Why I Started Traveling
I’m very fortunate that my parents got me started with traveling at a young age. In fact, I even have baby photos of me in Las Vegas, using the hotel sink as a bathtub because I was so tiny!
Over the years, my parents would take me on trips whenever their busy schedules allowed (mainly around North America), but it wasn’t until my first time in Europe that I really fell in love with traveling!
I went on a high school trip to Italy, France, and the Netherlands when I was 15, and returned 5 years later to backpack Europe for 6 weeks with a friend. Since that trip, I became obsessed with the idea of living a lifestyle that incorporated travel, and I’m very lucky now that I get to write and create travel content for a living!
My Travel Frequency & Some Of Things I Can’t Travel Without
These days I don’t travel as often as I like, but in the “Before Times”, I would probably take 2-3 short trips a month. I’m lucky to be based in Munich, which is a very central city that makes short-haul trips in Europe really convenient. Plus, living in a foreign city makes me feel like I’m traveling all the time, even when I’m “home”.
In terms of must-haves, I’m happy as long as I have my camera, phone, and laptop! On a more unconventional note, I don’t travel anywhere without a reusable spork. You never know when you might have a spontaneous meal or snack!
My First Long-Term Backpacking Trip Around Europe
When I think about where I am today, it’s safe to say that it all started with that first backpacking trip I took across Europe.
I went with one of my best friends, and it was our first time traveling on our own, without any parents or chaperones. We prepared a lot by watching as many YouTube videos and reading as many blogs as we could find on the topic, although back in 2014, there weren’t nearly as many resources as there are today. That was part of the reason why I decided to start my own blog after returning from that trip, and I guess the rest is history!
In terms of challenges, I think we were very lucky that we planned and prepared well, so we didn't encounter any huge mishaps. That said, because we were so ambitious and wanted to see as much as possible, we created a crazy itinerary that gave us 3-4 days in each place. It was well worth it, but in hindsight, it would have been smart to take things slow so we could enjoy each place more.
We also took a few overnight buses to save money, which I’ll never do again! Those commutes were definitely one of the lowlights of the trip.
Of course, there were tons of highlights - spending a week in Paris with our friend studying abroad, visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour in England, exploring historic monuments in Berlin, doing a crazy pub crawl in Prague, and sightseeing our faces off in Milan, Florence, and Rome.
My personal highlight though was getting to visit the villages of Italy’s Cinque Terre for the first time. When I was younger, I used to sleep with a postcard from Manarola above my bed because of how beautiful I thought it was, so getting to see those views in person was really special.
Cheapest Way To Travel Around Europe
Over the years, I’ve definitely learned from experience how cheaply you can travel around Europe if you know all the possibilities at your fingertips!
While trains are a comfortable way to travel, there are also tons of buses (and sometimes budget airlines) available at a fraction of the cost. There are also low-cost alternatives like BlaBaCar (for car-sharing), and even hitchhiking, for those who are bold enough!
I Love Meeting People While I Travel
When I was younger, I used to love staying at hostels to make friends, especially when I was traveling solo. This was an amazing way to meet and connect with fellow travelers. The key with hostels though is to look through reviews and find properties that cultivate a social atmosphere (through group activities and meals), rather than just being a cheap place to crash. I’ve made lots of great friends over the years at hostels, many that I still stay in touch with!
I guess one of my favorite memories about meeting people goes back to a backpacking trip I did in Bulgaria a few years ago. It was one of the first times I did a trip where I ‘went with the flow’ and didn’t have every stop planned. I ended up staying at a hostel in Veliko Tarnovo where I met a group of awesome people and we decided to travel to a few more cities together. It was so much fun that by the time the trip was over, we felt like a family.
I ended up inviting them all to visit me in Munich for Oktoberfest a few months later (thinking that they wouldn’t all be able to make it since everyone was headed in different directions), but all of them actually did. We had to squeeze 9 people total into my tiny Munich apartment, but it was an amazing time.
Countries I’ve Visited So Far
I’m not very diligent with counting countries, but I think I’m closing in on 50 countries visited. Most of my travel experience has been concentrated in Europe, so I still have a lot to see, but I’m very fortunate that I’ve gotten to explore several European countries quite in-depth, like Germany, France, England, and Italy.
Since I live in Germany, I think some of my top experiences to date have been big “bucket list events” like Oktoberfest, Karneval, and of course, Christmas Markets. I love Christmas markets and tend to visit 4-5 new ones every year. Those are always a highlight!
In terms of a bucket list, of course, I have one, but it’s ever-growing and way too long to share here, so I’ll spare you! I will say though that there’s a LOT more of the world that I have left to see.
