On Less Than A Shoe String

You’ve been writing this blog for over a year now. This blog, initally, was a means of recording your trip; it also doubled as a way of communcating to your friends and family. You aren’t big on keeping in touch, and you hope that people in your life know you well enough not to take your distance too personally (although some people might be entitled to feelings of rejection. No comment here). You thank your readers, wonder how many people still ARE reading (judging by the number of inquiries you receieved about the blog when you took seven weeks off from it, you suspect you still have quite a few), and you wonder how many more you would like to have.

A couple months ago, you left Ireland and did a five-week tour of Europe. It was time. You’ve been in Europe for ten months and still hadn’t seen anything. So off you went.

You landed in the Charleroi airport in Belgium, went up north with a friend and saw the countryside, went to the sea in Holland, visited friends in Lokeren, took a trip to Ghent, hithiked through Antwerp and up into the Netherlands, into Amsterdam. You hiked from near the airport there, deep into the city, and stayed with Janeke. Partied hard, saw a Simply Red concert, saw the tulips in bloom, and finally departed for Berlin. Met Rene on your way to Berlin—the truck driver who taught you German and later shared the cab of his rig with you for the night. You stayed with a woman with the 37 rats for a couple nights in Berlin. Left that city (with great difficulty), and camped outside of Dresden. Continued onto Praha, where you explored an abondoned building, stayed with a couple professional athletes and a lawyer who were excellent hosts. Had a couple great nights of drinking, talking, and later spray painting on the walls of a newly-vacant apartment. You met Miso, who eventually took you by train to the Tatry Mountains in Slovakia, where you stayed for several days, dug gravel, hammered nails, and helped he and his father build their cottage. Occupied your time trying not to freeze of starve to death, talked about the old Soviet regime, and even did a little bowling. From there, you made your way into Bratislava, spent an hour trying to sneak into a boy’s dormitory, where you slept in a chair in a room with three half-naked college-aged guys who introdced you to Dubstep. You walked out of Bratislava and across the Slavic-Austrian border. Made it to Vienna, slept on a parc bench for a few hours, and met your hosts who informed you about Austrian cellar jokes. Walked the city, saw a museum exhibit about porn, snapped a few good photos, and eventually walked three hours out of Vienna to head toward Salzburg. Got picked up by a truck driver who stopped along the way for dinner in the kitchen of his father’s remote hotel. Met Dominic in Salburg and had the time of your life! Skipped the bullshit, had a few beers and several hours of great conversation. The following night, yoru first proper beer garden experience, some free powders, a visit to the club, and more great converstation. Only to “wake up” after no sleep and rally for the beer festival that day, complete with beautiful women and men clad in leiderhosen. You got hammered again, then woke up and realized you were half-way to Munich with Dom’s best mate, Steffen. Passed 13 hours alone in Munich, under-slept and under-fed, sleeping in a bookstore, camping in Starbucks, and finally staying in Steffen’s apartment to recover. Got some good reading and writing done, departed for an agressive day of hitch hiking to Luxembourg, where you did all the touristy things, saw a flick, and rested a bit more. Visited Bethany in Orval on your trip back toward Charleroi, where you had a couple beers and a treacherous walk in through the dark woods, back to the farm. Your last day was spent at the Charleroi airport because a man took you from practically the front door of the farm to the front door of the airport. You reached Dublin, spent four hours getting home because you were too cheap to pay for the bus. Walked straight into Jane and Declan’s house and announced that you wanted a beer.

5 weeks. 9 major cities. 7 Countries. Countless new acquinatances. Old buildings, beautiful architecture. Traditional food, domestic beer. Parties, drugs. Couches, beds, floors. You exercised EVERY DAY, had a balanced diet, didn’t get sick, lost weight, gained character, and did it all for the grand total of…. drum roll
….$350. 5 weeks = 35 days. $350/35days = $10/day

That’s right. DOLLARS, not Euro. And that price tag, you would like to remind people, INCLUDED your two Ryanair flights (about $110), a hair cut ($45) euro), and art supplies ($20). Another two unanticipated expenses were: meal at Pizza Hut in Ghent, where you got ripped off ($22), and a train ticket to Bratislava ($18).

That’s $215. $135 went to food, products for hygeine, beer and coffee on occasion, and a museum entrance fee. 5 weeks = 35 days. 135$/35days = $3.85 dollars per day of NON-superfluous spending.

You told your friends what you had done somewhat causually, and now, everyone is barking up your tree to write to Lonely Planet or Rough Guides and see if you can sell it. You may not be that ambitious, but you cant certainly reveal your secrets here.

You are on another tour in Europe, this time with you r best friend Alexis. She is budget travelling Fred Mertz Style. You have decided to record, in bettter detail just how much you spent and how much you saw. So far, you are one week into your trip, and you will get your readers up to speed in a subsequent post.

But so everyone knows in advance… here are the conditions of yours and Alexis’ trip.

1)You have NO PLAN. Just dreams to camp in Spain in a hippie community.
2)You will be couch surfing or sleeping in a tent.
3)You will always be hitch hiking.
4)You have a given yourselves a budget of TEN EURO PER DAY (since you do not feel as inclinced to ride the minimum of ten DOLLARS a day, when your best mate is with you and you feel more inclined to spend money on an experience that will be SHARED with someone).

So there you have it, Dear Readers. You are about to embark on Part 2 of Maria Steven’s Blog…

Fred Mertz Meets Europe: how to travel in Europe on less than a shoe string.

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