My 13 best travel experiences in Europe

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It’s a frosty winter morning here in Denmark, so I thought it would be a good day to stay warm inside and cherish some of the greatest travel memories I have stored on my inner harddisk. For me it’s not just about the destination, but as much about the way of travelling, and the people you meet along the way. After all there’s a bigger chance you meet some cool people in a hostel or while couchsurfing, than in a luxury resort. So hopefully I can inspire you to try something new… with my 13 best travel experiences in Europe:


Interrail adventures

I’m a huge fan of travelling by train and the freedom that comes with it, so for me Interrail is the perfect concept. 1 ticket and endless possibilities to design your own route through one country, or around most of Europe – whether you’re the pre-trip planner type or the take-it-as-it-comes traveller. With Interrail you have an excellent “excuse” to check out alternative cities, regions and countries you might never have made it to on a destination based holiday. Or you will have the perfect chance to explore one single country more extensively beyond its capital city. I have been fortunate to go on 3 Interrail trips since 2009, and I just wish I had done it much earlier too! It’s an amazing way to travel.

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Packed like a mule during my first Interrail experience back in 2009.


Staying at hostels

Staying at hostels might have a reputation of being just for “dirty young backpackers”, and although you might find some of those at certain types of hostels – you will also have the chance to meet tons of amazing and open-minded people. And if you have never stayed at a hostel, it might be a refreshing way to travel. Especially nowadays where the range and variety of hostels goes way beyond the stereotypical bunkbed dorms. I have been staying at everything from eco-friendly hostels to luxury hostels, better than most budget hotels, and at unique places like a hostel boat. I have even been working at hostels myself, both in West Wales and in Edinburgh, and it has giving me some of my very best travel memories, and some wonderful friends.

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Hanging out in my bunkbed, at a backpackers hostel in Edinburgh in 2015.


Couchsurfing with strangers

For those of you who are not familiar with the concept of Couchsurfing, it’s like Airbnb without any money involved. A beautiful thing where people open their homes to complete strangers, simply to help out and to make new connections. A scary thought for most people. Maybe even unthinkable. And that’s why it makes those who do it even more special. I sure appreciated it, when several people in Scotland opened their homes to my girlfriend and I back in 2015. It was after a failed voluntereering opportunity, and we were on a very tight budget. But a tough situation led us to meet some amazing people, while couchsurfing in Aberdeen, Dundee, Perth, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

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The view from the first place I tried Couchsurfing. In Aberdeen, Scotland – 2015.


Travelling with Workaway

When you’re on a limited budget but still want to travel, you learn to look for alternative options. And if you simply want to try something unique, and get a “bite of life” somewhere else on the planet, then Workaway is the site to check out. My partner and I did so back in the spring of 2015, as we wanted an escape from stressful jobs, while craving new adventures. And we got both, as we found ourselves living in a tiny village on the West Coast of Wales, just a couple of months later – volunteering at a small eco-friendly hostel. Like with Couchsurfing, the beauty of Workaway is a concept where no money is involved, as it’s purely based on hosts and live-in volunteers. “Workers” who normally help out 4-5 hours a day, in exchange of food and accommodation. And where you go and what you do is entirely up to you. From hostels to farms, from husky kennels to private homes – anywhere in the world!

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A place in the sun, outside The Old School Hostel in West Wales – 2015.


Camping around Europe

I have always loved camping. And no matter if it’s with a caravan, an autocamper or just a small tent, it gives you the freedom to move, and it often brings you to some lovely natural spots outside of busy cities. I have been lucky to go camping since I was a kid, and it has left me with some wonderful travel memories. Especially from Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France and Italy. If done with the right approach, camping is an excellent way to travel – and brings a sense of simplicity.

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Camping near the Aare River in Bern, Switzerland – 2009.


A mediterranean cruise

As a contrast to camping, I was lucky to get to try a mediterranean cruise back in the summer of 2010. Something I had never thought I was gonna try, and I didn’t really know what to expect. Cruises can have a certain reputation, and it’s naturally not for everyone, but I was positively surprised about how laid back the atmosphere actually was, and how professional everything was set up. On cruises today, the opportunities are almost endless. There is an abundance of entertainment in which to indulge (like dodgeball tournaments!), and while some have enough on the ship itself, I was excited to get a little taste of our ports of call too, like Athens (Pireus) in Greece, Kusadasi in Turkey, and the islands of Crete and Sicily. An experience I will never forget.

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I still can’t believe I was living on this thing for a week – in the summer of 2010.


