Sam McKenna, second year Business and Management student at Bath Spa University and passionate traveller, writes about the excitements of travelling and interrailing throughout Europe, and advises how to make the best of the experience.

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Up in the clouds of El Cielo’s peak in Nerja, Spain. © Sam McKenna

NO. 1: Experience the Journey

In an age where nearly all information is available to us at our fingertips, the gap between countries and cultures seems to shrink. With the availability of low cost flights, you can arrive anywhere in the world with no real sense of the leap of cultures and environments you’ve just made.

Travelling by train, on the other hand, slows down the whole process and allows you to experience the journey for what it really is; watching the world whizz by, mountain after mountain, city after city.

By observing the moving environment through the large windows of the carriage, you appreciate the national and regional differences as they unfold before you. Interrailing brings the real spirit of adventure and discovery to travelling throughout Europe.

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A view across Lake Bled in Bled, Slovenia. © Sam McKenna

NO. 2: Fellow Travellers Become Friends

Whether you’re going alone or with a group of friends, interrailing is a fantastic way to meet new and exciting people. Most travellers, if not all, are there for the same reasons as you: to encounter new cultures, take in the sights and senses, and to appreciate experiences contrasting the happenings of their everyday lives.

No matter how you meet them, out and about, at the hostel or on the train, it’s a fantastic part of the travelling experience. It’s an opportunity to share stories and experiences on travelling as well as to discuss highlights of an area and key places to go and visit. As the travel writer Tim Cahill once said, “a journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”

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Looking down on the rooftops of the city of Rome, Italy. © Sam McKenna

NO. 3: The Scenery

Not only are trains one of the safest and most reliable ways to travel, they are also a great way to view the environment that constantly changes around you. Whether it’s towering snow-capped mountains and beautiful lakes that mirror the skies in Austria, or the man-made cities like Rome with their majestic cathedrals and bustling city-life that interest you most, you can find it all throughout the countries of Europe. The flexible travel times and routes allow you to experience all settings, may that be the sunny shores of Greece or the dramatic glaciers of Norway.

It’s not just the differences between countries that should be celebrated either; the regional differences within countries themselves can be of great impact. You can choose to travel in-depth into certain cities and parks or cover as much ground as you can, staying only a couple of nights in each location – you can go where you want, whenever you want.

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Tracing the tracks in Hallstatt, Austria. © Sam McKenna.

NO. 4: It’s Flexible and Cost-effective Travel

Interrailing offers extremely good value for your money. With one ticket, you can travel through thirty countries an unlimited number of times for up to a month; you can cut through the Alps and olive groves on trains that run quickly, smoothly and on time.

For the most part, staying in hostels is incredibly affordable due to realistic prices. Of course, some sacrifices will have to be made as comfort versus cost is the constant debate you’ll face throughout your journey. However, there are numerous countries where prices are noticeably lower – most often these are those without the Euro currency such as Hungary, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

That said, by avoiding the more luxurious hotels and sticking to the moderately-priced hostels you’ll have a greater and more fulfilling experience. It allows you to focus on the culture and life around you, not just the overpriced drinks that lie within the room’s refrigerator.

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Early November in the town of Hallstatt, already preparing for Christmas. © Sam McKenna.

NO. 5: It Changes You For The Better

A European journey by train is a real perspective changer; it truly does ‘broaden the mind’. Throughout your journey, you’ll meet new, interesting people from all walks of life and discover a variety of vibrant cultures and new ways of doing things. It’s the mix of the delicious foods, people’s colourful personalities and change in culture that make the greatest impact.

A holiday like this helps you become a more self-confident and independent person. You’ll make the best friends out of complete strangers, decide where you want to go and what to do with the time you have. It’s like being a student who’s constantly on the move, exploring the great outdoors and all the cultures and sights Europe has to offer.

You’ll be making quick decisions on where to stay, what to eat and even which country you fancy visiting for the weekend. It’s guaranteed that when you come home after your time away, both you and everyone around you will notice the difference.

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A perspective of Triglav National Park, Slovenia. © Sam McKenna.

All in all, interrailing is simplicity itself. Whatever your age and whatever style of traveller you are, you’ll love the sense of freedom and true independence; the adventure away from home. So go, get out there! As Mark Twain once said:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

For more information on interrailing visit their website.

Words by Sam McKenna

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