Article submitted by Helen Jones from Eurodesk UK Partner CWYVS.
Whether you're a pilgrim, escapist, collector or a self-improver (find out for yourself), to make the most of your travels, all you will need to pack is genuine curiosity! And, perhaps an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) too.
If you're eligible the EHIC lets you get state healthcare in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. It doesn't replace travel insurance but is a vital supplement to whatever insurance policy you might get. Insurance or proper planning might not be something at the forefront of your mind before you set out on a journey, filled with intrigue and exhilaration, though, even if it's a last minute trip you plan to make and you worry a card won't reach you in time, EHIC has an app nowadays and provided you take your phone with you you'll be covered.
Speaking of apps, there are a wide variety of language-learning apps you might want to make use of before your trip. I have only tried out Duolingo and it was straightforward to navigate and quite fun too! You could always be a traditionalist and favour a phrase book or dictionary instead of being glued to your devices or reliant on an internet connection. Either way, having the basics of the language spoken in the lands you plan to travel through is a wise move. Not only is broadening your language skills useful for travelling but learning a foreign language will make you smarter, more decisive and even better at English (if you're a native speaker).
So you're sort of prepared but how do you get where you're going? There are options of course, dependant on where you go, you might want to take the train, a ferry, a coach or take to the skies in a (budget) aeroplane. For many of us, a flight or a bus will be the cheapest options by a long way, but you might get lucky. Last spring, rather than take a flight from Vilnius to Helsinki I opted to take a coach through the Baltic countries (staying overnight in Tallinn) and took a ferry across the gulf of Finland. The travel costs amounted to €39 (approximately £34) and if you're not time sensitive and curious to experience more landscapes I'd say it was far more exciting than a quick flight. I'd recommend scouring the internet for best deals if money is an issue, I've had some amazing luck with thriftiness in the past (€2 (approximately £1.75) coach from Brussels to Amsterdam, €15 (approximately £13) overnight train from Amsterdam to Berlin!) but it all came down to diligent e-searching.
If you're really interested in more alternative means of transport you might want to look into hitchhiking or car-sharing. Yep, there's an app for that too, and here's a list of many, by region. A friend of mine loves Bla Bla Car and uses it regularly to travel between Brussels and Luxembourg, partly for environmental and economical reasons, but also to meet people you would probably never meet otherwise! If you're braver still you might consider hitchhiking, I met two awesome people in Lithuania, a young guy from Slovakia and an Austrian woman who both love hitchhiking. We talked about their experiences in person and I also asked them both for tips, and to share some of their experiences:
"I spent up to 3 days in a car with one person"
"The furthest I hitchhiked is from Uruguay to Brazil, 4000km!"
"I love meeting different people and different realities and recommend it!"
"Trust your feelings!"
Make sure you are sensible, be safe on the side of the road, and if possible don't travel alone.
And last but not least: enjoy the journey!