Home... so now what? It's been a few weeks since I've been home. When I first got back... I was really relieved. The last few days of my travels were not the best of my trip, so I ended on a bit of a low note. Initially I was just sort of like... oh, that's it. It wasn't as amazing as I thought it was going to be... I'm not sure it was worth it.
But already, just a few weeks later, I'm realizing how truly amazing my trip was. How 100% worth it it was. I look at some of my pictures and my jaw practically drops, knowing that I took that picture, that I was there. You become so used to seeing incredible history and beauty while you're traveling... you don't even realize what it is that you're looking at, and how lucky you are to be there.
I think the biggest thing that disappointed me on my trip was the people I met. There are definitely a few people that I know I'll keep in touch with, and some that have become fairly good friends. And my trip was not without romance, I did meet a guy that I quite like (Aussie, of course), and he's already come to visit me in Ottawa. But for the most part, the people I shared hostels and buses with were incredibly immature, ignorant and annoying. I know this is mostly because the methods of travel I used were aimed at budget travelers and young people. And I've learned my lesson. I can guarantee you that I will never do another Topdeck tour, and I wouldn't even consider a Contiki. I might do another Radical Travel trip... but probably not. And I definitely regret doing Busabout. A lot of the best parts of my trip were when I was completely on my own.
I also realize that I should probably have done a shorter trip, or one that included solid chunks of time in places where there's nothing to do but relax. By the end of my trip, I was burnt out. I was tired of walking. Tired of sightseeing. Tired of meeting people. Tired of drinking. I still saw some incredible things in the last couple of weeks, but I probably would have enjoyed them a thousand times more in May. All that being said, as long as it sometimes felt at the time, it went so fast! Probably the fastest four months of my life.
The one last negative thing from my trip... I am still sick. It turns out the sickness and horrible tiredness and lethargy from the last month of travel was mono (glandular fever). It took a few weeks at home before I was properly diagnosed... my doctor had narrowed it down to mono or tuberculosis. Neither were great options, but I guess it's better that it was mono.
Anyways, on a more positive note. Getting back to reality makes you truly appreciate how awesome traveling is. Every single day you're traveling, even if something goes wrong, people are annoying you or you sit in the hostel all day... it's far and away better than even a good day in your real life. I already have a thousand ideas about where I want to go next. I'll never do a four month trip again... unless it includes working abroad... but there are places to see, people to meet! Top of my list are New Zealand and Australia, especially since I now have friends in pretty much every inch of Australia. Turkey is still at the top, after seeing Bosnia I'm all the more gutted about not experiencing Turkey. Russia is now up there as well. And Morocco has jumped quite high up the list. And other parts of Africa. As well as South America. So basically, I still have the travel bug! Stay tuned... I'm sure I'll be doing more traveling very soon.
In summary... I had the experience of a lifetime. I met a lot of amazing people (mostly Aussies... they're taking over Europe!), I saw all the sights I wanted to, I drank way too much, I spent a fortune (but about as much as I expected) and I came back a slightly different person. It wasn't lifechanging, but it was certainly the best experience of my life. No regrets. :) Do it if you can.
And finally, to end this gigantic post, some of my top fives:
Five places I know I'll return to
Five places that really disappointed me
1. Rome, Italy
2. Croatia (both Split and Dubrovnik)
3. Prague, Czech Republic
4. Nice, France
5. Klaipeda/Nida, Lithuania
Five biggest surprises
1. Paris, France
3. Riga, Latvia
4. Munich, Germany
5. Vilnius, Lithuania
Lived up to/exceeded expectations
3. Budapest, Hungary
4. Venice, Italy
1. Vilnius Old Town Hostel – Vilnius, Lithuania
2. Naughty Squirrel – Riga, Latvia
3. Rowan Tree Hostel – Ennis, Ireland
4. Hostel 99 – Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
5. L' Imbarcadero – Venice, Italy
1. Klaipeda Travellers Guesthouse – Klaipeda, Lithuania
2. Plus Alba D'Oro Camping – Venice, Italy
3. Ullapool Youth Hostel – Ullapool, Scotland
4. Plus Prague – Prague, Czech Republic
5. Valley Hostel – Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Five Best Foods
1. Italian gelato – Italy (duh)
2. Stroopwafels – the Netherlands
3. Ćevapi - Bosnia
4. Burek – Bosnia
5. Paulaner weissbier - Germany
Five Best Nights Out
5. Ullapool (it's what you make of it haha, right Kaitlyn? :P)
Also, to rank the tour operators I used
1. Shamrocker Adventures (7 Day All Ireland Rocker)
2. Eastern Trekker (Balkan Trek > Classic Rhapsody Trek)
3. Haggis Adventures (Island Explorer)
4. Busabout (3 Day Italian Adventure > North/South loops)
5. Topdeck (Northern Exposure)
If you're curious about other top fives, or have any questions about my trip, feel free to comment!