What Stunned Me About Backpacking By means of Europe

Insider’s reporter took a one-week solo backpacking journey in Berlin and Vienna, sleeping in funds Airbnbs and shared practice cabins. Joey Hadden/Insider

  • I not too long ago spent two weeks backpacking by way of Europe and was stunned by my experiences.
  • Backpacking by way of Europe wasn’t the glamorous, romantic journey that it seems like on Instagram.
  • My journey was extra exhausting than I anticipated, however I realized extra about myself than I assumed I’d.

I not too long ago took a two-week backpacking journey by way of 4 European nations, the place I slept in shared practice cabins and funds Airbnbs.

The creator sleeps in funds Airbnbs (R) and practice vehicles (L) whereas backpacking in Europe. Joey Hadden/Insider

I backpacked throughout Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland for 2 weeks. It was my first time visiting every nation and backpacking in Europe. 

There have been loads of surprises that made me notice backpacking is about greater than only a enjoyable journey, from hardships to hidden gems.

Whereas I at all times thought it gave the impression of a cool expertise, touring with only a backpack by no means appealed to me earlier than 2022.

The creator’s packed suitcase for a cruise in April 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Once I was youthful, I most popular to pack liberally with all of the outfit combos I may dream up for that good Instagram shot proper at my fingertips.

Since I started touring extra in 2022, backpacking has felt like my greatest choice to have much less stuff to fret about dropping.

The creator on her first backpacking journey to Canada in August 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

In August 2022, I spent per week backpacking for the primary time by way of Jap Canada and realized the minimalist journey fashion was way more attainable than I’d initially thought. 

So once I deliberate a two-week practice journey by way of 4 European nations two months later, I made a decision to push myself to suit every part I wanted into my backpack once more.

Sadly, I not too long ago discovered that backpacking by way of Europe wasn’t as romantic because it typically appears by way of images on my Instagram feed. However I did be taught a factor or two alongside the best way.

A girl backpacks in Northern Italy in an undated photograph. Mathieu Younger/Getty Photos

From younger adults describing their excellent hole 12 months to varsity college students recapping their summer season, “backpacking by way of Europe” is a phrase I’ve heard since I used to be a child to explain a DIY journey with only a backpack.

In these conversations, aspiring backpackers mentioned they longed for an expertise they had been assured would set them free.

On social media, I typically see epic images of an empty nature scene save for the backpackers and the turtle shell on their again with a caption about life being an journey. 

For one factor, I used to be stunned that I may match every part I wanted for 2 weeks in only one bag.

Every little thing the creator packed for her two-week journey to Europe in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Whereas I longed for extra outfit selection, I used to be stunned to search out I had every part I wanted. 

To perform this, I picked the biggest bag I personal — a 32-liter backpack — for my two weeks in Europe.

The creator’s bag packed for Europe in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

I used the identical backpack for my week journey to Canada and stuffed it to the brim, so I wasn’t certain if I’d have the ability to make it work for a extra prolonged journey. 

Then, I practiced packing as frivolously as potential — twice — earlier than I left to make sure I may match every part. My work gear and different necessities took precedence over additional garments.

The creator practices packing for her Europe journey in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

I began with my work gear, which included a laptop computer, cameras, lenses, and a pocket book.

Then I packed different necessities like chargers, toiletries, and snacks.

I additionally stuffed a packing dice with two polos, one t-shirt, one long-sleeve t-shirt, three pairs of pants, a sweater, a blazer, a costume, and two gentle jackets.

As soon as it got here time to gear up for actual, I used to be pleasantly stunned that I may pack lighter than I ever had earlier than and nonetheless have all I wanted for the longest journey I’d ever taken.

The creator will get on a practice in Italy in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Whereas I longed for extra outfit selection on my journey, I used to be stunned that I had every part I wanted regardless of packing lighter than ever. 

I additionally didn’t count on to make use of my iPad day-after-day, but it surely surprisingly introduced me loads of consolation.

The creator makes use of her iPad in a practice station (L) and in a practice sleeper automobile (R) in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Whereas on my approach to every vacation spot, I learn concerning the sights that awaited me in my guidebooks.

These books helped me determine how you can spend my time in every location and constructed up my pleasure for my upcoming adventures. 

I introduced my iPad to observe TV, learn, and draw, however since I figured I’d be spending a lot time discovering new locations, I assumed I wouldn’t use it a lot.

