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Travelling Through Europe By Train

Travelling through Europe by train – it’s how it all started for me. The feeling of freedom, the joy of independence, the ability to see the world out the window, just there, right there. I was 22 when I took my first solo adventure, a summer backpacking trip that would forever alter the course of my life. That summer made me grow into the person I am today, ten years later. And when I think of that trip, I think of trains.

From May until August of 2006, I took trains across Europe. I remember the face of the man who validated my train pass that would last me for the entire summer, a flimsy ticket that, if I lost, could not be replaced. I still have it; it’s stamped May 14th, starting in Amsterdam.

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My 2017 Travel Goals

I am all about writing lists. I love making lists of things to do, places to go, books to read, blog posts to write. Whether or not I actually accomplish everything on those lists is another matter all together, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right? Actually, don’t answer that.

Anyway, last year I wrote a list of my 2016 travel goals. I knew, when writing it, that there was no way I would actually be able to visit every single place on that list, because, as I said then, I’m not a millionaire, and I’m also not a full-time traveller. Although I have spent quite a bit of time on the road, even spending a couple of years travelling continuously, at the moment I am happily based in London and I travel abroad once or twice a month. I did actually accomplish some of the travel goals I had from last year… and so, without further ado, here are my 2017 travel goals.

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Cinque Terre on a Budget

If you’ve been following my Facebook or my Instagram accounts, you’d know that I’m not hiding the fact that I fell absolutely, head over heels in love with Cinque Terre, Italy. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know – I can be quite promiscuous with my travel love. But how can you NOT fall in love with a place that looks like this, especially when the sun is shining and you have a glass of wine in your hand?

I’m still going through all of the hundreds of photos I took from my four days there last month, so I’ll be posting a photo essay soon, but I wanted to write a post about some of the logistics of getting around Cinque Terre, especially for those who are on a bit of a budget (like I was…er… always am). I had quite a few people write to me to say that they plan on visiting the region this summer, and so hopefully this guide can help, or perhaps it can help inspire you to plan your own trip there. It is one of the most beautiful places in Italy, if not the world, and I truly believe that Cinque Terre can be visited on a budget. Here’s how.

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The Little Town of Lovere

One of the reasons I love travelling so much is because of towns like Lovere. Before visiting Bergamo, I didn’t even know it existed; to my knowledge, I had never read about it or seen photos of it. And yet, when I arrived on that rainy day, it immediately spoke to me: the green and blue shutters on the houses, the cool air coming down from the mountains across the lake, the small coffeeshops in the centre of town serving afternoon espresso. It was the kind of place that made you want to stay longer, made you want to explore its streets through every twist and turn. It was the epitome of why I’ve grown to love Italy so much in the first place.

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Going Back to Copenhagen

I used to wear a Danish krone around my neck. It’s the perfect coin to do so, really – it has a hole in it already. I also kept a few spare kroner in my wallet in Canada, just because I liked knowing the extra weight came from those foreign coins, jangling around thousands of miles from their home.

This is a story about travelling, about falling in love, about growing up, and, ultimately, about going back to Copenhagen.

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Bergamo in the Rain

Because that’s the thing – we have absolutely no control over the weather (short-term, anyway, don’t get me started on global warming). When we go to book a holiday we have little to go on other than what previous years have told us. I may know that a particular season is rainier than others, but even that doesn’t guarantee that I’ll need a raincoat or umbrella.

But looking at that forecast for Bergamo, I decided to pack accordingly. “I’ll bring an umbrella,” I thought. “A pink one.”

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My 2016 Travel Goals

Because I’ve also been fortunate enough to stay in London a bit longer, I’m seeing this as an opportunity to see more of the UK and of Europe in general. It is incredibly cheap to fly to many European countries from London; with airlines like RyanAir and Easy Jet, it’s possible to fly to some European cities for less money than my weekly Oyster card update to travel around London. I don’t know what the future holds after those couple years in London, so I thought I should take advantage of the proximity to Europe as much as possible in the upcoming year. While I’ve visited a lot of the major cities around the continent, there are a lot of smaller cities and towns I haven’t seen yet. More than that, there are experiences I’d really love to have if I can.

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On Travelling and Growing Up

As I sat in the main square myself – I ordered my first glass of wine at 11 a.m., because when in Italy, you do as the Italians do – I was reminded of my first trip to Italy. It was 2006, nearly ten years ago. I was newly twenty-two years old. I had short, dark hair I had cut myself with my mother’s sewing scissors the night before I left my hometown in Canada. Italy was my sixth country on a huge, whirlwind backpacking trip through Europe: I had already been to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Germany. I was completely on my own, bouncing from one major city to the next, staying in hostels for a few days before strapping my backpack on and clutching my Eurorail pass to my chest to find another train to another city. When I think of that trip, I think of the click-clack of the destination board in the train station as it updates; I think of arriving in dark cities late at night, searching for a taxi; I think of staring out the window as the world whizzed past, watching green hills unfold in the distance, fairy-tale castles perched atop a few of them. I think of movement. And then, I think of Italy.

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The Appeal of Aarhus

I once spent a bit of time in Copenhagen… a few months, to be exact. I wrote about why I lived there – and why I love the city so much – in this post. While I spent all that time in Copenhagen, however, I never really explored the rest of Denmark. Call it naivety, call it being broke, call it whatever you want, but the fact is that I never really saw another side of the country.

Fast forward nine years, and I ended up meeting Kathrine at a travel blogging conference. We instantly hit it off and I learned she works for Visit Denmark.

“You should come to my hometown sometime!” she told me. “It’s called Aarhus.” The name rang a bell – I knew that I had met a few people from Aarhus before, and after a bit of research found out that it is known as Denmark’s second city. Only three hours by train from Copenhagen, I was a bit embarrassed that I never made the journey there while I spent time in Denmark.

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What to Wear in Russia

I have been to Russia twice – once in 2007, when I spent a summer volunteering and teaching in Yaroslavl, and in 2010, when I took the Trans-Siberian across the country. There are a few important things to note about Russia when you consider packing your suitcase: summers can get quite hot, and winters… well, winters can get very, very cold. Not only that, the cold weather can last from September to May, so it’s best to always pack a few warm pieces in your suitcase, no matter what season you visit the country in.

With the exceptions of perhaps Moscow and St. Petersburg, most of Russia dresses quite casually throughout all seasons, so if you just want to bring jeans and a few sweatshirts, you’ll be fine. I’m not exactly a jeans and sweatshirt kind of girl, so here are a few outfits I wore during my time in Russia.

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