After an exchange semester in Osaka, I realised I hadn’t seen much East of The Netherlands, my own country, and decided to spend my holidays in Hungary and Poland. And then…I became aware of a phenomenon I had never really given much thought to: the concept of ‘Eurotrip’.
Jojanne Van Andel
“I’m jealous of you!” a Mexican friend from Japan emailed me when I explained my plan to go backpacking for a few weeks. “It’s so easy and cheap to travel in Europe.”
After an exchange semester in Osaka, I realised I hadn’t seen much East of The Netherlands, my own country, and decided to spend my holidays in Hungary and Poland. It’s really that simple: just book a low-cost airline ticket and maybe check out some odd-looking bus schedules that your browser might have to translate for you. In a few clicks it’s possible to visit several countries on a small budget.
Do the trip
Backpacking indeed turned out to be a great idea. I had a blast eating all possible flavours of pierogi in Krakow, meeting up with scattered Euroculture friends, and dancing to electro music at one of Europe’s biggest festivals in Budapest, the Sziget Festival. Added to that were of course relaxing bath houses, fascinating history and, of course, strong liquor…Beyond all this, however, I became aware of a phenomenon I had never really given much thought to: the concept of ‘Eurotrip’.
“I had never really given much thought to the concept of Eurotrip”
I imagined it as follows: a fourth year college student on the other side of an ocean dreams about travelling around Europe. He or she asks all his friends to join, but nobody has the time or resources. Ultimately, said student decides to work for a while or take a few thousand euros worth of loans, books the flight, and pack one’s bag.
In every free guided tour or low-priced activity you see them. Often travelling alone, sometimes with a group of friends from the hostel where they just met. In the summer, there is no famous tourist attraction on the continent where they can’t be found. During the four days my friends and I spent in our hostel in Krakow, about twenty of them came into our dorm and left again.
Of course, this is how it goes everywhere in the world. A few years ago, I myself was this fourth year college student, when I decided to take off for a gap year in Australia and Thailand. Once you find the necessary resources, it is the best thing to do, even by yourself. In every place you stay there are new people waiting to become your friends, party, and go sightseeing with – even on a hangover.
The downside, however, is that Europe – or the world in general – seems to become reducible to postcards and landmarks. “Last weekend I was in Istanbul, then I went to Athens for two days, but I just did not want to miss out on Budapest.” It is easy to travel, and once you’re there you try to see as much as possible. The pressure of putting pinheads on the imaginary world map of your mind seems to cause an overflow. Are travels not supposed to be about the journey as well, not the destinations alone? And, without even considering the consequences this has for local cityscapes or the environment, I ask myself an essential question. Do we, just like that, not seem to go beyond what a holiday is supposed to be: a break allowing us to relax, explore, and get new ideas? It seems to me that some people just try to see as many places in one month’s time as possible, but they don’t have the time to really taste the pierogi they are eating.
“Travels are supposed to be about the journey as well, not the destinations alone…”
Travelling seems to have become something ‘normal’. People, especially those from my own age, often ask me why I don’t go travelling for half a year now that I graduated. Everyone does it, and now you still have time you should do it. The destinations are also important. Ten years ago Australia was the place to be for youngsters here in Holland. Now it has become tacky, and people go to South America instead. Perhaps in a few years’ time you will have to go to caves in the Himalayas to still count as a true explorer.
East, West, or home?
Travelling in Europe is easy, worth the effort, and indeed something to be envious of. My holiday this summer, and those of many other youngsters, is the proof of that. Nevertheless, there seems to be a tendency to only superficially taste what is available in the Eurotrip supermarket. Of course time and money restrictions are important and can be constraining, still, does seeing many things actually open your eyes?
“There’s a tendency to only superficially taste what is available in the Eurotrip supermarket…”
After all, who am I to judge? We live in a globalised world, and as contradictory as it sounds, without my Asia trips I would never have had the chance to discuss travelling round Europe with my friends across the Atlantic. The receptionist of the hostel in Krakow could not wait to take off in the way all his customers do. Maybe you need to travel first before you know.
If you liked Jojanne’s article, also read https://euroculturer.eu/2012/10/14/groningen-a-gem-in-a-golden-edge/
Jojanne van Andel, Contributing Writer
Jojanne got her undergraduate degree in International Relations from the University of Groningen and studied MA Euroculture in the University of Groningen, University of Strasbourg and Osaka University. Her interests are European politics, history, intercultural communication and of course, travelling around the world.