How I Crafted and Completed a 92-Day Adventure through 26 Cities in Europe – PART I

Have you dreamed of crossing the Atlantic and exploring the beautiful continent of Europe? Are you ready for an adventure? Maybe you just want to see a city or two? Wherever your passion for European travel comes from and regardless of how you want your trip to go, I can help.

In 2012 I quit my full-time job, along with my girlfriend at the time, saved up money and planned out a route to travel through 26 different cities in Europe over 92 days. It took planning, it took guts, and it might have taken a little stupidity considering I left my bills and responsibilities behind to craft and complete the trip of a lifetime.

Over the course of a few weeks or months, I plan to bring you the details of my entire adventure, and, most importantly, I plan to give you the tips, tricks, ideas, and tools I used to make this happen.

Today, let’s talk about the basics. Where do you start with your trip? How do you begin to put the itinerary together? What tools can I use to make this a bit easier?

I won’t lie: putting together a trip of this magnitude was no easy task. It took months of planning, preparation, and saving money to make this happen. However, when I first began this journey I focused only on the basics. I wanted to know and document what cities were the most important for me to see, and how I wanted to spend my time in those cities.

I started by grabbing some guides. There’s plenty of them out there to peruse, but you have to make sure you’re getting the ones that apply most directly to what you want to accomplish on your personal venture through Europe. Let’s take a look at some of the guides I looked through or purchased while I crafted my itinerary.

When I was travelling I put a lot of stock in guides by Rick Steves. He’s an accomplished traveler and an amazing guide-book writer, and his publications helped me put some structure to the wildly ambitious idea of travelling Europe when I had no idea how to put it all on paper.

I started with the entry-level Rick Steves Best of Europe.

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Rick Steves Best of Europe is a guide to get you started on choosing the cities and sites you want to see. Rick goes through the best of Europe’s top destinations. He also gives you his personal picks for sights, eating, and sleeping.

Finally, he breaks down his own self-guided neighborhood walks and museum tours right in the book! So he takes you from picking your sites to actually walking you through them.

I highly recommend that you give this guide a try, if only to save you the hassle of booking guided tours in a country or language that you may or may not be familiar with.

Give the Best of Europe a try RIGHT HERE.

After you’ve crafted the general outline of your trip, it can be very helpful to get some tips, tricks, and skills to help you combat a place that is absolutely packed with tourists and lines.

For this part of my trip I chose another great guide from Rick Steves. This one is entitled Europe Through the Back Door: The Travel Skills Handbook.

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This guide dives deep into the intricacies of European travel and how best to navigate a continent that you’re not familiar with. Here’s a look at what this guide can help you with; trust me when I say you’ll want to read every page of this handbook more than once!

  • Plan your itinerary and maximize your time
  • Pack light-and right
  • Find good-value hotels and restaurants
  • Travel smoothly by train, bus, car, and plane
  • Avoid crowds and tourist scams
  • Hurdle the language barrier
  • Understand cultural differences and connect with locals
  • Save money while enjoying the trip of a lifetime

After 30 years of exploring Europe, Rick considers this travel skills handbook his life’s work. He shares his favorite off-the-beaten-path towns, trails, and natural wonders. With this guidebook, you’ll experience the culture like a local, spend less money, and have more fun.

Pick up Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door RIGHT HERE.

Now that you’ve got some skills to show off and an idea of where you’re headed, you need to make sure you’ve got places to stay.

This part was, by far, the most difficult part of planning my three-month trip. There are so many places to stay and so many sites to book and so many reviews that range from 1-star smack-downs to 5-star triumphs. I enlisted the help of a local, small-time travel agent with assistance in booking the actual stays. I wasn’t very good at navigating foreign currencies yet and my bank was having a fit with all the international transactions.

However, I picked the places myself, and to start I sought out some help from another guide.

Take a peek at the offerings from Backpackers and Flashpackers in their guide of 500 different hostels throughout Western Europe.

