Seven Weeks in Europe- Backpacking, Friends and Couches!

I'm going to Europe for seven weeks and I'm so nervous that I fall asleep and I wake up thinking about my trip. The first thing that pops into my head when I wake up in the morning is my backpacking trip. I leave in less than one week and I won't feel ready until I'm there. I hope that it will be like a stage performance and all the nervous feelings will disappear once I'm center stage with the lights on me and it's too late to turn back. I don't know why I'm so nervous. I've been planning and dreaming about this trip forever! I think it's a sort of rite of passage for many college students to do a eurotrip. I'm not any different than those who have gone before me. Yet, I can't help but feel nervous, excited, anxious, and worried. I think once I arrive I will feel better; it's not as if I've never been in Europe or used their public transportation.

I studied in Siena, Italy for a month when I was still in high school and I was fearless when it came to taking the bus and train to nearby towns with my roommate. I went to Sicily with a group and I hated that they had our itinerary planned out second by second. I studied in Salamanca, Spain last summer and I planned a mini trip with Keith, my boyfriend, when he visited me. My trip this summer is in some ways a combination of all of these trips- a type of climax in the story of my life. The suspense is just too much and I want to know the ending to my story. It's so sad that at times, in the midst of my nervous thoughts, I almost regret my trip.  

It all started with the Center for European Studies at Rutgers University, where I am a student. They planned to reach out to undergraduate students to complete a "European Village Project." The idea was that they would pick a few undergraduate students and send them to various villages in Europe that are a "dying breed." These villages have maintained a sort of way of living that is rare in their country. Usually the villages themselves are old and historic. I was picked to go to Monteriggioni in Tuscany. Monteriggioni is a medieval village which is surrounded by a wall with towers that Dante spoke about in his Divina Comedia. He compared the towers of Monteriggioni to the giants in the Inferno.

Once I arrive in Monteriggioni I will document with a digital video camera the people, monuments, and sites of the village. I will send my footage to the Center and they will have another student edit it. Throughout the next academic year a Professor, whose specialty is Dante, will lecture on the village and the region using my footage. Eventually the footage will be distributed to Italian teachers in NJ. My name will be on it so hopefully it will reach my high school Italian teacher so started and encouraged my infatuation with Italy. 

After Monteriggioni I will visit my friend Giulia in Urbino. We met last summer studying Spanish at Salamanca. I'm staying with her and her family for a week before I meet up with my cousin in Spain. Louis is graduating from high school and I'm missing his graduation because I'll be in Italy. I felt really guilty about it so I convinced his mom that she should send him to Europe for 10 days with me! He’s super psyched and of course so thankful that he has such a cool gal cousin = ) 

We're visiting Madrid and Barcelona but I'm not sure what other city we might visit- maybe Valencia or Sevilla?! After our time is up in Spain we're going to Paris to meet up with my boyfriend Keith. Louis will return to the states and Keith and I will start our backpacking trip throughout France and Italy (mostly Italy). Along the way we're hoping to meet some interesting people and explore some beautiful and historic places. We'll be staying in youth hostels and also surfing some people's couches.

In case the couch surfing concept is new to you, let me try to explain. I'm a part of CouchSurfing International, which is a non profit organization with members from all over the world. Their mission is the following, "CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding." The best part about being a part of CS is that I can meet people from all over the world and members in different cities can host me and let me sleep in their couch. Not only do I save money on accommodations but I get to meet locals and have a unique traveling experience. It's a great concept and I'm really looking forward to diving right in. Although I haven't hosted anyone yet, I did meet a local couch surfer who gave me some tips on backpacking in Europe.

I'm still packing for my trip and I'm hoping that I don't forget anything. Not that I can carry that much in a backpack. As long as I have my train pass, clothes, money, cell phone, lock, toothbrush and contacts I should be fine. We'll see what happens. At least I get to document it all right here! I hope others can benefit from reading my blog and I can inspire some Chicsters to plan their own Eurotrip.

Head on over to 1,000 Dreams Fund to learn how to get funding for your dreams!