Monday, July 27, 2009

prelude : europe on a shoestring

Tonnes of stories and even more pictures to sort. Still trying to gain back the sleep lost from the long distance flights and inter-city travels, finish unpacking luggage and do a post-mortem. Waiting for final statement from my phone.

Europe expenses recorded, remaining coins bagged, laundry done, Maxis roaming deactivated, CouchSurfing profile photo uploaded, Facebook status updated.

Now that I'm back in Tokyo, I can sit down to properly write about how all these began. I figured since I'm still relishing the memories of my trip, I might as well pen these down so that I can better convey the experiences I went through. The baking class, Ponyo experiment, classical concerts and others will have to wait.

When I lost my job, one of the first things that I thought about was to go traveling. I had already done Australia as a treat to myself after surviving my 1st year in Tokyo and 1 week was the longest I could take off from work then. I knew if I wanted to do a longer trip, it would have to be in between jobs.

Since my brother had a work assignment in UK that time, I thought I should visit him and go travel together as siblings. He had previous postings to Cyprus and Dubai before, both of which I've never been to. I was quite envious of the fact that even though he wasn't a travel addict like me he got to visit continents new to me.

However, due to the sudden notice, there was not enough time to plan a proper trip. His assignment only lasted for a few more weeks after that. In the end I postponed the thought because I felt guilty for wanting to travel when I should be looking for a job.

I gave myself 3 months initially. Then I extended it so that I could take the JLPT exam in early July. With that in mind, I would study hard for the exam, taking up a few part-time jobs while searching for a proper one. Then later reward myself after the test and before going back to work.

Many things happened in between, plus dozens of emails back and forth with travel agents on the various travel arrangements, and finally my housemate and I decided on the date for the trip, which was to be a couple of days after the test. This left us only a month to prepare for the test and plan for our first trip to Europe.

Since both of us wanted to backpack and travel on a shoestring budget, we had to read up and research on how best to go around. Being summer and peak period we had to travel smart. We decided to start from the south from Italy and travel northwards to (try to) escape the summer heat.

I signed up for CouchSurfing, sent emails to people I thought would be good hosts, read up on interesting places to visit, and arranged for accommodation for our trip.

Imm was in charge of transportation, making notes of the various fares between all the cities that we would be visiting, and comparing that to getting the Eurorail Pass.

We had separate Google Documents for each leg of the trip, plus one to keep track of the flight details, overall schedule, contacts and addresses in both countries, electrical plugs and appliances, and things to do/bring/buy. I also made Google Maps for Italy and France, though both have changed somewhat after that.

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