Backpack Joyride: Inter-railing Across Europe

By Katie Duffin

For someone who can’t throw anything away just in case it might come in handy in eight years time, having to travel light for a month came as a bit of a shock to the system. Three summers ago, a friend and I spent the month of August traipsing around Europe with just an internal pass and a backpack each, and although we encountered some tricky — if not bizarre — situations, it was an adventure I’d happily do again. There’s always more to see wherever you go, as long as you’ve got an open mind.

Photos by Katie Duffin

With flights as cheap as £40 from Bristol to Amsterdam, we decided to start our journey there. After a couple of near-death cycling experiences, museum days and an interesting evening involving truffles, we headed to Berlin (the coolest city around).  There, we partied, shopped and learned about the history of Germany before riding the train to Prague; Budapest; Lido di Jeslo; Venice; Paris; Geneva; Rome. It was a hectic month, and by the end I realised I should have probably packed even lighter. Keep in mind that you will buy lots of things to take home from your travels, so you need room for them. Also, backpacks are heavy. If you’re as cocky as I was, you might think you can handle it — and it’s okay at first — but once you’ve carried your bag mil es from the train station, to the subway, to the hostel, your back starts to hurt. A lot. If you think you might not use something, you won’t. Pack the essentials, even if it leaves a bit of room in your backpack, and wash your clothes cheaply along the way.

The next big thing I learned was how to prepare for sleeper trains. They are cold. Taking a hoodie, a pair of joggers and some fluffy socks for the long journeys was essential. These trains are also extremely cramped, so I would not recommend travelling on them if you are in any way claustrophobic. Furthermore, 90% of the time they won’t have any plugs, so it’s crucial to take a fully-charged portable charger in case you get into any trouble. I can’t stress enough how important it is to always have a charged phone, in case of emergencies. On our way to Berlin, the train broke down and we ended up being dropped off by a bus in a train station we hadn’t even heard of. Thank God we had our phones to work out how to get from there to Berlin.

Photos by Katie Duffin

Although it was a brilliant month of exploring, one thing I wish someone had told me beforehand was that it’s okay not to enjoy every moment. There were times where I would really miss home and would end up feeling guilty about it. But it’s okay – there will be times where you’ll feel absolutely exhausted from all of the travelling, walking, sight-seeing and hangovers — just be kind to yourself and take some time to relax.

All in all, I won’t be surprised if I go inter-railing again soon, I’m thinking Eastern Europe next!