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MUST-DO MISTAKES, Errors of Enlightenment, and Blunders of Wandering that every backpacker should experience while tramping across Europe


Naples, Italy: What's this extra sink for? Returning to the room to find your traveling companion doing laundry in the bidet.

Barcelona, Spain: Eating something completely unidentifiable (it possibly came from the ocean), and loving every bite of it.

Paris, France: Almost being mowed down by traffic and then getting yelled at (IDIOTE!!!) before you can even catch your breath from your near-death experience.

Kilkenny, Ireland: Traveling in a foreign country and not being able to understand what anyone is saying- even though they are speaking your language.

Amsterdam, Netherlands: Hitting it up with locals near the train station and realizing that your new friend's nickname isn't Creepy Money for nothing.

Brussels, Belgium: Indulging in the native brew (Chimay, anyone?) a little too heartily and recognizing you are not as hardcore as you thought.

Athens, Greece: Getting completely and utterly off-the-map lost and then finding your way back again, and seeing some of the best sights of your trip along the way.

Nice, France: Stepping in dog poo on an unfamiliar street and being told by a local not to worry, its good luck.

London, England: Going the wrong direction on the Underground and feeling like a complete muppet when someone helpfully points out the more-than-obvious direction signs posted everywhere.

Anywhere, Europe: Giving in and eating at a fast-food chain you normally abhor because you have no time, no money, and just want a meal you recognize. It's called McShame.

Chamonix, France: Busting it big-time in the process of learning to snowboard and ski.

Costa del Sol, Spain: Getting sand everywhere - yes, even there.

Mykonos, Greece: Being in an rental-scooter inflicted medical emergency where no one speaks your language and resorting to ouzo as a painkiller until the doctor arrives.

Naples, Italy: Comprehending that clothes washed in sinks (or bidets) don't always try overnight, and are the slightest bit heavier in the backpack as well.

Berlin, Germany: Grasping the inestimable value of earplugs and an eye mask in a hostel.

Budapest, Hungary: Surviving a whole bottle full of the tap water from a bathroom in Budapest's Keleti rail station.

En route, the World: Selling everything you own and moving across an ocean into a flat that is thirty meters square and finally admitting to yourself, your family and your friends that you have an incurable case of the travel bug. Call your mother, you won't be home for Christmas.

Interlaken, Switzerland: Jumping into a lake and realizing that glacial refers not only to the geological history of the lake but to the temperature as well.

San Sebastian, Spain: Stripping down on a nude beach for the first time and realizing that for better or worse, everyone is NOT staring at you.

On the train, Europe: Unintentionally offending someone by assuming they are American/Australian/German/Chinese when really they are Canadian/Kiwi/Austrian/Korean- didn't you see the patch on the backpack?

Frankfurt, Germany: Sprinting faster than you ever thought possible through the airport terminals, carry-on baggage bouncing wildly, boarding pass in a death grip, and making the flight.

Home, the World: Returning home and experiencing culture shock in the reverse, and realizing that, love it or hate it, home is irreplaceable. Dorothy, you were right.

Filling up your first passport and realizing that your "Places to Go Before I Die" list has only increased in length; there is a whole giant world out there and you will never see it all, but you sure as hell can try.

"Make new mistakes every day." Edward Abbee