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Wow, how is this my 14th month away? It genuinely feels like yesterday that I left my job and packed my life into a backpack, hoping to make money while travelling with my laptop.
BTW – I started this series when I began working online and travelling full-time in May 2018. Read my other monthly round-ups here.
What happened in month 14, July ’19?
It’s been pretty pivotal: I finally said goodbye to my beloved Asia after 13 months living and working there. It’s still not properly hit me yet. During the first half of July, I was busy catching up on work that I’d neglected while in South Korea and Taiwan the month before, while also planning for my Eastern Europe backpack trip. The second half of the month was spent on said backpacking trip.
Those things would keep anyone distracted so I haven’t spent too much time mourning for Asia. But with each day that goes past, I realise there’s a little Asia-shaped hole in my heart that’s getting bigger. From the friendly people to the fresh, spicy food and the calm in the midst of the chaos, there’s nowhere quite like it.
A final brush with Hanoi
When I decided to leave Asia, I knew I needed one more trip to Vietnam. Hanoi is my favourite place thanks to the charming Old Quarter, the abundant street food and my lovely local friends who I always catch up with.
Spending two weeks in Hanoi worked well because it gave me the chance to have a base and catch up on work between South Korea and Europe. The plan was to also catch up on blogging and sleep but 2 weeks flew by and by the time I’d finished my work, it was suddenly time to catch my flight.
Why am I in Europe?
The reason I ended up backpacking Europe is that I want to go to Central and South America. Make any sense?
Thought not. Flying from Asia to Central America isn’t a common flight route and you have to stop through somewhere in the middle, hence I decided to go home in between the trips. Flights from Hanoi to London were pricey but I ended up finding a flight from Hanoi to Germany for half the price. My sister lives there, plus there are so many places that I’ve been dying to visit in Europe, so I decided to turn it into a mini adventure.
My route through Europe
- Berlin, Germany – I landed in Berlin and had a day checking out hipster street art, rooftop bars and eating oozy burgers
- Nuremberg – I travelled to my sister’s place and we spent two days going for beer hikes, wine festivals and out for dinner and cocktails
- Prague – I caught a Flixbus over the border and stayed with my friend Kerrie for 2 days which was a lot of fun, plus I loved Prague as a city
- Cesky Krumlov – knowing that there was more to the Czech Republic than Prague, I travelled to this adorable fairytale town for 2 nights. It was totally different to Prague so it was good to compare
- Bratislava, Slovakia – I stopped off in Slovakia for 2 days, somewhere I didn’t know much about but pleasantly surprised me. Bratislava is really pretty with lovely cafes and a cheesy, potato-based cuisine that I heavily indulged in
- Romania – I’ve so far spent two weeks in Romania, visiting Timosoara which is a city in the west part of the country, followed by the Translyvania region including Sibiu, Brasov and Sighisoara. These places were so pretty and traditional and I loved visiting Bran Castle AKA Dracula’s Castle and getting lost in the myths and legends. I’m finishing the month in the capital, Bucharest. I’m happy to be back in a city as Transylvania was lovely but a bit slow and sleepy for me long-term.
Likes and dislikes about Eastern Europe
Ps – I know some of my stops were technically Central not Eastern Europe but it makes for bit of a mouthful!
- Ease of getting around! The Flixbus ran between all my stops and some journeys were as little as $5. Then there’s BlaBlaCar which is a car-pooling service that’s even cheaper
- The prices generally. Countries like Romania and Slovakia are nowhere the price of Western Europe
- The food. It’s pretty heavy with a focus on meat and potatoes but I’m down with that!
- That the hostels have kitchens so you can save money on eating out, and also prepare healthy meals if you want to.
- The fact that the Flixbus is a bit shit. Although not technically Eastern Europe’s fault, it still gave me stress while getting around. The buses always left from unmarked bays with no destination sign on the front, or randomly dropped you miles out of town in a new country with no ATMs or taxis around.
- Attitudes toward women. I noticed in Slovakia particularly that things are a few decades behind. A female tour guide made tasteless generalised comments about women, and a horrible abortion-shaming memorial at a catholic church left a bad taste in my mouth. Some of these countries are definitely behind the times where human rights are concerned but of course they’re not the only ones.
- People smoking inside! I’m constantly having to wash my hair and clothes.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed Eastern Europe and I know I’ll be back again. This trip was a good introduction and I still want to do Slovenia, Bosnia (again) Serbia, Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, see some more of Greece and visit Turkey. This wanderlust will never end but this trip has reminded me that Europe is very accessible at any age. It just isn’t as hectic or crazy as some other continents and those are the ones I want to embrace whilst I’m young!
Best meal in July
I don’t know if they count as a meal (although I’m sure they have more calories than most) but I loved these Romanian doughnuts called papanasi. These bready doughnuts that need to be cut with a steak knife are doused in blackcurrant jam and a kind of cheese sauce which is more like liquid cheesecake than actual cheese.
Not only are they topped with mini fried doughnuts, but you can only get papanasi in servings of 2. Heart attack time!
In July I was reading/watching/listening to…
Reading – Into The Water by Tanya French which someone recommended to me on Instagram. It’s a bit morbid so far but I love a mystery so I’ll keep at it. Romanian train journeys are super slow and I have no data right now, so read is all I can do!
Watching – nada!
Listening to – nada! No new podcasts this month, so please recommend me some I can get stuck into it.
Sofia, Bulgaria which is my final stop on this Europe trip. I’ve never been to Bulgaria before and don’t really know what to expect, but I’m excited to find out.
From Sofia, I fly back to the UK. I found a £20 flight but annoyingly it went up to £70 when I added baggage. Isn’t that always the way with budget flights?
I was assuming August would be a quiet month recuperating and working but it looks like I’m actually going to Devon with my family and catching up with a few friends in different cities. But that’s okay because most people I know are only free on weekends so at least I can work in the week.
I haven’t got anything booked for Central America yet but I’ll definitely head there in the next couple of months. I hope to have more answers in next month’s round-up!
Thanks for reading!
Read my other monthly round-ups here.
See you next time,