The 5 Worst Things About Living Out of a Backpack in Europe

by: Peter Psaltakis, WSA Business Manager

Traveling around Europe isn’t always glamorous. When Americans take trips to Europe, the idea is often to stay in a boutique hotel, eat exquisite meals, and plunder a destination’s major sites before moving on to the next one. When I’m traveling around the continent on business for WSA, I’m doing the complete opposite: I’m staying in hostels or crashing on friends’ sofas, eating cheaply (and hopefully healthily), and rarely sightseeing. Granted, I’ve been doing this over the course of 3 months on a budget that an average tourist might spend in two weeks for a comfortable journey, so I’m moderately impressed with my budget travel skills. However, even though I’m having a truly unique experience, there are 5 things I’ve realized that really irk me about living on the road:

1)      No sense of permanence

It’s a blessing and a curse. Going to a new city every few days is exciting: it allows me to see new places, meet new people, and broaden my horizons. But it’s also very difficult. Since I’m living out of a backpack, I cannot spread out my possessions without the fear of getting something lost or stolen at a hostel. It means I’ll rarely get a chance to solidify meaningful relationships with people I meet on the journey. And most importantly, it means getting into any sort of routine is virtually out of the question.

2)      Exercise

Without a sense of permanence and the impossibility of establishing a routine, one of the first things that flies out the door is physical fitness. Carrying a backpack and walking around a city’s great, but it’s a far cry from hitting the gym 5 times per week. Even if I did manage to sneak in a workout while traveling, the fact that I’d have to carry my stinky clothes around in the same bag with my clean clothes for a few weeks before getting time to do laundry isn’t optimal.

3)      Laundry and dirty clothes

No lie, doing laundry on the road sucks. Not only are European washing machines significantly smaller than their American counterparts, but they also take about twice as long to complete a load. Then there’s the issue of drying: in some European countries, there’s a tendency to hang-dry clothes and coming across a dryer is like striking gold. Thus, whenever I need to have a proper laundry day, it requires me to properly budget my time so that I’m not sticking soggy jeans and underwear back into my backpack the next morning before hitting the road again.

4)      SIM cards and roaming charges

Pay as you go SIM cards are pretty affordable and easily attainable at phone, electronics, and convenience stores across Europe. However, they’re a real pain to use whenever you cross into another country because of the international roaming fees that get tacked on and quickly drain your credit. This is especially true with data use, which is a surefire method for clearing your account balance if you forget to hit “disable roaming” on your phone’s settings.

5)      Hostels

Hostels are great for meeting likeminded travelers, picking up a drinking buddy in a new city, and resting your head for cheap. But unless you’re the world’s soundest sleeper, they often suck if all you want is a quiet night’s sleep after a long day of work. I’m almost convinced that there’s a universal rule in hostels: for every one night of solid sleep you get, you’ll have two more nights of sleep interrupted by drunk Australians on holiday in the middle of the night.



Lauren Wallender, Elon University

Happy Backpackers

I definitely have WSA to thank for my exceptional experience in Amsterdam. One would think 4 days isn't enough to tour a city but WSA facilitated an optimum weekend full of sightseeing and fun. Amsterdam may have a notorious reputation for its lax drug and sex culture but there’s so much more to the city. Luckily, our tour guide, Arthur, native to the Netherlands, steered us away from the tourist traps and showed us around his beloved city, highlighting all of its gems. I'd definitely like to try other WSA trips in the future. It's hassle free traveling with an awesome itinerary - nice that the tour guides are flexible with the schedule and willing to cater the itinerary to the group's interest! Highly recommend WSA to any student with only a weekend to see a city.

Lauren Wallender, Elon University ~ Fall 2014

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