The creator watches TV on an in a single day practice from Vienna to Venice, Italy, in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Earlier than my journey, I downloaded books for every nation I visited. 

Throughout my journey, I downloaded a couple of episodes of my favourite TV exhibits to consolation me, which I often watched round bedtime.


However watching TV and having fun with my hobbies made me really feel extra grounded earlier than bedtime and whereas touring on trains and planes.

Guidebooks and sketches on the creator’s iPad. Joey Hadden/Insider

I used my iPad to attract cowl artwork for my band with the Procreate app, so I spent a while sketching designs for upcoming singles. 


I didn’t think about how exhausting touring to my locations can be, particularly on in a single day practice and aircraft rides.

The creator feels exhausted after a 7-hour flight (L) and an 11-hour practice journey (R). Joey Hadden/Insider

When visiting a number of areas in a single journey, I discovered the journey exhausting.

I began my journey with a red-eye flight to Berlin from my dwelling in NYC. Then I took in a single day trains to Vienna and Venice, Italy, in shared sleeper cabins. 

I assumed touring by way of the night time would maximize my time to discover, so I started my journey with a red-eye flight to Berlin. However arrived in Berlin too exhausted to maximise my time there.

The creator on an in a single day practice (L) and a red-eye flight (R) in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

I initially thought in a single day transportation can be the easiest way to journey by way of Europe to maximise my time exploring in the course of the day.

However for me, sleeping onboard flights and practice cabins amongst strangers was difficult, and I arrived at my locations feeling extra exhausted than I had hoped. 

I didn’t think about how little I’d have the ability to sleep throughout these in a single day rides. One sleepless night time on a practice even left me frantically looking for a last-minute lodge reserving in Vienna at 7 a.m.

The creator’s practice arrives in Vienna in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Once I arrived in Vienna on an in a single day practice from Berlin, I deliberate to spend my morning in Vienna, seeing the sights till I may test in to my lodge at 3 p.m.

However as I stepped off the practice, it was obvious that my physique wanted relaxation, so I had to determine the place to get it.

I didn’t count on to problem-solve as a lot as I did on my journey, however I discovered it improved my split-second decision-making abilities.

The creator arrives in Vienna by practice after a sleepless night time. Joey Hadden/Insider

Earlier than going to Europe, I deliberate every part, from reserving lodging and practice rides to mapping out the areas I needed to go to to keep away from issues.

However plans don’t at all times work out, and I needed to make fast selections, like once I arrived in Vienna. 


Once I lastly discovered a lodge in Vienna, I felt reduction and confidence in my touring capabilities.

The road the place the creator discovered a lodge in Vienna one morning in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Once I obtained off the practice in Vienna, I began going to random inns to ebook a room. By the third lodge, I obtained one. 

My journey was stuffed with issues like this, and fixing them made me really feel extra assured in my journey skills.

I additionally thought I’d be out exploring all day and night time, however my sleepless night time made me notice that downtime was simply as essential.

The creator explores Italy (L) and rests in Germany (R) in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

When visiting a brand new nation for simply a few days, it’s straightforward to pack exploration into each hour with out planning for relaxation. However with out downtime, I discovered journey wasn’t as gratifying. 

In the course of the components of my journey once I felt well-rested, I may admire the place I used to be and take within the distinctive structure and bustling environment.

The creator explores Vienna within the early night after sleeping all day in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Getting sleep additionally made me really feel extra in contact with what my physique wanted, from staying hydrated to consuming sufficient meals. 


However loads of my journey was bodily draining, which I didn’t count on. On journey days, I needed to carry my backpack for a day of exploring earlier than catching a practice to my subsequent vacation spot.

The creator boards a practice after a day of exploring Berlin in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Carrying my backpack whereas strolling for prolonged durations made my muscular tissues really feel sore. 

I wasn’t used to the burden and dimension of my backpack, which made it difficult to get round.

The creator boards a practice in Italy together with her huge backpack in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

In crowded areas, I saved forgetting that the backpack made me a couple of third bigger than I sometimes am.

In these moments, I used to be stunned to search out myself questioning if a backpack actually is extra handy than a carry-on suitcase.

The creator day goals about her carry-on suitcase whereas backpacking in Europe. Joey Hadden/Insider

Certain, a carry-on suitcase is bigger, however after lugging round my backpack all day, I felt prefer it may very well be simpler to roll a suitcase round.

Plus, I’d have extra outfits to select from. 

Giant crowds made having a backpack even tougher. I assumed touring in October — the top of shoulder season — would assist me keep away from this, however I used to be improper.

Crowds swarm the Trevi Fountain in Rome in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Within the Summer season of 2022, it felt like everybody I adopted on Instagram was in Europe. So I booked my journey for October to keep away from peak tourism season. 

However all through my journey, I stood on my tippy toes to see widespread historic websites above rows of heads obscuring my view.

From Rome to Zurich, I trudged by way of locations I didn’t count on to be overrun with vacationers.

Crowds contained in the Colosseum in Rome in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Based on SOTC Journey Restricted, a journey firm based mostly in India, Europe is much less crowded with vacationers in September and October than in summer season.

However within the fall of 2022, touring throughout shoulder season grew to become a giant pattern, Elite Day by day experiences. 

Fortunately — and surprisingly — a number of the highlights of my journey got here from quiet cities outdoors of cities the place I booked Airbnbs to economize.

The creator’s Airbnbs in Switzerland (L) and Germany (R) in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Throughout my visits to Berlin and Zürich, I stayed in small cities about an hour outdoors town heart by practice.

My tiny dwelling lodge in Germany was in a peaceable city with charming cobblestone streets.

A 3D map of Neustrelitz, Germany, discovered within the city sq. in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Once I visited Berlin, I stayed in a tiny dwelling lodge in Neustrelitz, Germany.

My lodge was a 20-minute stroll from the practice station, and I loved beginning and ending every day with a soothing stroll by way of city, the place I noticed the occasional backpacker amongst largely locals. 

On the finish of my journey, I spent two nights in a village among the many rolling hills of Switzerland, the place I noticed a stunning sundown throughout an unplanned hike. This small village was one of the best a part of my journey.

A sunlit discipline in Roggwil, Switzerland, in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

I appreciated Roggwil, a small village close to Zürich, greater than nearly some other a part of Europe I noticed.

I couldn’t assist however suppose that if I hadn’t booked this particular Airbnb, which was a 2-minute stroll from the city’s practice station, I’d have by no means seen it.

I anticipated nothing greater than a spot to sleep in these cities, so I used to be pleasantly stunned to search out that they felt like hidden gems.

Snapshots in Roggwil, Switzerland, and Nerstrlitz, Germany, in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

With so many crowds within the cities, I loved experiencing the quiet, slower tempo of suburban life whereas photographing landscapes in less-visited areas of Europe. 

I additionally thought seeing so many new locations in a short while would make them mix collectively in my thoughts, however every metropolis felt genuinely distinctive and left me with distinct recollections.

The creator makes recollections in Milan (L) and Rome (R) in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

I visited six cities and two small cities in simply 14 days, so I assumed my recollections of my European journey would begin to meld collectively after my journey concluded. 

I’ll always remember how alive Berlin felt — with its lush pockets of greenery, dramatic murals, and avenue performers — or how Vienna’s backyard mazes and fairytale structure made me really feel like royalty.

Snapshots in Berlin (prime left), Vienna (prime proper), Venice, Italy (backside left), and Zürich (backside proper) in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Berlin and Vienna weren’t the one locations to go away lasting impressions.

The canals in Venice additionally made me really feel like I used to be in a storybook, whereas Zürich had charming streets with jaw-dropping mountain backdrops.

In the end, I used to be stunned by how a lot I grew throughout this journey as a person and as a journey companion.

The creator alone in Austria (L) and together with her associate in Italy (R) in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

I spent my first week touring solo, and when my associate joined me for the second week in Italy and Switzerland, I discovered I had a brand new appreciation for touring with a companion.

I realized way more about myself throughout my solo travels than I anticipated. And when my associate joined me, having somebody to share new experiences with helped me discover and problem-solve in a brand new approach.

The creator and her associate in Switzerland in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Whereas by myself, I needed to push by way of extra uncomfortable conditions than I’d had on any journey prior.

Having somebody to share recollections with when my associate joined me in Italy midway by way of the journey taught us how you can work collectively in new locations.

Whereas it wasn’t a picture-perfect journey, backpacking by way of Europe made me notice that you would be able to’t plan out each second, and perhaps that’s a great factor.

The creator exits a practice in Venice, Italy, in October 2022. Joey Hadden/Insider

Subsequent time, I’ll let go of my expectations and plan to be stunned.