Planning that first trip to any new continent is quite challenging. But planning that very first trip to Europe is nothing short of an overwhelming and even traumatic experience, as that first looks at the map of the continent and you are – “hmmm now from where should I start”. Even the lonely planet for this continent is super confusing with various editions like continental europe, central europe, western europe, eastern europe, Scandinavia etc etc. Phew…
This is clearly because there are about 50 countries to choose from and just too many things to see and explore – so much so that you are clearly spoilt for choices. And mind you everything is beautiful and worth an experience / visit. Here each country has its own unique history, culture, art, cuisine, landscape, architecture and in most cases even within each country there are numerous regions and small things to experience.
So like everyone before us (who is not going through a standard tour operator but doing a trip on their own), I and my sister were ultra confused on what to do and most importantly from where to start. All we knew when we started, was that we have the first 10 days to ourselves and then the balance 8 days with my friend P who is based out of Vaals. We were to explore Western Germany, Northern Belgium and Southern Netherlands with her. The rest was upto us.
After numerous futile attempts we decided to start the trip planning by a rejection process i.e. what do we not want to see?
The first criteria on this rejection process was – we do not want to visit any place where all we will meet are fellow Indians back from home or those extremely romantic places. This removed countries like Italy, Switzerland, Spain (after ZNMD) etc from the list.
The second criteria was that since we had a very tight budget, we didn’t want to visit any of the most expensive places / cities. Hence the entire Nordic countries, France, UK etc were out of the travel list.
The third criteria was – we had to travel to our parents perception of safe countries. Since we were 2 girls travelling alone in Europe for the first time our parents were pretty closed about any country that had seen any kind of unrest in the recent past or was not much a travel destination yet. So un-willingly the Balkan countries, Greece (was having civil riots then), Eastern Europe, etc were eliminated from the list.
By now with the major deletions done from the list we were left with a few countries. From the short-listed countries we then set a prioritising criteria which was –
- We had always read and heard a lot about Prague & Vienna and really wanted to visit these cities – So Austria and Czech Republic were included.
- We wanted efficient logistics in terms of connectivity by public transport trains/ buses between various cities (as we both don’t drive). We didn’t want to add any air travel to this mix to control the costing of the trip.
- Wanted to see a mix in terms of landscapes, architecture, art, culture etc.
- Mix in terms of costing and budget. Didnt want all cities to be too expensive.
Based on the above we decided to visit the following 5 countries – Czech Republic – Austria – Germany – Netherlands – Belgium. We really wanted to visit Hungary and Slovakia too along with Czech Republic but it just didn’t all fit in with the time that we had. So that’s for another trip dedicated to Eastern Europe.
We then did an in-depth research and short listed all cities that we would like to see in these countries and mixed it with day trips to the country side and / or small towns. So within cities we saw the museums, palaces, architecture, history etc but it was the excursions to the country side that gave us an insight into the local cultures, people and the natural beauty of these countries. This also worked well as it effectively managed the pace of the trip – as city visits can be slightly hectic with a lot of things to see and do and these side trips are more for leisure and relaxing.
Tips for Travel Plan –
- Decide on your own criteria for things that you like or do not like to see and make your short list of countries that you want to see / visit. At times its easier to start with a negative list.
- Then based on the personal wish-list, time that you have and the budget, prioritize the countries that you would like to see.
- For each country keep a balance between city visits and some country side visits.
So what are you guys waiting for…. Pick the continent, set the criteria, decide and then GET SET and GO.