33,000 feet up, here’s a recap of Europe-for-the-outdoorsy-type

Note: this post has been post-dated.

I am currently on the flight from Milan to Copenhagen, which starts my journey back to Canada. As I didn’t bring my laptop on this trip, I’m writing this as a note on my phone. So to anyone around me I probably look incredibly popular, texting away like crazy. Fooled them – little do they know I’m essentially just talking to myself.

When I’m back in Canada, I’ll do a more formal breakdown of my travels and how successful I was at making a Euro trip work for a tight-on-time-student-funds-limited-culturally-challenged-outdoorsy-type. This is more of an overview, so if I’ve piqued your interest at all, stayed tuned for more.

I spent a little under a month in Europe, seeing four countries along the way. I’m not much a city type – I don’t like big crowds and I don’t care much for attractions – so a Euro trip might seem a little off-brand for me. However, visiting friends is nice and crazy seat sales are tempting.

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Copenhagen: This is a hugely underrated city in my opinion. For starters, I saw very few tourists. I’d go to what I’d expect to be a tourist attraction (Church of Our Saviour, HC Anderson museum) and find I was one of the only people there. Mind you, I wasn’t there in peak tourist season, but it was still surprising not seeing huge crowds or people trying to sell me keychains everywhere I went. I also found it to be a very clean and safe city. The Botanical Gardens and day trip to Frederiksborg Castle gave me my daily dose of chlorophyll and I managed to walk over 20 kilometres each day. Overall rating: 9/10 (see bottom for detailed explanation of my completely arbitrary rating system).

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Amsterdam: this city has a well-known reputation and, I confess, I didn’t take full advantage of what it, err, had to offer. The canals are beautiful, I actually enjoyed an art museum, and I don’t have words for the Anne Frank house. Other than this though, I didn’t have a lot to do. My favourite day didn’t even take place in Amsterdam but was a bike ride through the countryside in search of tulip fields (which were unfortunately cut the week before). I was thankful that I was with a good friend for this leg of the trip. My thoughts: 4 out of 5 *special* brownie points.

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Switzerland: this is one of the best countries for outdoor enthusiasts and I totally understand why. You can hike, bike, climb, paraglide, skydive, go canyoning, etc etc etc. Of course, I didn’t do all of these activities (I’m a student and can barely afford to breathe in Switzerland) but I did hike a lot and I went paragliding (to my mother’s dismay I enjoyed this one a little too much and will likely continue running off cliffs with only fabric and rope to hold me up). Every view is postcard-worthy when hiking in the alps. Although I saw quite a bit of the country (6 cities/areas in total), I will definitely be back; perfect score 💯

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Lake Como: I was in the Milan train station for 10 minutes before I cancelled my hostel reservation and extended my stay in Como. No offence Italy, but your pasta is way better than your public transportation system, which gave me nothing but stress, frustration and a close call with a single tear. Lake Como, on the other hand, is stunning. The water is the most beautiful blue-teal water I’ve ever seen. The hills are multiple shades of green with little houses speckled on them. This place is a little touristy (and I can only imagine what it’s like in the summer) but it isn’t overwhelming and it’s beauty is worth it. Plus, there are a number of hikes only accessible by foot (so you know there won’t be many people at the view point) and some of the communities on the coast are very underrated and therefore under-travelled. Fun fact: one of the villas was used in both a Stars Wars and Casino Royale. Also George Clooney has a place there. I guess he didn’t get the memo I was coming, because I didn’t get an invite over nor could I find it along the coast (even with the help of Google) but, like, it’s fine George, maybe another time. Anyways, I give Lake Como 8/10.

The math nerds in the audience may have concluded that my trip must have been 8.75 overall (for the mathematically opposed, the average of my ratings), you’d be half right. While a lot of the activities and places I went to were incredible, I didn’t LOVE backpacking as much as I expected to. And this was really puzzling.

Working as a canoe guide, I’m used to packing up and moving everyday, and I am definitely used to re-wearing clothing (3 t-shirts for a month long trip, sounds about right). I just didn’t like it as much when I was packing up to get on a bus to get to an airport or walk to a train station to get to the next destination. Besides the views I got from a few Swiss trains, some days passed by like I was on autopilot. Just a two hour flight can eat up an entire day.

No, I like when I pack up and get to spend the next 8 hours passing through wilderness, only limited by the speed of my paddling.

It was also bittersweet to get to the end of a really long hike only to join the hoards of people who took the gondola up while sipping on a latte. Maybe this makes me a snob or an elitist, but I like sharing a view with people who saw every view leading up to it, who pushed themselves up hills or over ridges knowing that what they were working for would be worth it.

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Overcast skies (and no view of the Matterhorn) meant the top viewpoint was totally deserted (Zermatt, Switzerland 2017)

So overall, the trip really was amazing and I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to go overseas and experience another world. I did, however, learn a lot about myself and what parts of travel I am passionate about. No one has enough time to travel everywhere and try everything, so being able to narrow down on what you want most is invaluable.

As I mentioned, I’ll be doing some in depth posts about each of the places I visited. As you can guess, my focus will be on finding outdoor adventures wherever you might be, and combining them with a dash of culture and a pinch of history. I’ll also write about my first experience solo traveling for a long-ish period of time. Hope you enjoy!

PS: rating is determined something like Atmosphere + Outdoor Activities – Stress all multiplied by My Ability to Communicate or something like that. Pretty much just a gut feeling – take them for what you will.

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