no real “disasters” when it comes to accommodation. I’ve actually picked some really great places. But one thing’s for certain, choosing a good hostel is like internet dating. As a seasoned dater  once told me (you know who you are), “If he says he’s 5’11”, he’s actually 5’6” and if his profile photo is a group of people, he’s always the least attractive one.” You’ve got to know how to read between the lines. 

Some examples:

Bar on site = we’re going to charge you around €3 for a bottle of Lidl bought lager (25 cent a pop) and not let you bring in any of your own

Free wifi in common areas = the wifi’s not going to work until you’re all crowded around the router at the top of the stairs outside reception 

Cosy kitchen = microwave and mini fridge (Pot Noodle, anyone?)

Activities nightly! = Loud drinking games in the common area nightly!

Towels on request = we’ll let you rent them for a non-refundable €4 

Free welcome drink = you can’t choose anything but a shot, sorry, no wine or beer

Residential area close to the main attractions = so far away from the main attractions, you wouldn’t believe it! Ssssh, don’t wake granny next door! 

And then there are the good ones, the ones that make you feel at home as soon as you walk in the door. They do the basics well and work from there. 

Some examples:

They provide you with a clean, comfy bed, warm bed linen, a towel, locker, reading light, power point beside your bed. 

They sit you down at the start of your trip with a map and recommend ten great bars and restaurants (always trust them, they’re always right). 

They make sure their common spaces are cosy enough to meet people, very important for lone travellers.

They focus on creating a chilled out atmosphere (free breakfasts, nightly hostel dinners, beers for a €1) where people can get to know each other as opposed to get drunk. But hey, if you happen to get drunk in a good hostel with nice people, all the better!

They remember your name when you’re checking out. If you’re lucky you might even get a hug from the owner! Either way, whether it’s true or not, you leave convinced you’re one day going to return and they’ll remember you again. 

Speaking of great hostels, a special mention to Earthers in Hvar, the Riverside Lodge Hostel in Berlin, Hostel Majdas in Mostar and my very first hostel (that I’ve compared every other one to since!) La Banda Rooftop Hostel in Seville.

Bad hostel versus good hostel…

This photo was taken in my hostel in Krakow, Poland. I’ve heard stories of hostel owners asking guests not to review them at all unless they’re going to give them 100pc and while this place didn’t go that far, I still found it laughable that they’d put this up. The place was awful.

I’ve been lucky over the course of the last few months, I’ve had no real “disasters” when it comes to accommodation. I’ve actually picked some really great places. But one thing’s for certain, choosing a good hostel is like internet dating. As a seasoned dater once told me (you know who you are), “If he says he’s 5’11”, he’s actually 5’6” and if his profile photo is a group of people, he’s always the least attractive one.” You’ve got to know how to read between the lines.

Some examples:

Bar on site = we’re going to charge you around €3 for a bottle of Lidl bought lager (25 cent a pop) and not let you bring in any of your own

Free wifi in common areas = the wifi’s not going to work until you’re all crowded around the router at the top of the stairs outside reception

Cosy kitchen = microwave and mini fridge (Pot Noodle, anyone?)

Activities nightly! = Loud drinking games in the common area nightly!

Towels on request = we’ll let you rent them for a non-refundable €4 

Free welcome drink = you can’t choose anything but a shot, sorry, no wine or beer

Residential area close to the main attractions = so far away from the main attractions, you wouldn’t believe it! Ssssh, don’t wake granny next door!

And then there are the good ones, the ones that make you feel at home as soon as you walk in the door. They do the basics well and work from there.

Some examples:

They provide you with a clean, comfy bed, warm bed linen, a towel, locker, reading light, power point beside your bed.

They sit you down at the start of your trip with a map and recommend ten great bars and restaurants (always trust them, they’re always right).

They make sure their common spaces are cosy enough to meet people, very important for lone travellers.

They focus on creating a chilled out atmosphere (free breakfasts, nightly hostel dinners, beers for a €1) where people can get to know each other as opposed to get drunk. But hey, if you happen to get drunk in a good hostel with nice people, all the better!

They remember your name when you’re checking out. If you’re lucky you might even get a hug from the owner! Either way, whether it’s true or not, you leave convinced you’re one day going to return and they’ll remember you again.

Speaking of great hostels, a special mention to Earthers in Hvar, the Riverside Lodge Hostel in Berlin, Hostel Majdas in Mostar and my very first hostel (that I’ve compared every other one to since!) La Banda Rooftop Hostel in Seville.

Krakow, Poland - June 2014

From above:
Sculpture in the main Market Square
Krakow on a VERY rainy day
Church (experimenting with B&W on my camera)
Street art
Empty Chair sculptures in the old Jewish Ghetto, they represent all those who were killed during WWII, leaving their furniture behind
Fire breathing dragon at Wawel