Planning

For years, my parents have always put an emphasis on traveling and experience over things. They've always said that experiences will last longer. For this reason, they always encouraged me to study abroad. Unfortunately for them, I decided to apply as an RA and I got the job, which means no studying abroad for me, at least not for a semester. I looked at summer programs but everything was way overpriced and too uninteresting to justify the absurd cost ($8,000 for two weeks, not including airfare, food, tourism, etc.). It was coming to Christmas/Hanukkah time and in her classic fashion, my mom was bugging me about what I wanted. I jokingly told her to send me to Europe for the summer. The crazy woman said okay (love you mom). It was my job to find tickets, plan dates, and of course plan the itinerary.

I am a month and a half away from hopping on a plane and flying to Copenhagen. As I write this, I have more days in Europe than I do before I leave. That's a terrifying prospect. Also, did you know booking 6 months in advance, you can get high season round trip tickets from America to Europe for $500? Thanks budget airlines, you're pretty cool (Norwegian Air and TAP). A 2 month global unlimited Eurail pass is a little over $1100.

I'm going to be traveling around central and eastern Europe and the Balkans. My current itinerary is as follows, though who knows, it might change. Copenhagen - Berlin - Dresden - Wroclaw - Krakow - Bratislava - Budapest - Bucharest - Sofia - Skopje - Thessaloniki - Athens & Greek Islands - Patras - Ancona - Salzburg - Vienna - Prague. Patras and Ancona are just ferry heads, not places I plan on staying long.

Most excited for - The food. Enough said. Macedonia ran a campaign called "Skopje 2014" with the goal of beautifying Skopje to make it look like a classical old European capital with monuments and statues and the like, the result of which is, as I understand, somewhat authoritarian. "There is nothing like this in any other democratic country – it is the sort of authoritarian, wildly kitsch assemblage usually seen in autocracies and despotisms. It gives the effect of North Korea without the planning; the project’s €200m (£156m) (or more, depending on who you talk to) cost borne by the state, albeit via massive borrowing" (stolen shamelessly from The Guardian). My parents went to Austria a few years ago and still bring up how beautiful it was so I am anticipating some really cool things in Salzburg and Vienna. My sister after her semester abroad said that she wished she had more time in Prague, so the back end of the trip will hopefully be just as exciting if not more so than the middle.

Most nervous for - Time. This is my first time abroad alone. I have a lot to learn and a lot of inexperience. I have no idea if the time I am budgeting for cities is too much or too little. If it's too much, what extra places can I fit in? My father suggested going to Bari instead of Ancona so I can explore more of Italy, especially the southern parts if I have the time. I'm nervous about the solidarity. I know there will be a ton of other people doing the same thing I am, but I still feel like I'll be alone. I'm probably wrong and I'm sure I'll meet some awesome people, but right now it is a fear of mine.
I'm being thrust into a new world, one of trains as transportation. I'm used to cars, rarely ever using trains. Being in a world where trains are both the norm and hectic, I don't know what to expect. I will have my rail pass, but there are reservation fees. It's going to take time to get used to the ropes. I just hope I get a hang of everything in the simplicity of the west before trying to do it all in the Balkans where train travel is a little iffier and names of cities and towns get confusing.

It still hasn't set in that I'm doing this. I don't think it fully will until the plane is in the air somewhere over the Atlantic.

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