by Zoe Fourie
Before leaving South Africa to start my gap year in the Netherlands, I had never left the country before so the thought of being able to travel all over Europe was so exciting!
Landing in the Netherlands was a surreal experience in itself. I couldn’t believe that this would be home for a year. Over the next 3 months I adjusted to living in the Netherlands by getting used to the public transport, Dutch weather and settling into the host family.
After getting my booster shot, I could finally travel to another country. My best friend, Shiloh, and I decided to go to Düsseldorf in Germany. After a long train ride, arriving in a new country was a new feeling for me. A definite negative of traveling is having to buy food (which would normally be free at home) but I guess the experience is worthwhile since it’s great to try authentic foods of the country you’re visiting. Endless walking and discovering new places is both exhausting and eye-opening. Staying at a hostel was also a new but fun experience for us. Luckily, traveling with a friend is safer than traveling alone. By the end of the trip, I actually looked forward to going “home” to the Netherlands which surprised me.
Belgium was my next visit and both the city of Brussels and Ghent had its own charms. Walking in the streets with big bags definitely made me feel like a true “backpacker”. Traveling tends to make a person exhausted as well so a nap at the hostel is essential to gather energy to go out at night again to enjoy the nightlife of the city. It’s interesting to observe the different cultures and languages in the country you visit. Being surrounded by foreign languages makes me grateful that I semi-understand Dutch and that I can communicate in the Netherlands with people. The journey back home had an overwhelming moment whereby the train from Antwerpen to Breda was overcrowded and I had to squish my body into the train. Definitely one of the few negatives of traveling.
My most recent travel was to Prague, Czech Republic. I took the chance to go with a tour group and it was relaxing not having to book anything (accommodation, transportation etc) but also nerve wracking to have no control over the trip. The long 12 hour bus ride was brutal but atleast the beautiful city of Prague made it worth it. Traveling with my friends made the trip full of laughs, fun memories and spontaneous decisions. We were proud of ourselves for figuring out the public transport system and thankfully didn’t get lost. Although the trip was amazing, the delay in getting home (because a traveler in the tour group got lost) is one of the downfalls of traveling.
The reality of budget traveling is that sometimes it is uncomfortable, not fun and tiring but it can still allow for a memorable experience to a new country which I’m grateful to be able to do.