Since I announced my 2-months train trip around Europe with my mum, I’ve had a lot of questions from readers and people I speak to about it. So here are some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers.
When are you going? – From 16th July to 16th September – it comes to total of 63 days.
Where are you going? – Although nothing is concrete, we have a rough idea of cities we want to visit. Paris, Lourdes, Madrid, Barcelona, Marseille, Geneva, Zermatt and St Moritz (for the Glacier Express), Milan, Pisa, Rome, Florence, Venice, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Berlin and Amsterdam.
Why are you only going to Western Europe? – My mum hasn’t really travelled around Europe. Added to that she doesn’t speak much English or any other language means she’s not yet a confident traveller, so we are sticking to where she feels a little more comfortable.
How are you travelling? – By everything but a plane. We’re using the train from my home town of Edinburgh and all the way round Europe. I’m sure we’ll be using lots of buses and metro too and we’ll be taking the ferry home from Amsterdam to the UK. We didn’t really set out for this to be ‘no-plane’ challenge, but I really hate travelling, mum loves the train and more freedom in what we take means it’s the best option for us.
You’re not travelling on the same pass? – No. As a non-EU resident my mum is eligible to the Eurail pass which is considerably cheaper than the Interrail pass. Me, on the other hand, being a EU resident am only eligible to the Interail pass. In terms of price, mum’s 2-months unlimited pass (60 days of train travel) costs less than my 2 x 10-days in 22 days passes (20 days of train travel).
Traveling minimalist style
How much stuff are you taking? – As mentioned in my packing list, I’m taking an 18 litre backpack and a 4 litre hand bag (see it in action in this post) for a total of 22 litres of luggage space. There’s still plenty of room so I am currently toying with the idea of swapping out the handbag for a Packsafe hip pack.
Why are you taking so little? – Life is just a whole lot easier if you can travel ultra light. Getting on and off transport is easier, you can walk for longer, and pack up faster in each hotel. It also makes you more flexible – say if your train arrives early in the morning (as you tend to with sleeper trains) you can just do some sight seeing with your luggage rather than having to find a hotel or a locker to dump your luggage first. Travelling with just a small backpack is also safer as you’re not forced to leave your luggage in the luggage holder far away from your seat on buses and trains.
How are you going to survive with so little stuff? – Only having one spare trousers and two spare tops is not as bad as it sounds. If you can just spend 5 minutes each day washing your clothes in the hotel sink, you can actually do with just one spare set of clothes in the summer as I did on my 10-day trip to Spain recently. So taking two sets of spare clothes is actually more than enough. Besides the clothes, I have my toiletries, medication and stationery, what more can a girl need? I’m not taking any make up with me, but that’s because I don’t own any!
Is this the first time you are travelling minimalist? – No, I’ve been travelling ultra-light for just over a year now. I’ve done a 5-day trip to Isle of Skye, another 5-day trip around the Scottish Highlands, 9-day trip to Vienna and Brussels and my most recent 10-day trip to Spain with my 4 litre Packsafe Citysafe 100 handbag. I also did a 2-week trip around UK in spring with a 15 litre bag. Once you go ultra-light, it’s hard to go back because your eyes are opened to how easy travelling can be. If you are thinking of going ultra minimalist for a big trip, I highly recommend taking one or two smaller trips beforehand to test out your gear and fine tune your packing list.
Why don’t you take a wheeled case? Won’t they be easier to carry? – Yes wheeled cases are superb for taking the weight off your luggage but I have several reasons why I personally don’t like them:
- They have a massive desire to hit every seat along the isle of the train/plane/bus, annoying any passengers sitting in the victimised seats.
- No matter how small the cases are, you are forced to put them in the luggage holder on buses and trains, far away from your actual seat. You have to then spend the entire duration of your journey hawk-eyeing your luggage and panicking at each stop because you think someone is going to take your luggage.
- They act like a drunken idiot when you are trying to pull them over a cobbled street – loud and stumbling around the pavement – and there are lot of cobbled streets in Europe.
- They encourage you to take more stuff since wheeled cases tend to only come in one or two sizes.
You and your mum must be real close to be travel for 2 months? – Emotionally yes, but but we’ve also spent 22 years of my 32 year life living on the other side of the world from each other. Since I was 10 years old, I have lived in the UK (going to a boarding school then a string of universities) whilst my family lived in Japan. We speak to each other on the phone weekly, but we haven’t really spent any time with each other. The longest we’ve ever spent 24-hours a day with each other has been 10 days.
Aren’t you two going to fall out? – Yes. We’re two very strong minded women, who like their own spaces and never lived at close quarters with each other. Of course we’re going to fall out! But beyond falling out, with lots of patience, will come a deeper understanding of each other, deeper connection to each other and one heck of an amazing experience together. Either that or we’ll kill each other – either way, we can whole heatedly say we tried!
Is James not going with you? – No, he’s unsurprisingly not able to take 2 whole months off work to travel with us as much as I would so love him to. He will however be flying out to visit us on three weekends, which will make being away from him a little more bearable.
What about your dad? – You know, I thought I’d never say this but for the first time in my life I can whole hearted say it’s useful to have a dad that has a secret second family. My father had set up and maintained two families for decades (which I found out about 5 years ago). Although this has caused countless hardships and heart aches, my mother has turned the situation around and told him to go and stay with his other family. So that’s where he’ll be for the 3 months she is away from home.
What are you most looking forward to? – Food, art and really getting to know the woman that is my mother. I know my mother well but only in her role as my mother. I am dying to get to know the person that is behind that character. I want to know what her likes and dislikes her when she doesn’t’ have to make decision based on the fact that she is a wife and a mother. I’m also looking forward to learning about travelling for extended periods of time as it’ll be a great learning opportunity for James and mine big travel-around-the-world plan.
What are you most worried about? – Getting on with my mother, not quitting half way through, being away from James, having to do all the travel arrangement, having to translate for my mother all the time, dealing with her hatred for having to rely on anyone (this has caused us some big issues in our past travels), and getting tired of travelling for so long.
Do you have any other questions about the big trip?