In the summer of 2015, Dominic traveled to 20 countries in Europe in an attempt to find his purpose. He outlined the highs, the lows, and the logistics of taking such a trip in his first piece for The Open Field. See the recap video after the jump.
I try my best to go to bed every weeknight before 10 to get my 6 hours. I always hope to dream sweet, but sometimes, my mind gets seized by nightmares. I think the worst type of nightmare involves paralysis, when someone is chasing you and you feel like you can’t move. I usually wake up sweating as the feeling of helplessness begins to fade. It’s like when a car’s wheels spin and the car doesn’t go anywhere. At some point in their post-teen, pre-thirty era, every 20 year old feels like their wheels are spinning, lacking purpose, direction, and a plan. Maybe you are in your last semester of school, a recent college graduate working a dead-end job, or an introverted complacent agoraphobe who has always followed their parents’ plan. The “what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-with-my-life-feeling” is more common than you think. Rather than wasting a decade trying to figure it out, I bought a one-way ticket to Europe in search of some answers.
Before I continue, I need to make one thing known. Traveling forever altered the course of my life. It helped me figure out what I want to have, what I want to do, and who I want to become, developing a vision for my future. Every time I close my eyes and reminisce, I fight tears back because for the first time, I was truly happy. I was 100% free, vulnerable, open, and present. With all that being said, I know I am not you. Our lives have had a completely different set of circumstances that have molded us into who we are today. But, just like you, my wheels were spinning, and I was looking for answers that no person could provide. Deciding to leave America and live out of a backpack was the best decision I ever made.
I currently work as a haberdasher in Boston’s Financial District, making custom clothing for some of the busiest gentlemen in the city. Part of my job includes overturning objections, which every sales professional needs to master in order to be successful. Besides physical inability to move, there is only one legitimate reason why you cannot travel: money.
We live in the United States of America. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I forget how lucky I am. All of us have the opportunity to write our own check and control our financial destiny. I will more than likely, work, in America, for the rest of my life. I will also, without a doubt, play, all around the world, until the day I die. If you can’t afford to travel the world, find a job, save, then travel the world. If that doesn’t seem to work, then find a second job, save double, and then travel the world. For those who think this is impossible, I have one question for you: how will you spend your 24 hours tomorrow?
And for those Millennials who have allowed me to plant a seed in their mind, I have some questions that may make it grow. Would you live below your means for a couple months if you knew it would allow you to sit crisscross applesauce in dew-soaked Parisian grass with a cheap bottle of wine whose name you cannot pronounce, gazing at the sparkling Eiffel Tower lighting up the night? Or weave in and out of traffic at over 100 mph, heading south on the Autobahn with no destination in sight? What about run your left palm along the blood-soaked limestone walls of the Coliseum. Or fall out of a plane at 20,000 feet, plummeting towards the snowcapped Swiss Alps with your eyes open so wide that you feel like your eye balls are going to fall out of your head and win the race back to earth?
There are 24 hours 1440 minutes 86,400 seconds in one day. I think it’s safe to say that there is no guarantee that you and I are going to wake up tomorrow or even make it all the way through today. I don’t mean to interrogate you, but what if life happens sooner than you think? You know, career, marriage, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. What if you wake up one morning and realize, out of the 7.4 billion people in the 196 countries in the world, you’ve only seen one culture, heard one language, tasted one cuisine?
I truly believe there is nothing worse in this world than regret. Yes, I do to remember college, and high school, like it was yesterday. But in reality, it was years ago, almost a decade in the past. Time flies. Don’t forget, you’re going to be old, wrinkly, and gray sooner than you think. All you will have is a mature mind covered by a shiny skull with a couple go-to stories. Will your grandchildren stare at you with big, open eyes, almost falling off the edge of their seats, as you tell them about the time you found their great-grandfather’s birth certificate in a squeaky, rusty, filing cabinet in the town hall of the little mountain village where he grew up? Or will you just slowly rock, back and forth, in your hardwood chair, masking regret with a never-ending sequence of subtle sighs?
So maybe that seed is beginning to sprout, but the fear of the unknown is preventing it from growing. Once I explain how easy it is to travel around Europe, that sprouting seed will bloom into rows of vibrant colored tulips that run as far as the eye can see.
The first step is buying a one-way flight to England through Wow Air. My flight there was under $300! I highly recommend flying into London because it is one of the cheapest cities to arrive in from America and there is a smooth transition from American to English culture. I do not believe in the use of travel agents. If you do your homework and ask the locals and fellow travels about about where to go and what to do, you will find your way just fine. Make sure to purchase an unlimited Eurail Global pass, which grants you the freedom to travel to and from 28 European countries by train. My three month continuous pass was $1,200. Sometimes flying will save you time, and Ryanair provides one-way flights within the European Union for as low as $20.
Always remember that everything happens for a reason, especially when you are traveling. If you miss a train and have to wait five hours in the middle-of-nowhere-France because the conductor didn’t let you on because you were American, don’t punch the train door as it departs and scream FUCKKKKK at the top of your lungs because if you didn’t miss that train, you would have never been picked up hitchhiking by your new French girlfriend. Don’t forget to pack a journal, so you can write about the time you kicked the chair out from under the feet of the 6’4″, 300 lbs. Croatian mob-owned club bouncer and woke up on the side walk with no shoes in front of the police station without getting robbed.