For instance, I’ve never been to Central or South America, I’ve never been to Australia or New Zealand, and there’s still a lot of Asian countries I have yet to see. I’d also love to visit all 50 US states at some point, and every Canadian province (I still have 3 I haven’t visited!) Overall, there’s still lots to do!
Some Of My Favourite Travel Apps
My phone is filled with different travel apps, but I think the most useful ones for me are Google Maps (I star all the places I want to visit and save maps for offline use), Google Translate (I love saving languages for offline use and their instant scan option), TripIt (for organizing itineraries), Splitwise (for sharing costs with friends), and Omio (for searching and comparing all transport options from Point A to Point B).
Why I Started My Blog 'Happy To Wander'
After completing my first backpacking trip, I felt like I had picked up on so much wisdom that I didn’t find on any blogs at the time. It felt like a waste to have all those experiences and mistakes go to waste, so I wanted to find a way to share and potentially help other travelers in my shoes. Since I’ve always been a creative person who loved writing and photography, starting a blog seemed like a no-brainer.
It was all a fun hobby at first, but when I started getting messages from people saying I had helped them or their travels in some way, I started to realize the potential that blogs have to help people and bridge the gap between impersonal guidebooks and real-world experience.
These days, I write super detailed guides based on personal experience, with tips on everything from things to do and where to stay to full-on itineraries with day-by-day breakdowns. Through these free resources (and some humor of course), I hope to empower travelers to plan the best trip possible and take the stress out of the travel planning process.
How I Manage Costs When I Travel
I think managing costs comes down to setting a budget for yourself and what you prioritize most. Over the years, my priorities have shifted significantly. Back in my early days of travel, I prioritized fun experiences over comfort, so I would save money by staying in hostels, taking overnight buses, choosing horrible travel times (e.g. 6 am flights), and cooking for myself/getting groceries instead of nice sit-down meals.
These days, I’m more inclined to splurge, so I’ll cut costs by finding the best deals for all the things I want to do.
For instance, I’ll buy a sightseeing pass to save big on attractions/sights, I’ll splurge on an amazing meal at lunch (when many restaurants offer cheaper fixed menus), and eat something simpler for dinner, etc. I’ve also become a fan of credit card hacking in the past few years, so I strategically make bookings and purchases based on points and use these points for travel.
Most Memorable Solo Travel Experience
I don’t travel solo as often as I used to, but the most memorable “solo travel” experience I’ve had is still my first. One year after my backpacking trip, I scored the internship of a lifetime creating content for a French river cruise company. This summer internship brought me on board ten different river cruises in Europe (and one in Asia), which was truly the most incredible experience and one that I did completely by myself!
I was on my own all summer - taking flights, navigating from city to city, etc. often with a language barrier, entirely solo. It was a really empowering experience that showed me what I’m capable of, and helped me realize that travel content creation is an actual viable career path! I spent that summer hanging out with passengers (most of which were 60+ years old!) and learned SO much. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today had that internship not happened.
How I Balance Work & Travel
Balancing work and travel has always been a struggle for me! While travel is a big part of my work these days, I still try to prioritize enjoyment and experience above all else. After all, the freedom to travel and enjoy my life is why I became my own boss in the first place.
Depending on the season, I’ll usually devote at least half of my day to sightseeing, and then the rest to work.
In the winter, this usually means exploring while it’s light out, and then working in the evenings. In the summer, this might mean exploring early in the morning and evening (when temperatures are lower), and working inside with air conditioning during the hottest periods of the day. I’ll be honest though, the bulk of my work gets done in my downtime between trips!
Luckily, over the years, I have learned my own limits. If I’m exhausted, I don’t push myself too hard because I know the quality will be terrible anyway. In those cases, I prioritize ‘low maintenance’ tasks like photo editing, or taking short notes to clean up/expand on later when I have more time.
When you’re self-employed, there’s always work to be done, but what’s important for sanity is picking the right work for the right time, to maximize effectiveness and prevent burnout.
Lessons I Wish I Had Known When I First Started Travelling
Honestly, I wish I had known about all the free resources out there that exist to help you plan the perfect trip!
Especially these days, the Internet is full of valuable information and advice that’s 100% free - from blogs and YouTube videos like mine to social media accounts and Facebook groups dedicated to individual destinations. A little research can truly go a long way.
There are so many common travel problems (like getting scammed) that can be prevented by a quick Google search, so take advantage of it. I’m all for spontaneity in travel, but doing some research beforehand can mean the difference between a dreamy problem-free bucket list trip and a trip where you get mercilessly pickpocketed as soon as you arrive in the city (true story).
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