It’s been a while since I’ve lived out of a backpack but I’m about to do it again. Tomorrow I head out for Europe for 3 and a half weeks of visiting with friends, family and strangers. I can’t wait.
I’ll be headed back to Albania to celebrate New Years with my Albanian family and reconnect with old friends. Then I’ll be visiting my old stomping grounds in Florence while also visiting a friend there. Next up is the bike capital of the world (Copenhagen) followed by Finland where I will meet some distant relatives for the first time (who will also show me the house where my great grandmother grew up). Then I’ll head to Stockholm, followed by Oslo where I will reach my 30th country before I turn 30 in May. This trip is a little more rushed than I’d prefer but I’m currently at 26 and I like to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. So off to Europe I go.
When people hear Europe, they think expensive. When people hear a month in Europe, they think super expensive. I’ve had a lot of people question my sanity. I mean, I have developed a reputation of being a very frugal person and yet, this year has been a year of financial uncertainty for me. I bought a condo – which cleaned me out of all my savings, quit my job – with no savings to fall back on and no job lined up, and now I’m about to head to Europe for a month. This confuses many people – including myself but when God nudges, you move. And trust me, I am still a very frugal person.
God has definitely been providing for me in incredible ways this year but he still lets me work a little for his provision. It would be too easy if He just gave everything away! I try to follow his lead with the money he gives me. I don’t want to waste it but I also don’t want to hoard it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that the tighter you hold onto God’s money, the less he sends your way.
As I’ve gone through many transitions this year, I’ve trimmed my budget, tracked every penny, put every penny I didn’t have to spend into a savings account, pretended I had no savings account and continued living as if I had no money. You’d be surprised how well this works…if you can stick to it at least 90% of the time – because who can live like that all the time?
I also got a travel rewards credit card this year so I’ve had this trip floating around in my head for a while not knowing if it would actually happen (I’ve been trying to make it happen for 3 years). So whenever I buy something, I have to ask myself, would I rather have this now or Europe sooner. I almost always chose Europe sooner.
So that brings me to my trip. 6 countries and almost 4 weeks. I’m expecting to spend no more than $1300. (travel and lodging is just over $600 so I’m pretty sure it will be less but let’s not count our chickens before they hatch) Granted I saved a lot on this trip just by staying with people I know in 3 of the cities. But I’m also ok with staying in hostels because I’d rather go further than sleep better. I’ll sleep when I get back anyway. You can also trim those dollars by planning ferries, trains and layovers so they are overnight aka a “free” place to sleep.
Travel for me isn’t about how nice of a place I stay in or having all my ducks in a row. It’s about experiencing God. Being out of my comfort zone, where there is no routine and there is nothing familiar, that’s when I can feel and hear God the clearest – probably because I’m in a place mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically where I have to rely on him.
There’s something about being completely out of my element where I can’t recognize anything, I can’t understand everyone and I can’t do everything myself – in those moments, that’s when I see and feel God working. And when I travel, I’m immersed in that. I mean yes, it’s fun (though frustrating at times) but it is more of a worship experience for me. And that is why travel will always be a priority in my life. If God opens the doors for me to travel and experience him on a different level, you better believe it’s worth every penny I’ve saved.