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Here’s an excerpt of what to expect from this guide from the authors themselves:

Have you heard of hostels, and always thought you’d like to try one, but didn’t know where to start? This book’s for you. And it not only tells you where to start and how to start and when to start, but where to stay in 100 cities of Western Europe, all the major ones in all 25 countries, each with its own language and culture… but not so many currencies. That includes the beaches in Spain, the mountains of Switzerland, the fashion centers of France, the pub culture of England, and the forests of Germany; cities like Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Berlin, and Amsterdam, and they’ve all got one thing in common, besides the Euro currency, and that is: hostels. And these are modern hostels, all ages welcome (usually) and no curfew. What they DO have are kitchens, and computers, and WiFi, and lots of other people—just like you. Sound good? You haven’t even heard about the low low prices yet. Accommodations ARE the most expensive part of travel, after all. Hostels have long been around, of course, at least in Europe, but those were youth hostels. These are hostels for backpackers and flashpackers, their upscale urban cousins. There’s a world of difference. It’s not just Europe now, either, or just youth. It includes the whole world, and it’s a way of life. If it’s a cool place to visit, then there will probably be a hostel there by now, in local neighborhoods and staffed by local people, all with at least a working knowledge of the English language. You can easily organize a trip and stay in budget hostels the whole way the whole time now. This book will help, with complete specs and contact info for more than 500 locations, carefully selected for their quality and standards. It will also tell you the history and major attractions of each town, city and country. C U in Helsinki, or Inverness, or Rimini, or Lisbon, or… you name it.

You can grab this guide for almost nothing RIGHT HERE.

There’s a lot of info to go through, but you’ll really want to take your time in finding the ideal spot for you.

In future posts I will go through each and every one of the hostels I stayed at personally, so stay tuned and make sure to follow my blog for each of the updates. The follow link is on the right side of the page!

So, listen, there is a LOT more that goes into planning a trip of the same magnitude as mine. If you’re going for a week or two then these guides we’ve gone over are still going to help greatly! If you’re planning a trip closer to the length of the one I accomplished then I urge you to stay tuned to the blog for the next few weeks and months so I can really help you accomplish this.

Feel free to reach out to me in the comments section, follow me on social media with the links on the right side, or message me directly through this blog.

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck out there!

-Christopher Smith

 

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First Things First

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m the dork on the top right circa 2014 or so.

My name is Christopher Smith. I’ve been on the automotive service end of things for over 13 years. In 2004 I joined my local Honda dealer in Denver as a drive attendant. It was an easy job to take right out of high school and I figured I could do that until I figured out what to do with my life. Well, like a lot of people in the auto industry, I never left!

After a few months my manager allowed me to transfer down into the lube bay to start changing oil and learning some different skills. What a bore that was! Remove oil filter, remove drain bolt, reinstall oil filter, reinstall drain bolt, repeat until your head explodes.

After a few more months down in the bays, my manager offered an opportunity to rejoin the front end as an Express Service Advisor. Then, after proving myself, I was offered the position of a main shop Service Advisor and by the time I was 19 years old, I was making great money and had begun a career.

Eight years later, in 2012, I had fully polished my craft and saved plenty of money. So what did I do? Ask for a promotion? Nope! I quit! Not just to quit, however, I actually left to satiate my intellectual curiosity and travel Europe. My girlfriend at the time and I hopped on a flight to Dublin and spent the next 92 days exploring 26 different cities in Europe; from the emerald isle we landed on, through the mainland of Europe, and down to the edge of Greece.

When I returned I had learned plenty about the world and had reignited my passion for working in the auto industry and living in one place at a time; no more bunk bed dorm rooms and hostels please!

I messed around briefly with a few different dealer groups before making my return to my original auto home with Honda. I was made the Assistant Service Manager a couple of months into my new tenure and excelled. My Service Manager and I turned the department around in short time and enjoyed months and months and months of breaking records and raising the bar higher than even the highest goals imagined by our upper management team.

It wasn’t long before I was offered the position of Service Manager for the Acura store and that’s where I made myself stand out the most. The records continued, the goals fell at our feet, and Acura was a great success.

Now, after 13 years, I’m taking a step back from the industry to enjoy my love for writing, and to share my experiences and wisdom with others in my field.

I can help automotive professionals with every facet of the Fixed-Operations world; client services, financial objectives, forecasting, daily operations, processes and practices, you name it.

I’ll write regularly to get some ideas out there but I’m also available to help you personally. Reach out using the Contact field above and I’ll do my best to assist you.

Thanks for stopping by, and good luck out there!

-Christopher Smith