Thirty, Couchsurfing and Travelling in Europe

I dreamed of travelling in Europe for as long as I can remember; told myself that by the time I turn thirty, I should explore the other side of the world. So I prepared everything for this dream to become a reality; I saved, had some sidelines to earn extra money, gave up frapuccinos, cut off unnecessary expenses and saved more. I made a list of places I wanted to see, learned French language and prayed that my dream will all come to past.

Last February, I turned thirty and got a birthday gift printed in my passport, a Schengen visa! I am ready for Europe!

Having a Schengen visa allowed me to choose 26 European countries to visit. For 19 days, I covered 5 countries and 11 cities. All places are unique and charming-parks, museums, churches, houses, piazzas, buildings and iconic landmarks.

Italy was the first country I visited; words can’t describe how I love this country, its ancient monuments and modern buildings left me breathless. What made this trip la dolce vita is its magical food; I forgot my name as I devoured every single pizza, pasta, gelato and drank all welcome wines from my couchsurfing hosts.

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Pizza! Pizza!

I flew to Belgium and went straight to Ghent, a quaint city with cobbled streets, gothic churches, guild houses and a stone castle that took me back to the medieval days. The food is awe-so-delicious; waffles and fries are to die for. I also had a chocolatey affair in this small country.

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Gravensteen Castle in Ghent, Belgium

My journey continued to Netherlands where drugs are legal, bikes dominate the road and canals are countless. There are beautiful fields where colorful tulips are in full bloom, the streets are interesting that I can’t  even pronounce it. Ouderzijds Achterburgwal..what?

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Tulips at Keukenhof Gardens, Holland

My last destination was France, seeing Paris on top of Eiffel tower at night was amazing; no wonder it’s called the city of lights. I enjoyed navigating the famous Louvre museum that houses priceless collection of art.

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Mona Lisa at Louvre Museum

Every country is uniquely beautiful and has lots of things to boast about. But I realize that it’s not the destination or how many places you’ve been, it’s about the people you meet along the way that makes your journey worthwhile. The warm smiles, meaningful conversations and random acts of kindness of people made this trip unforgettable.

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Nicol and Luca, new friends in Maastricht

One of the reasons why this trip was special is because of Couchsurfing; an online travel community where a traveller looks for a host to stay a night or two. It’s more than just free accommodation but an exchange of culture, ideas, talents and more. I am blessed to have hosts who shared their couch and also took time to show me their city. They cooked delicious food, introduced lindy hop dance, taught me secrets of Italian cooking, and how to speak their language. Through my hosts, I was able to see each country on a local perspective, and I am very thankful to have known them.

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my host’s cozy bed for me

Even though I travelled solo for weeks in foreign lands, I never felt alone. During my travels, I encountered strangers who’d pop out from nowhere, the next thing I know, I have a companion circling the Colosseo, a new friend touring me in Sempione Park, a kababayan sharing her meal in Como, a local strolling me in Amsterdam, a new buddy taking photos in Keukenhof garden and the list continues.

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Sergio, my buddy for a day in Colosseo

They say Europe is best enjoyed with a lover; the overwhelming beauty of cities, elegant restaurants, picturesque towns and rich museums gives this continent a romantic atmosphere. I don’t have a lover with me in this journey but it’s good to know that I enjoy my own company. Of course, there are moments when loneliness hits me; sometimes it’s nice to have someone to hug you in a cold weather, but thank God I have a cappuccino to keep me warm and that’s enough for now. 🙂

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13 thoughts on “Thirty, Couchsurfing and Travelling in Europe

  1. Hi Carla. Got a lot of ideas from you. Buta question. Since you’re doing couchsurfing, how do you out it in your itinerary? I’m planning to travel Europe and this would be my first Europe travel. But because of strict immigration requirements I need to know if I should state in my itinerary that I’m doing couchsurfing. I am planning to stay in my boyfriend’s place as well and for sure we will visit nearby cities. Any advice for this one? Thank you very much.

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    1. Hi Hazel, I didn’t declare that I’ll do couchsurfing because the Embassy might request an invitation letter for each host that I’ll stay with-that will be super hassle for them ;p If your boyfriend lives in Europe, you can request an invitation letter to him instead. If you’ll apply in French Embassy, they will request a form called Attestation d’accueil (he needs to get it from their city hall). In Italian Embassy, he just have to send a Letter of Invitation.. Tourist (check Italian Embassy Website Forms) OR you can just try to reserve a hotel at booking.com. Most hotels allow reservations without payment. If they do, usually, they allow cancellation weeks or days before your stay – without charges. 😉 I’ll post about how to apply for a Schengen Visa (plus tips) soon! Stay tuned 😉 Thank you and good luck 😉

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  2. Looking forward on your post on how to apply for a Schengen Visa 🙂 I also love traveling, I started traveling alone to Asian counries when I was 18. I haven’t been to Europe yet but it’s my dream. I’m already saving for it. Thank you for your helpful blog.

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  3. hello. amazing travel! 🙂 i can relate with you traveling alone. Same feeling when traveling alone. Loneliness really strikes you but at the end of the day, you’re fulfilled. 🙂 uhm quick question, how did you get “round-trip flight reservation” or booking for schengen visa application? do i need to purchase a ticket at first with knowing the result of my application? i been wondering about this for some time now. and no one can help me. hehe thank you.

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    1. Hi Janica 🙂 a travel agency secured a flight reservation and scheduled an appointment at the embassy for me(for visa applications). I suggest you purchase a ticket once you have your visa.You can check my other blog about how to apply for a schengen visa 🙂 let me know if you have other questions,I’ll be happy to help 🙂

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  4. Congrats on your amazing trip. Yes, Europe is awesome. We agree about Couchsurfing too 🙂 We did our first stay with a host through Hospitality club in 2006. Next weekend we are hosting three guys from France. Hosting is also a good way to experience Europe with out leaving home and to make friends. You can just meet up or show them around – the world comes to you 😉

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    1. Thank you 🙂 I agree that hosting people/couchsurfers can somehow make you feel you’re in their country 🙂 just by talking to them, sharing experiences, culture etc.. Or if they volunteer to cook their local food ☺️

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