The last paragraph probably shouldn’t be followed up by this sentence, but I highly recommend you travel alone. In all seriousness, traveling solo forces you to interact with strangers, which automatically increases the number of international friends you make. It gives you many opportunities to reflect on the past and dream about your future. Also, your time is maximized and you will finally know what freedom feels like. Remember that rediciously good-looking French guy named Christophe who picked up Jenny’s coca cola in the train station in the movie EuroTrip? Yes, he exists. And when you do meet him while traveling alone, you can run off and temporarily fall in love, guilt-free. Spoiler alert: Matt Damon sings “Scotty Doesn’t Know” in one of the first scenes of EuroTrip. Oh ya, you must watch EuroTrip, Hostel, and National Lampoon’s European Vacation before you go. Thank me later.
Let’s quickly talk about two basic survival needs, food and water. Breakfast can consist of an espresso and pastry. Any type of meat, cheese, and bread combination will suffice for lunch. Make some local friends while exploring during the day for a chance to eat for free at night. After locking eyes, smiling, and suggesting a person take the bottom bunk, maybe they will pick you up at the train station in their home country, let you race their car on the Autobahn, refuse to let you buy any of the beer or wine, cook you a proper traditional meal, and then suggest a bubble bath. If you are on a budget, your best bet is to eat food from the grocery store. When you do decide to eat out, I suggest asking at least five locals where you should eat, and then go with whatever spot is most recommended. I drank tap water in every single country except Greece and survived, so you should too.
I cannot stress this enough: stay at hostels. I met some of the greatest people in the world at hostels. Some of these people have turned into friends that I still talk to this day. We explored, partied, laughed, cried, and pondered. If you meet someone interesting, become their Facebook friend, and I guarantee, you will meet again. If you didn’t stay in that party hostel, then you never would have met that amazing Australian couple from Sydney who are giving you their house keys when you visit in the fall. There are dozens of reasonably priced hostels in every European city ranging from $5-$30 a night. They are safe and some offer free breakfast and dinner. They also provide maps, walking tours, and advice on the best sites to see, places to eat/drink, and things to do. I strictly used the Hostelworld app on my iPhone to book rooms and did so a day or so in advance. There is something magical about sleeping in the same room as different people from around the world. Don’t forget to always take the bottom bunk!
You can pay for coin laundry if you’d like, but I recommend washing your clothes in the sink. It is cheaper and there is something humbling about cleaning dirty underwear by hand. New clothes can be purchased at thrift stores for next to nothing. Prepare to find some hidden gems like the sleeveless turtleneck I found in Budapest. I’m still trying to figure out the purpose of a sleeveless turtleneck and when I do, I will certainly let you know. I do recommend buying earth-tone and blue-based clothing as it provides some versatility in your rather limited traveling wardrobe. I’d rather have wrinkles in my clothes than regrets in my life.
You do not need a phone plan in Europe and I highly recommend against it. Almost every hostel and McDonalds have free WIFI that is easily accessible. I knowww, you probably cringe at the thought of leaving your phone in your pocket for more than a minute and think I am crazy. Well I am, but, you’re insane if you’d rather look down at your two-dimensional cell phone screen than watch the burnt orange sun disappear over the sparkling Aegean Sea with your two feet lifelessly dangling off of a stone rooftop in Santorini. Please invest in a GoPro and take too many pictures and videos to document your entire journey. This was one of the best investments I have ever made and the video below is proof.
I think when you are about halfway through your adventure, it is a good time to start thinking about how you will get home. Flight prices change daily and vary between cities, so check the Kayak app every couple days. Trust me when I say, you will know when the time is right to purchase your ticket home. For some, this day will never come.
So you’ve just traveled around the world! You’ve made new friends from different continents and now have enough stories to write a blog influencing others to do the same exact thing. You are probably wondering how much money you spent. This is circumstantial based on what countries you traveled to and what activities you chose to do. For example, skydiving in Interlaken will be more expensive than a free walking tour through Prague. Eastern Europe is typically more expensive than Western Europe. How do you plan on living? Will you live on a poor man’s diet and wash it down with a cheap local brew or will you eat out at restaurants every night and sip martinis? I ate like a peasant and partied like a king and highly recommend you do the same.
If you save 12k, you can see absolutely every site, do any adrenaline packed activity, and live well for three months. This breaks down to about 4k a month, $1,000 a week, and under $150 a day. Europe can certainly be done on a more modest budget, but this projection will allow you to see and do everything you desire for 90 days.
My question for you is why will you travel? Will you do it to see the world? To finally find yourself? To better understand foreign cultures? Maybe to party every night? To become the best version of yourself? Or maybe you go because you now know that if you don’t, life will happen and you will regret not traveling until the day you die.
If your wheels are spinning and your dreams have made that sprouting seed of wanderlust blossom, then choose your destination today. Dream tonight, start saving tomorrow, and go, alone, and never look back.
I now know the power of travel and how much it can impact your life. I want you to experience the feelings of happiness, freedom, and vulnerability, that helped me grow as an individual, develop an identity, and create a vision for my life. I promise to do everything in my power to help make your dream trip become a reality. I encourage you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments. I look forward to sharing a conversation.
The more I travel, the more I realize that money is simply fuel, pockets are gas tanks, and your body is a vehicle manufactured by God, designed to collect miles of memories, not objects.
Here is to the three months, 20 countries, and hundreds of people that forever changed my life. Thank you #GoPro
Posted by Dominic Roberto on Wednesday, November 4, 2015