Inter-Railing: An Experience and a Half!
Travelling is always something that people want to get out of the way when they’re younger with less pressure and lets face it, more money to burn! There are a fair few options of where to go nowadays, but the most popular are J1s, inter-railing across Europe and exploring the Middle East, Far East and of course Australia. Not having the time to save up for some crazy Thai/Australian/paradise holiday with university commitments, my best mate Ellen and I decided to travel around Europe in some farcical attempt at a fabulous European experience whilst inter-railing!
For those of you who don’t know, inter-railing is travelling around various countries in Europe with one ticket, stopping off at various cities along the way and generally acting like a crazy hobo for the duration. Ellen and I were feeling pretty confident with ourselves so we decided to go for a month ticket with unlimited stops. Oh, how naïve we were.
I’ll start by saying that the inter-railing experience is definitely not for everyone. It’s like Marmite; some love it, others…not so much. I was the not so much! It’s a fantastic experience but one has to be a little laidback for it to work in any way…and have the ability to carry a really heavy bag for a month! Anyone that knows me will tell you that I’m highly organised bordering on the uptight, especially when it comes to planning things. For months before we left, I had list, spreadsheets, massive maps, you name it I had it. Organising routes and travels over Skype with my mate was taking up major time because I was living in Budapest at the time and we were mad to get on the road. And what an experience it was.
From start to finish, we were tired, cranky and homesick. For someone like me who has never been a homebird, homesickness was a completely new experience but I imagine it was the call for a bed that wasn’t upright that enticed us home! Ellen enjoyed it slightly more than I did, only for the fact that she is so laidback she is almost horizontal; a trait I wish I possessed.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing the sights of Europe was fantastic, an experience I would repeat over and over again. We went everywhere from Venice to Berlin to Monte Carlo and pretty much everywhere in between. We got to see all the landmarks that Europe has to offer, such as the Eiffel Tower to the Florence Duomo and like all Irish people (British in my case) we burnt like no one’s business. It’s definitely a holiday I would recommend for someone extremely carefree and who never complains!
However, for me it was a complete disaster. Some days were great, others made me want to fly home straight away. We spent 7 nights sleeping on night trains, most of these in Eastern Europe and most came complete with a man fully intent on touching himself no matter who was sharing his carriage. We slept in a hostel in Milan that we are pretty sure was a brothel and were put in a dirty room with six men (two were shooting up on our arrival, one insisted on wearing only y-fronts and another cried the whole night). We spent way more money then we had hoped just to keep ourselves safe and on the last night, we had to sleep on the street…in the red light district of Amsterdam. Not so much fun.
On my own recommendations, going to see Europe is a fantastic experience but is one that should be done with a lot more money. The stress and dirtiness (trust me, showering in train stations is not fun!) is way too much for an organisation freak like me to deal with. I couldn’t enjoy myself or have a few glasses of white wine anywhere (which I’m occasionally known to do) because I was busy worrying about details, money, our passports and tickets and catching our next train. It cost me about €1200 for a month that left me stressed and made me drop crazy weight, that’s enough for a serious freaking spa break!
Inter-railing is a fantastic concept and I don’t regret doing it but I certainly wouldn’t again! So if you’re booking your tickets for an Inter Rail adventure, make sure you have bags of energy (and money!), plenty of baby wipes and loads of patience!
For the best information on travelling safely when inter-railing, visit InterRail for maps, train guides and everything else you could need!
Photo taken in Monte Carlo by Emily Maree