What am I doing?
I’m making my way across Europe with a general idea of the direction I’m headed. Currently, I’m waiting in a hostel for my 4am bus from Wroclaw to Warsaw.
How am I doing it?
One small step at a time.
Back in March, I had a boyfriend and a plane ticket to fly from Morocco to France on March 24. In the end, I left Morocco on May 10; single and by ferry. Since then, I’ve planned very little ahead of time.
How is it working?
Surprisingly well so far.
Okay so seriously, how did I get here?
Back in February, I flew from Washington D.C. Dulles Airport to Paris, France to meet my boyfriend in Nantes. The plan was to spend time with him in France, maybe get job, and also continue traveling while using his apartment as a home base.
I was in Nantes for about one week before I decided that, due to many different factors, it was a good time for me to go to Morocco. I messaged a Workaway at a language school in a town called Berrechid, got the okay to come help, and bought the cheapest flight down I could find.
I left France on February 16, arrived in Morocco on the 18th, and was in Berrechid on the 19th.
The original plan was to stay the British Language Academy for two weeks but I had such a good time that I skipped my flight back to France and stayed for six.
Following this great first Workaway experience, I wanted a second and decided to go work at a hotel in the Dades Valley. I chose this option because I got to live with a Berber family in a remote village and I figured it would be a good cultural exchange. It was also the only listing to respond.
It was a good exchange but by the end I was a bit weary of the daily language barrier and missed having the company of other volunteers.
So, on April 13 I met back up with the crew from the language school.
Back with friends, I camped in the Sahara desert and in the Todra Gorge, visited some other places, and then spontaneously decided on very little sleep to go all the way south to Dahkla with one of the boys. We started busing and hitchhiking down that morning and then ended up couchsurfing and camping further south than most Moroccans ever travel.
At this point, I didn’t have plans yet for what to do next and came up with the idea to make my way from my southernmost point in Morocco all the way to Istanbul via land (and sea) – hence my Instagram hashtag: dahklatoistanbul. This is the new goal and I am slowly making my way along.
After Dahkla, I traveled up through the parts of Morocco I hadn’t yet visited and back to a few places where I wanted to return before leaving the country.
On May 10, I finally left Morocco by taking the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar up to Spain. Here, I did a lot of cleaning and some cooking at a Buddhist retreat center for a week. I worked in exchange for free accommodation and very delicious vegetarian food.
Then, I couchsurfed in Malaga, revisited my couchsurfing hosts from last year in Granada, spend two nights at a hostel in Valencia, and made my way north to Zaragoza.
During my time in Malaga, I applied and was accepted into a program called Angloville in Prague and Warsaw – starting June 12. The cheapest bus east I could find left from Lyon on June 8 and accordingly, I started to have a time constraint. I wanted to visit a friend in Lyon rather than just pass through so I stayed only a couple days couchsurfing in Zaragoza and then went straight up to France.
From Zaragoza to Lyon by bus would have cost me much more money than I was prepared to spend. Instead, I hitchhiked my way up through the Pyrenees (beautiful beautiful drive). By hitchhiking, I met some wonderful people and even had an incredible four course neighborhood meal in a teeny tiney village in the south of France – somewhere I never would have ended up at on my own.
I stayed in Lyon for a couple of days, caught my bus to Prague, visited and rested for a few days at a hostel, and then began my program with Angloville. One week in the program, a weekend on my own in the national park between the Czech Republic and Poland, and now I am at my second Angloville week in Warsaw.
So there is a rough outline of how I have spent the last five months. The point was not to bore you with a list but to explain how I’ve gotten from point A to point B and to show how plans tend to form just as they are needed. None of my trip was planned more than a week or two ahead of time and I had no idea what would happen when I originally flew to Morocco. I thought I would stay for a month, fly back to France, get a job for a bit, and then head to India.
Now it’s four months later, I still haven’t flown anywhere, and I’m in Poland. The moral of the story is that it’s okay to plan as you go. If you want to travel but are holding back because you don’t have a clear idea of what to do, just buy the flight ticket. You’ll learn the most about areas you want to visit and get the best tips once you’re on the ground.
The other important information in my spcheal is that I mentioned Workaway, Couchsurfing, and hostels. This mix of experiences has been really important. I like hostels sometimes to meet other travelers but it would be way too expensive to stay in them every night. Couchsurfing is fantastic for getting more of a local experience but sometimes you miss the independence you have in hostels. Workaway is the most fulfilling option in my opinion but you have to be able to commit to a couple of weeks in one location.
Combine all three and you get to enjoy the best of each of them.
What about the money?
Couchsurfing and Workaway are wonderful budget-savers – being able to avoid paying for a hostel is a huge relief. Hitchhiking also helps. Please don’t automatically think this is crazy and dangerous. I have experienced incredible kindness and generosity and I swear not everybody on the road is out to get you.
I buy groceries and rarely eat out. I also drink tap water and refill water bottles. If it’s a place where the water is undrinkable, buy a huge 5 liter bottle at the grocery store and refill from there. The trick is to realize the value of your dollar and remember that each little purchase adds up when you are away for so long.
Other Technical Information
Booking flights: I use skyscanner.com and kayak.com.
Couchsurfing – I try to write to hosts at least a couple days in advance. To sort through the options easier, I choose the “active within the last week” and the “has references” filters. I also look for people who I think I’ll get along with because I think it’s better to pay for a hostel than be in a maybe uncomfortable situation.
Finding a workaway: I choose the area I’m interested in and write to many different listings in case some don’t respond or don’t need help. To narrow things down, I select the “has reviews” filter. I’ll also check the “last minute listings” sometimes because I think they are more likely to respond positively and quickly.
Booking buses: In Europe, ask around for the best websites because they change from region to region. In Morocco, I ususally avoided booking anything online and instead just walked into the local bus station.
Getting around: GoogleMaps is wonderful. They even have a feature now where you can download areas to use offline. I also use an app called maps.me. This is fantastic as well and does offline routing. You just have to remember to download the map of the country you need while you have wifi.
Couchsurfing – Stay with a local for free (couchsurfing.com)
Workaway – Work abroad in exchange for food and accomodation (workaway.info)
So there you go. That’s a little insight into what I am up to. After I finish at this Angloville, I plan to head south towards the Balkin States and do some more hiking and camping.
Is there something I left out that would be helpful? If so, let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading!