10 Things I’m Thankful For As I Travel

I’m quite used to missing Thanksgiving due to schooling or work. I always find my own way to celebrate Thanksgiving while I’m gone. Usually my celebration involves a large box of Annie’s macaroni and cheese because I can. This year I thought I would honor the holiday a bit more thoughtfully by creating a list of things that I’ve been thankful for during my trip. This list ranges from the material objects to the intangible but it’s all something that I’ve found myself being grateful for while I’ve been backpacking. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

A Nice Hostel: Choosing a hostel always feels like a crap shoot. No matter how  much research you do, you still feel like you might end up with bad lodging. Matt and I take the risk of not staying at perfect hostels in order for our trip to be more affordable. We’re thankful every time we end up with a good, safe place to rest our heads.

Support of Loved Ones: Matt and I have incredibly supportive family and friends. It would be hard to do this trip without knowing we have people back home to help us out if we got stuck and, at the simplest level, accept that we’ve decided to take this journey. This is a dream fulfilled for me. I am so thankful that those important people in my life understand why I wanted to do this and are happy for me. It gives me something to come home to because I know those people understand me as a person and accept who I am rather than scold me for taking a risk and following my dreams.

Cheap Food: Finding good cheap food can sometimes be difficult. Occasionally eating pasta is the only way to keep costs down. From time to time we’ll find ourselves in a country where good, cheap, quality food is the norm. That’s always a happy location that we’re grateful to have stumbled upon. It means not having to compromise the healthfulness of our meal for keeping money in our pockets.

Freedom of Travel: Backpacking around Europe has revealed to Matt and I how lucky we are to be able to travel. Matt and I were able to get on a plane and just go because of the good relationship between the US and EU. No visas required. No hassles. It has been a freeing experience that not everyone we met were able to say they also enjoyed so we’re thankful for the freedom we’ve experience.

Quiet, Nice, Friendly Roommates: Part of staying in a hostel is sharing close quarters with strangers. My best experiences have always been with friendly, respectful roommates. They keep their space clean and are quiet so everyone can sleep. You don’t always get good roommates as a backpacker so it’s a relief every time you learn that you’ve lucked out and the hostel gods have answered your prayers. It makes the journey that much better.

First Hand Experience with Other Cultures: It’s a great opportunity to be in another culture and experience it first hand. You can read books but it’s not quite the same. I recognize that not everyone is in a situation that would allow them to have this experience. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn about other cultures in this way.

Inexpensive Flights at Reasonable Times: Very early morning flights are doable but they are rough. Matt and I have had our share of experiences in which we must catch a 7am flight in order to be able to even afford it at all. A 7am flight often means a 3am wake up. Those days can be tough and test your sanity. When we can find a cheap flight at a reasonable hour, we are so thankful.

An Awesome Travel Buddy: When I’m down, he reminds me of the good parts of our day. When I’m sick, he makes sure that I get everything I need to feel better. By coming on this trip with me, Matt has helped me fulfill one of my dreams. While I could have done this without him, I wouldn’t have ever wanted to. Matt’s made my experience infinitely more fun and multi-faceted. He makes me think of things in ways I never have or suggests experiences I never would have considered. I’m thankful that my boyfriend and awesome travel buddy helped me create positive memories that will last a lifetime.

Good Weather: The sun doesn’t always shine but it also doesn’t always rain. We hope for sunny days. When we’ve had a few days where the rains is so bad that it soaks through our clothes while we visit the city, we are infinitely more grateful for the sun.

The Kindness of Humanity: Traveling has restored my faith in humanity. Don’t get me wrong, I see some sad, horrible things when I travel. There’s still plenty that humans need to work on. But for the most part, people are good. To be honest, Matt and I haven’t had one bad experience with people while we’ve traveled. Everyone has been helpful, courteous, and, the vast majority of the time, friendly. The world can be a scary place; it is easy to become cynical and disappointed when you hear about all the things that are happening, especially when you feel like you can’t do anything about it. But I try to remind myself of all the good people I meet. I’m thankful that I’ve been given the enlightenment that humans are generally good. It’s something I might have to work to remember from time to time but it is something worth not forgetting. It makes the world seem a bit brighter.

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The Non-Negotiables of Hostels

In all of the planning that Matt and I have done, my biggest task has been figuring out the hostel situation. As you know, Matt and I love to research. I decided to create a spreadsheet with at least three (but that wasn’t always the case) but no more than eight potential hostels for each location. Google Drive has been my savior. Check out the screenshot of my hostel spreadsheet below.

 

Google Drive is an awesome travel organizational tool!

Google Drive is an awesome travel organizational tool!

 

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty proud of the way I organized all of that information. We haven’t finalized any plans yet but I feel confident that we’ll have all the options that we could possibly need when we decide to book. Matt and I are booking our hostels about a month out for each. The only one we reserved in advance is for Oktoberfest which books fast and can get really expensive. When August 1st rolls around, we’ll start booking the other locations.

 

So how the heck did I go about picking all of these hostels? It can be a lot of information to work through. I used Hostelworld.com to research all of our lodging. Matt and I used this website when we visited London and Paris. We had a great experience with it as it centralizes all of the information and breaks it all down for you from rates to directions to amenities to everything in between. Next, I decided on some non-negotiable aspects of the hostels: 1) linen included, 2) lockers, 3) free WiFi. It’s a simple but effective list that helps cut down our options and you can have a lot of options depending on the city. As far as “linen included” goes, we don’t want to have to lug around extra sheets and blankets. Not happening. The lockers are necessary to keep our valuables safe; it is the most supreme on the non-negotiables. And free WiFi because I want to blog and have contact with my family.

 

Four other factors had major influences on how we narrowed down the hostels. The first is the rating that the place has on Hostelworld. Anything lower than a 70% rating is unacceptable. Preferably there will be lots of ratings on the hostel so that I feel it is more accurate. Next, the price. Matt did a quick budget for us before we really started to get into planning and produced a list of average costs of hostels in each city. I tried to match that number or find a lower one. Typically, I got a lower cost. Money saved on housing means more opportunities for fun stuff. Also, the dorms had to be mixed. While I have stayed in hostels and felt perfectly safe, the majority of that feeling came from the fact that Matt was in the same room as me. He is basically my bodyguard. If the hostel only provided dorms that were separated by sex, it was a no go. Finally, the location has to be prime. I want us to be able to easily access transportation and be near major attractions in order to cut down on local transportation costs.
Matt and I still need to go through all of the hostels in order to select our preferences. That will make the process even easier for us when we start to book the hostels. At the end of the day, we’ll have spent a lot of time researching and booking hostels. It’s important to me that we have nice places to stay. It will definitely affect how much we enjoy our trip as well as our trip budget and the money we have left upon our return. A lot of the hostels are quirky and interesting. I’m definitely looking forward to all the changes of scenery that I’ll experience and the people that we’ll meet.