If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, then you may remember that I had some pretty grand plans to travel after I graduated university. Well, the time has finally come! After months of browsing for cheap tickets, I finally made my trip official. Last week, I booked a plane ticket out of Canada!
I will be flying out of Canada this September. This will be my first time flying by myself; this will be my first time travelling alone; this will be my first time travelling for more than two weeks at a time; and (from the time I could fully form memories) this will be my first time outside of North America!
I’m so excited!
So, where am I going exactly?
Surprise Canadian City
Before my plane flys across the Atlantic Ocean, I will have a 24-hour layover in a Canadian city I haven’t visited before. In fact, I’ve never even set foot in this province. More details to come later, but I’m really excited to explore this new Maritime city!
After the layover, I will be taking a 5-hour flight before arriving in London, England. This will be the very first time I set foot in Europe!
I’m choosing to start my European adventures in the U.K. because I’ve read that it will be the “easiest” transition into travelling. Places around the world are vastly different, in their language, religion, societal norms, you name it. Hopefully, I’ll be faced with less of a culture shock here in the U.K. The people still speak English; their culture isn’t as different from Canada as other countries are; we even have the same Queen (though in different acting capacities).
I plan on doing some sight-seeing in London before making my way up to Scotland. Why Scotland? Well, first of all, it’s gorgeous. And second, I’ve read that it’s a great place for first-time solo female travellers: places are easily accessible; locals are friendly; and most importantly, it’s very safe.
I plan on spending about a week in the U.K. before flying to the next destination of my trip: Norway. I’ve been looking into it and flights from Edinburgh, Scotland to Bergen, Norway with budget airlines can cost under $100 CAD (less than 70 euros).
Norway has been at the very top of my list of places to explore for the past year. After I stumbled across photos of Norway’s stunning fjords, I knew I just had to come here.
I’m planning on spending the majority of my time in Norway by the Norwegian Fjords and Western Coast. There are so many amazing hiking opportunities here: Trolltunga, Preikestolen, and Kjeragbolten to name a few. I think that it would be so interesting to see how the vegetation, wildlife, and sceneries here differ from that of Canada’s. I’m hoping the snow doesn’t come early this year in the mountains and I can hike Trolltunga, one of my travel goals for 2016. The walking season for most of the hikes in this region is between May and October or June and September, so I’ll be cutting it close. We’ll see!
The Lofoten Islands, initially also in my tentative travel plans, has been crossed off the list this time. Located in Northern Norway, there seems to be so much to explore in this beautiful area. I want to be able to do it justice and spend enough time here to experience it more thoroughly. Lofoten Islands, we’ll meet on a future trip!
I’m not sure how long I want to spend in Norway yet, probably just one week. The natural beauty of Norway is incredible, but unfortunately, it’s one of the most expensive countries in the world — let’s see how quickly it eats up my budget. After my jaunt in Norway, I plan to head back to mainland Europe.
France was the first place I ever really dreamed of travelling to. It was in French class, and I saw and read so many fascinating things about this country. We learned about the different regions of France: Bordeaux is famous for its wines; Normandy is famous for its D-Day beaches and seaside cliffs; Provence, which includes Côte d’Azur (the French Riviera), is known for its sunny weather, iconic lavender fields, and beautiful beaches; and, of course, we also learned about the capital of France: Paris. I had so many romantic notions about Paris and this city was the number one place I wanted to visit for the longest time.
Now, while I still very much want to see Paris (and plan to spend a few days there), there’s so much more of France I also want to experience. Of course, I want to visit Provence and Normandy. I also want to hike along the Gorges du Verdon, the “Grand Canyon of Europe”, located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region in the southeast of France. Close by, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, a beautiful, small village nestled in the mountains, is also high on my list. I also want to explore Colmar, a colourful, fairytale-like town situated in the Alsace region in the northeast of France.
In addition, I want to try my hands at WWOOFing in France. WWOOFing stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and it basically means that you will volunteer to do farm work with a host in exchange for food, accommodation, and the chance to learn about organic farming and building a sustainable future. I love exploring Earth’s natural beauty so sustainability is a topic really important to me. I’m also hoping that living and speaking with a French family for awhile will help me to improve my conversational French.
This will probably mean at least one month in France before I head to the next destination on my list: Croatia.
Croatia has fascinated me ever since I saw photos of Plitvice Lakes National Park because, I mean, just look at its waterfalls! Plitvice Lakes in the autumn, with the changing colours of the foliage contrasting with the green moss and blue waters, looks even more enchanting. Because I don’t want to miss the peak of the fall colours here, usually around late October, I’m probably going to take a plane directly from France to Croatia. I’m seeing flights for as cheap as $24 CAD (less than 17 euros) in October!
