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  • Writer's pictureDeb Smithers

Let's try Europe !

An entire new world!

While I was travelling in Vietnam, just like that, the dreaded virus hit and the entire world went into a total frenzy of fear. Countries closed and all travel came to a halt. Covid left me stranded in a village in Hoi an for a further 7 months with the feeling best described as being 'Stuck in paradise' leaving me with some of my favorite experiences abroad.

After an extended time away, I was eventually able to get an extremely overpriced return flight to Australia. I vowed that as soon as the world returned to normal and travel recommenced, I would continue with my incredible adventures again.

Working in the medical sector during the pandemic was undoubtedly a nightmare, working through long hours and always pushed to the limit with exhaustion. After 2 years of being restricted and unable to live your life as you wished, slowly countries began to open and some travel began to resume.

And with that, in a flash

I was out ..

..Gone !

After many miles of traveling throughout Asia, I had never really contemplated traveling to Europe. That direction felt a little daunting, a world away from home and a very long flight. But any further travel plans to Asia were quick to take a turnaround after speaking with a friend who had just returned from walking The Camino Frances, a pilgrimage walk from France to Spain. I was inspired by the stories of her journey and wanted to learn more about other Caminos around Europe.

I was so ready for this!

I had contemplated Canterbury to Rome, and Portugal, but I was fascinated with the history and the significance of the Camino Frances, it was the one that intrigued me the most.

A map of the Camino Frances
France to Spain

And so, with that,

I was going to Europe!

A novice middle-aged Aussie tourist.

With my backpack,

boots, 1 flight ticket,

90 days in Europe.

Girl walking with backpack through the trees and the stunning mountains.
The allure of Switzerland

I decided to begin the travels hopping around the Indonesian Islands for 6 weeks, to do some trekking in Sumatra where I had the privilege of living amongst the majestic Sumatran Orangutangs, a month in Switzerland, then backpacking through Europe, stopping to see friends in a few places along the way, before arriving in St Jean Pied De Port in France to embark on the walk that would hopefully see me conquer the French Pyrenees and across to Spain to end in Finistère. I was already wearing 'in' my boots and my backpack was packed with the skill of a minimalist more than a month before I was departing.

In Zurich, I would visit a student who lived in my homestay for some time while she was studying in Australia and we remained close, and I had promised to one day visit.

There certainly is comfort in knowing that friends are at the other end when traveling solo to a new country. I kept my arrival after my long flight as easy and calm as possible, staying in an airport hotel in Jakarta before the 4 am flight and arriving at an airport hotel in Zurich for one night. I call it getting your bearings.

I had months to enjoy Europe with no plans in place, I wanted to leave it open and decide while in Switzerland as to where my next adventures would take me.

My student was a savvy traveler and had many extraordinary stories of her own travels around Europe to inspire me further. Two days before leaving Switzerland, I had chosen my top ten destinations, had a rough plan, and purchased a 10-trip Euro pass.

note and travel pass tickets on a table. Preparing step by step for backpacking europe
Itinery completed!

Days before the flight I may have begun to panic just a little, or a lot. I stressed over the long flight and jetlag, missing connecting flights, getting stuck in Dubai, and even losing my luggage and passport. Possibly with a good reason because I remember flying abroad one time leaving my phone in the restroom before racing to board a flight, and to arrive in a new country with no phone is not pleasant. Also exiting a 14-hour train journey to turn and watch the train swiftly exit with my luggage still on board.

It's amazing how the mind can get out of control when a hint of fear begins to creep in.

Learn to enjoy the experience of fear and reservation.

Fear is healthy and it tests us to challenge ourselves.

A picture taken from the plane of the river in Switzerland while landing

The architecture of the city along the river in Zurich is breathtaking.

Read on as I tell the tales of fun and adventures in Switzerland and good fortunes in Prague. The perils and mishaps while navigating the Planes, trains, motorbikes, boats, buses, and the subway that transported me on the journey.

The serenity of Venice, taking in its enchanting qualities and charm. A floating city, with the absence of cars contributing to the tranquil ambiance.

Colorful little houses looking the canal and its boats
Burano Italy

The beauty of Florence, renowned for its timeless elegance and magic allure, rich in art, history, and architecture. The wonderful city of Rome with its many impressive landmarks and ancient ruins.

There are powerful memories of Berlin, and finally, I made it to the Netherlands, the birthplace of my grandparents. Visiting the traditional windmills, making the most of the familiar cuisine, and of course some very interesting moments in Amsterdam.

The traditional windmills of Holland.

I had to experience France, visit the Versailles Palace, Le Jardin, and the Louvre Museum. I had to see for myself what all the hype was over the Mona Lisa.

Hundreds of people in a museum waiting to see a painting of the mona Lisa
The hype of the Mona Lisa

I was excited to make it to the top of the Eiffel Tower at night and witness the breathtaking views of the city of Paris. My biggest concern in France was the thought of having to travel the underground from Paris De Norte, notorious for pick-pocketing late at night, it was the only way for me to see the tower in its absolute glory, but I was 100% sure I was not getting on any underground, late at night in Paris.

I wanted to sail the Mediterranean Sea.

Walk the 'Path of the Gods' on the Amalfi coast, snorkel around the Isle of Capri and sip limoncello cocktails in Positano.

a giant lemon filled with lemon sorbet and garnish
Isle of Capri

Of course, the last stop was arriving at St Jean Pie De Port to begin the walk to Santiago Compostela in Spain and experience the pain and the glory over the next 881 km. If I survived, I would leave Europe to travel to Nepal, Turkey, and Japan before stopping to rest in Cambodia. Every day I would pinch myself and ask, Is this beautiful life mine?

picture of a home on the river and a crysal clear reflection
St Jean Pied de Port

But not all goes to plan, especially when it comes to travel......

a cutout statue of a bull and a girl running. comical

There are memories to share so stay connected and enjoy the Travels of Europe blog. I wish that each tale will inspire at least one person to live life, and go experience this magnificent world. Embrace fear and enjoy the exhilaration of living your dreams.

You never know where

our adventures will lead us.

Blogs to follow

Camino Frances

Camino Portugues

Illustration of pink flowers

Inspirational card in a plant with a green Swiss  farm in the background

a leaf illustration

Check out the Gallery

and enjoy some of my favorite travel Pics!

1 Comment

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Nov 21, 2023


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