I have this dream and it's time to make it a reality.
Growing up my family didn't have a lot of disposable income, so needless to say I have travelled very little. I can count on one hand the amount of times I have visited a new city I had no roots in. Once my dad and I road tripped to Quebec City. Once my mom, stepdad, sisters and I road tripped to Florida. Once I took a train to New York. Last summer I flew to New Orleans for a week, and it was unbelievable.
I have always wanted to travel. I'm a curious individual. I spend most of my time reading about other places and wishing I could see them in person and get to know the people who live there, but I've never had the funds to do it. Now I've paid off nearly all my student loans. I lost my career-related job in November and have been working odd jobs waiting for the summer to start. I have a passport and $7000 saved. So I am going to Europe for at least three months.
It was either go east or west. In the end I chose east, knowing that the BC / California / Japan / Korea / China / Southeast Asia trip I often dream about would take a little more savvy and a lot more initial investment than I currently have available to me. So Europe it is.
I speak English and French fluently, and I have friends living in London, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Milan respectively, so at least I have that going for me. All I need now is to work out the details. My brain wants to vomit a million questions onto you all, some of which may sound really basic, but I'm going to try to put them in some kind of coherent order cause I'm looking for as many answers to each one as I can get! I need some courage and validation and also facts. So bear with me, okay?
Here's where I need your insight:
What kind of visa do you need if you are a Canadian tourist who is thinking of being a bit of a nomad for a while but also is feeling out places to maybe put down roots? If I do work it would most likely be under the table, but what if a career-related job falls into my lap? What if I really like a place and want to stay and find legit work? Who do I talk to if I'm already over there and decide to stay?
I need cheap tickets. I've had this flight to Amsterdam open in a tab on my computer for weeks. Anyone have any experience with Norwegian Air? It looks budget-friendly (around $400!), but what kind of hidden fees can I expect? Should I buy a return ticket even though I don't know what my plan is? Is it an expense I'm just going to have to absorb if the return date comes up and I don't want to leave yet?
So I've obviously got the Netherlands on the brain, but what other places would you recommend? What places should I avoid? I'll be going in late August and I'll be in the vicinity until around December at least. I'm thinking of starting in the more north western areas and working my way south/east as the weather cools off. I want to go as east as Turkey if I can find someone to come with me on that leg of the trip. What do you guys think?
Do you have an opinion about the best way to sleep for cheap in Europe? Hostels? Couch surfing? Know any good websites for locating a place to crash? I have the feeling I'm going to need to crash for free or cheap for most of this trip. We'll get to safety more later, but I really want to hear about finding safe places to stay if you know about that.
Okay I'm not going to lie, food is a big part of why I want to travel. What food should I definitely try while I can? Any cities/towns known for a kind of food you wish they made in your area? There's also the matter of actual sustenance, tho. Travellers, where do you get most of your meals? Do you eat out a lot at cheap places or try to always have access to a hotplate/stove to cook on?
I don't have a driver's licence but when I asked a Real European if this was a problem she laughed at me. Apparently I can get everywhere by train and I should look into Interrail. I love trains, so this sounds amazing. Anyone used this service before? Anyone know of any other safe and inexpensive ways to get between cities?
Important topic, this is a concern for me. I'm female, and I'll be travelling alone for much of the trip. Anyone have tips on situations/places to avoid? Ways to stay safe while on the road? Even the most basic tip is appreciated here, because though I'm not naive I don't have much experience with being alone in a strange city.
How far can 7000$ even go in Europe? Am I overshooting how much time I'll be able to spend there with limited cash? Or am I worrying for nothing? If this trip was a pie chart, how much of my budget would realistically go to which basic needs? I'm guessing I'll be reserving 15% just for the airfare alone, leaving a little less than $6000 left to spread out over food/shelter/transportation/emergencies/...? I have no concept of how much all this stuff is going to cost on a completely different continent. I'm guessing $2000 a month should be okay but obviously I want to stretch it as far as possible.
I want to personally thank each of you who made it to the end of this, and double thank anyone who has some advice for me on any of these subjects or even ones I haven't thought of (!!!?!). I don't expect you guys to be experts or to be liable or anything, just looking for access to knowledge I wouldn't otherwise have!
Trying not to panic. Trying to keep the anxiety at excitement-levels. Your help would really go a long way to keep my mental health, well, healthy. Cause this should be exciting, right? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh.
ETA thank you all soooo much for your input! So much excellent advice and so many good thoughts. I have a list as long as myself now of things to look up/consider/keep in mind while I'm planning and I could not have asked for better! You guys are the best :)