Besides Plitvice Lakes National Park, I also want to explore the waterfalls at Krka National Park and try to swim in its lakes (I mean, I’m Canadian so cold waters don’t phase me). Wandering through the coastal towns of Pula and Dubrovnik and the fishing village of Vrboska are also on my list.
I will probably spend a week in Croatia before continuing down to Greece.
Autumn in Greece? Sure, I won’t be suntanning on the beaches or snorkelling in the warm waters, but there’s so much more to do in Greece than that — plus there’ll be fewer people everywhere! And, to be honest, I prefer cooler weather more than the mid-summer heat. I’m strange, I know.
In Greece, I plan to see the historical sights in Athens, the iconic white and blue buildings of Santorini, and the mystical monasteries of Meteora. While I’ve heard of all the sights in Athens and Santorini, Meteora came up recently on a late-night Pinterest-browsing session this past winter. Here, you will find these monasteries perched high atop cliff pillars. While the date of establishment of these monasteries is not known exactly, monks had settled here as early as the 9th century AD. I find this so fascinating!
I plan on spending about a week in Greece. From here, I was initially considering taking a new type of transportation on the next leg of the journey: ferry. After winding my way down Croatia and Greece, I could arrive in Bari, Italy and make my way back up. I had found a ferry route to Bari that took about nine hours. If I chose a room with a bed, it would cost over 300 euros, and if I chose an “aircraft type seat”, it would still cost around 70 euros. Then I looked at flights from Greece to Italy: they can be as low as $24 CAD (less than 17 euros!). Ok, I think I’m going with a plane.
Italy will be all about food: gelato every day, pizza, pasta, arancini, risotto, gnocchi, tiramisu — you name it, I’ll eat it. I’m going to eat my way through this beautiful country!
Alongside my food adventures, I may also get lost in Venice, see the historical sights in Rome, go back in time at Pompeii, and explore either along the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre. I still haven’t decided between these two coastlines; Cinque Terre seems better for hiking, but the Amalfi Coast will be warmer in the autumn. Any thoughts are welcome!
From Italy, I will be moving back up to chilly Iceland. By this time, it will probably be the tail end of November.
Iceland — the land of fire and ice. Notorious as the perfect place for first-time solo female travel, it also has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. After my countless waterfall explorations around Hamilton and Niagara Falls, I need more waterfalls. The dramatic landscapes, vast lava fields, and snowy-capped mountains don’t hurt either.
I was originally planning on visiting Iceland earlier on in my trip, after Scotland. Like Scotland, Iceland also sounds like a great place to ease into solo travel: though not the official language of the country, almost everyone is fluent in English; Iceland is extremely safe (it has one of the lowest crime rates in the world); and tourism here is all about day tours (meaning great opportunities for meeting people!).
However, the Trolltunga hike in Norway was more time sensitive; I need to get there before the snow comes. I’m also not sure if there will be as many WWOOFing opportunities in France as the weather gets cooler. In addition, I don’t want to miss the changing colours of autumn foliage at Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia.
Iceland in November or December will be a different experience than one in September: it will be colder, days will be shorter, and there will probably be snow on the ground. However, I’ve read that prices can drop to half of what they are during the summer season. This will be a big plus since Iceland is so expensive — it’s about on par with Scandinavia. I’ve also read that November to February is the best time to see the Northern Lights in Iceland. Perhaps I’ll get to see them for the very first time!
I’m planning to spend about one week here.
Back to Canada
At this point in the trip, it will probably be December. I may stop by the Christmas markets in London or Manchester to experience the Christmas atmosphere in Europe. Then from London, I will be heading back to Toronto, Canada for awhile to spend Christmastime with my family.
Looking back at the tentative route backpacking Europe I made last summer and through my old drafts that I had never finished or published, it’s interesting to see how much my travel plans have changed since. I just keep changing my mind!
What was originally gong to be a month long summer backpacking trip with a friend turned into a two month long one, then turned into a solo one, and has now turned into a three-month long backpacking trip during the fall.
While I was originally sad about some of these changes that were outside my control (read: travelling with a friend to travelling solo), I now feel really happy about my current plan. I used to have a bunch of destinations on my route that I was excited to see, but they never really felt “right”. And when I cut them out to spend more time in other places, I didn’t feel disappointed that I would be missing out on the sights there. Autumn in Europe, as opposed to summer, will also mean fewer tourists; the weather will be cooler; and I can explore for hours without sweating buckets.
Anyways, who knows where I’ll end up exploring when the actual time comes. Other than my main flight in and out of London, I haven’t booked anything else yet. I may want to add different destinations to this list and cross others off. I’ve learned time and time again that, sometimes, unplanned adventures are the best adventures.
We’ll see. I’m so excited!
What do you think of my travel plans? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments below!
All photos were found on Pixabay and have Creative Commons Licenses.