A big reason for why I chose Europe for study abroad is because of the expansive list of travel destinations it offers. One thing I love about the time I’ve spent across the pond is the luxury of being able to visit so many remarkable places around the continent. Luxury is actually an important term here too, in fact, because it perfectly describes the nature of my travels.
Anyone who has traveled abroad knows all too well that budget airlines represent the peak of extravagance. When you fly Ryanair or Easy Jet you quickly forget you’re boarding a cramped bullet-shaped tomb that offers little to no leg space and enforces a strict one-bag policy, and instead imagine yourself entering a five star hotel with wings. Magical flight attendants, or “angels” as I prefer to call them, patrol the aisles offering up foreign delicacies like M&Ms and tired-looking sandwiches at prices higher than your current altitude. You’re flying so high in the air, no wonder this place feels like heaven.
“Comfort” is another word that comes to mind when describing the beauty of budget-travel. It is common to go to great lengths seeking cheap flights and you will sacrifice nearly anything to obtain them, namely sleep and time. Pure exhaustion is an inevitable product of this plight and you become grateful for all of the amenities available in your travels to make you more comfortable. It’s great having your knees, even as a girl standing at a mere five feet and two inches, touch the seat in front of you regardless of whether the chair is reclined or not. It’s cozy. As for a pillow? Don’t worry. Your faux-leather purse stuffed with your phone, wallet, camera, sunglasses, and clunky global adapter makes the perfect alternative. Adjust the purse against the window just so, or prop it up on your own shoulder if you’re a lucky middle-seat inhabitant. Go ahead, you. Catch up on that sleep you missed leaving for your flight at four in the morning—you deserve it.
These cheap flights bring even more excitement, like accidental layovers! A girl-on-a-mission dead set on finding the most inexpensive flights knows full well that those Expedia, Skyscanner, and Kayak prices are not set and could change at any given moment. You expertly have all three, amongst others, loaded on different browser tabs with the window pushed to the side of your screen to cross-reference departure times with your class schedule. Sometimes you forget to breathe, let alone realize you’re about to book a flight from Prague with an eight-hour layover at eleven at night. Things happen. But have no fear, as a seasoned budget-traveler you know you have options—options like going through security eight hours early with your purse-pillow and finding the least-awkward couch on which to sleep in public. Bonus travel tip: drape your jacket over your head to block out the florescent lights and strangers’ judgmental stares.
Maybe after reading all of this, you realize that traveling by plane may not be your cup of tea. Lucky for you, there are other cheap options like the train. I booked a night train back from Amsterdam a few weeks ago, and boy was it an experience! We checked into the station a few hours early so I could print my ticket, only to realize our train had been cancelled due to the German workers going on strike. Yay! After meeting with one seemingly knowledgeable woman we learned that the company could not compensate us for a hotel room for the night but that she could get us on a train that left in just a few hours. Everything sounded reasonable until we talked to another worker who correctly informed us that the strike would be ongoing through the night and that the company could, in fact, put us up in a hotel for a new next-day departure. No one could find the woman we spoke to first but to this day we’re convinced she didn’t work for the train station at all and was actually an actress planted by a mortal enemy trying to ruin my life. Luckily, we caught her mistake and waited about an hour for busses to ship all of the train’s stranded passengers off to a hotel for the night. The room was actually quite nice and I would have enjoyed a pleasant bath if we’d had the time.
We didn’t, of course, and boarded another bus at five in the morning to finally begin our journey home. We were delighted to catch our train until it unexpectedly stopped on the tracks for about an hour. That delay made us miss our connection, causing us to wait a few hours for the next one.
Which was delayed.
That delay made us also miss our final connection, as I’m sure you could have guessed since the cycle is a predictable one.
The great thing about train travel is that you can book tickets in advance to reserve a seat. The bad thing though, is that you lose those reservations when striking Germans cancel your train. At this point you have some choices: you can go all “Hunger Games” and fight for the few vacant and un-reserved seats, you can find a seat in the Bistro car and convince the workers you really are drinking the same coffee for six hours so you don’t give up your spot, or you could prop yourself up on the floor in the hallway and enjoy the ride. We opted for choices A and B and touched down in Copenhagen more than twenty-four hours after our intended departure from Amsterdam. I told you it was an experience.
I hope my sarcastic tone is evident in this post and that my misery gave you at least the slightest amusement. That being said, I also want to convey the appreciation I have to be able to travel as I do, because I know it is not an option everyone has. I recognize how lucky I am to have the chance to even write a satirical entry complaining about legroom on a flight I took to hike the Swiss Alps. I cannot express the amount of gratitude I have for these kinds of opportunities, and I thank Richmond but above all, my parents for making them possible. I have the unbelievable opportunity to explore the world at twenty years old—you could ship me in a cardboard box for all I care.