Feeling home in Wales

Wales was the first place I tried to live abroad, as I moved to Cardiff for three months back in 2007. I was on my own, but was extremely fortunate to meet some lovely people, who are still great friends today. And my first connection with Wales proved to become my destiny later on, as I moved back in 2012, where I met my Spanish girlfriend. An example of how surprising life can turn out sometimes, if we go looking for those adventures. And together we were looking for adventures again in 2015, which led us back to Wales, but this time to the West Coast, where we volunteered with Workaway and made more great friends. Wales has been like a second home to me for more than a decade, and the country has a very special place in my heart.

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Wales is dear to my heart – not at least the spectacular Pembrokeshire region.


Big city life in Madrid

Growing up in a tiny village in Denmark, I think I always had a dream of trying to live in a big city one day. Not in Copenhagen, as many young Danes aim for – but abroad. Funny enough, for a long time I thought that city was gonna be Paris. A city I have been in love with since my first visit on a school trip many years ago. But destiny brought me to another city instead – Madrid, as my girlfriend is from there. I’m now in love with this amazing city too, and have been blessed to call it home for about two years in total, split between different periods. For a while we were even living right in downtown – and that’s when I realized that dreams do come true, if you’re open to let them happen.

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A rest beside the Manzanares River, after rollerskating in downtown Madrid.


Two months in Southern England

England is the third foreign country I have temporarily called home, although just for a couple of months. It was last summer (2017), as my partner and I got the opportunity to live in the Somerset city of Bath. Another amazing travel experience, that I will never forget. Bath is blessed with stunning architectural beauty, and a unique southern feel, so it honestly felt like living inside a post card for two months. Having lived in Wales, it was interesting to try life on the other side of the border, and I will always have some wonderful memories of that summer in Bath.

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Bath by night. The city I called home for two months in 2017.


Roadtrips in Spain

Like camping, a good old road trip gives you the sense of freedom, and camping and road trips are often combined with great success. Some of my best travel experiences have come in recent years, from some amazing road trips in Spain, while I was living in Madrid. The capital is conveniently placed right in the heart of the Iberian Peninsula, which makes it possible to reach every corner of the country (including Portugal) within a day. Whether it’s been for a short day trip, a weekend or a longer holiday, I have enjoyed some excellent road trips to central places like Toledo and El Escorial, to northern destinations like San Sebastián and Picos de Europa – and not at least to the gorgeous green corner of Galicia.

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Roadtrippin’ around Picos de Europa in North Spain – 2017.


Feeling the heart of Galicia

Some of my most cherished travel experiences is getting a feel of the local life, wherever it might be. To meet locals and to really get behind the scenes of a place, a city or a country. I have been celebrating the Bastille Day with a friend’s grandmother in a little French village. I have lived with people in Wales and stayed with strangers in Scotland. Just to mention a few examples. But one of the most authentic experiences I have had, and still get from time to time, is visiting my girlfriend’s family in Spain. In a tiny mountain village, in the spectacular region of Galicia. Where people speak the distinct Gallego language, and where you’re surrounded by some of Spain’s most incredible nature. It’s always lovely to be able to sit down for a home cooked Galician meal – feeling far from the world beyond the mountains.

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Happy times at my girlfriend’s Galician family.


Visiting and re-visiting Paris

It was on a school trip I first visited Paris. I was probably around 15 years old, and this magnificent city made a big impression on me. But it wasn’t before I returned several times with a friend, that I truly fell in love with the city. And since that school trip I have been back a dozen of times, and I can’t wait to go back again. Normally I’m more passionate about discovering alternative destinations, but although it’s a mighty tourist magnet – Paris just has something magical. Something difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t been there yet. I have had a ton of great travel experiences within the atmospheric arrondissements of this city, and I know there will be many more to come.

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One of my favourite spots in Paris. The tip of Ile de la Cité.


Travelling on press trips

Working as a travel writer has naturally given me some amazing travel experiences, when it comes to press trips and travelling for articles. Experiences that I would never have been able to afford on my own budet. And although travelling for work can be very hard and tiring, and even lonely at times, I’m left with some amazing memories – like travelling through Scotland by train, exploring the Isle of Man or going dogsledding with huskies in Switzerland. Just to mention a few.

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Dogsledding with Siberean Huskies in Switzerland, 2018.


SO LET ME KNOW. WHAT IS YOUR BEST TRAVEL EXPERIENCE IN EUROPE?
Please share your tip in the comments below…

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By Brian Schæfer Dreyer
www.travelooneyblog.com
www.travelooney.dk
travelooney@gmail.com

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