Travelling On A Budget [My Escapades]

I don’t have the leisure of going to every single country in the European continent., This is due to both academic as well as financial restraints. Some weekends I just need to sit back and do my work and not fly off to a different city. Which I suggest everyone do because it’s good for your mental health, by the way.

Moving on, one piece of advice that someone gave me before I came to Rome was this: “Students make the mistake of travelling to every country they can without thinking of the financial consequences. Because everything seems so inexpensive, they don’t realise how it all starts to add up until the end. What you should do is travel only to the countries that pertain to your major.”

Well, as a Classics major, I can say that the entire continent of Europe and parts of Asia pertains to my major. But I knew what that person meant and I agree with him. I would like to expand on it, however.

Travel to places that pertain to your major, and places that relate to you and/or you’ve always wanted to go to. Now if this is literally every single country in the continent, then maybe you should narrow it down and think about your bank account a little bit. But for me, the choices were not that hard.

On my own, separate from my program, I have visited: Pompeii (twice actually, once with API and again with my friends), Naples, Bomarzo (a small medieval Italian town), Athens, London, Dublin, and Paris. I guess Vatican City should count, too. But that is all, I’m not doing any more than that. Why? Because I have no reason to, let alone money. I do understand the mindset that when you are in Europe you should explore as much as you can, but not everyone has the money to fly off every weekend.

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Pompeii and Naples have direct connections to my major and that really was the only reason why I went. One cannot visit Italy and not go to Pompeii, why would you not want to see how an Ancient Roman city literally was like in its prime? You’re literally walking back into history. Naples, besides being the subject of plenty of romantic Dean Martin songs, has an amazing archaeological museum that features a large collection of statues and frescoes I’ve frequently read in books. There were also a lot of Dionysus/Bacchus statues, which I’m all for. Dionysus is my favourite god out of the Greek pantheon. This trip is also inexpensive since it’s within Italy, which was a good bonus.

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Bomarzo was an impromptu day trip I took with my roommate, as there was a park full of statues dating back centuries that she wanted to see. I went along because, why not? As it was a day trip, the only thing I had to pay for was my round trip train ticket and a ticket to get into the park, otherwise I could pack my own lunch. It was a very pleasant experience, actually, because the town of Bomarzo is a small medieval town that has barely changed since its beginnings. The population is extremely small and the buildings are beautiful, as is the view since the city is built on a steep hill and overlooks fields. Going out from a large metropolitan area like Rome to an extremely small rural town was a great change and it allowed me to see another side of Italy.

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Athens was also an automatic choice because it was a direct connection to my major and my classes that I’m taking for this semester. As a Classics major, I just simply had to visit the Acropolis, the Theatre of Dionysus, and the Temple of Zeus. I’d be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t. The great thing about Athens was that it was inexpensive to get there and also inexpensive to have fun there. Everything was so cheap, it blew me away. I wasn’t expecting a full meal to cost only 6 euro when I was so used to a small plate of pasta being 13 euro…and leaving me hungry again an hour later.

Athens was marvelous for both the tourist and Classics major in me. The Acropolis Museum had also recently opened when I went and that was a bonus gift to myself. I cannot stress enough how important it is to see first hand the things you study in your textbook; it gives you a new perspective on your studies. The things you read about become more real to you.

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London was a place I have always wanted to visit ever since I could remember, perhaps maybe when I was as young as seven. Due to my Asian background, I was taught International English in school (British English) and I was introduced to Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle in my pre-teens. As a child I remember reading British children’s literature such as the adventures of Paddington Bear, the Story of Tom Kitten and Peter Rabbit, the Chronicles of Narnia, and so on. I also didn’t realise it until my visit to London how much British children’s television shows I watched growing up as well (such as Noddy and Thomas the Tank Engine). Of course there is always Harry Potter as a motivator to go to London, but that was not so much my motivation as was Paddington Bear. My childhood source of entertainment had a pretty large influence from Britain. Paddington Bear was my main motivation to go, as I learned that he was so popular in London that he had his very own statue at Paddington Station, as well as a lot of other statues scattered all over London. He even has a new movie that just came out recently!

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Dublin was another automatic for me for two reasons: one, I have always wanted to visit since I was little, and two, I am part Irish on my father’s side. Knowing that Dublin is related directly to me as an individual, I wanted to visit Ireland as a way to expose myself to Irish culture and Irish people. The city was beautiful and the food was marvelous. I felt a sense of fulfillment after meeting and talking to so many people. They were also excited for me when they learned of my Irish heritage. 🙂

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Paris, ah Paris. I have no connection to Paris whatsoever nor did I really have much interest in the city. My two good friends, however, urged me to come along. Originally I had rejected this and was going to stay home and work on my many research papers that were all going to be due the week following the trip, but eventually I caved because ‘Why not?’ At this point, I still had quite a bit of money leftover since I haven’t been to that many places, and the places I did go to (like London) I did not spend too much money in. It’s amazing how many free things you can do and only pay for transportation and hostels. In Paris, it was not that expensive either because I was able to get into museums for free as a student. Besides hostels and transportation (which was not that bad, really), I only had to pay for food. With strategy, one can be frugal. Paris was also a beautiful place. The people were not rude to my friends and I, nor was the city dirty–two things I often heard people complained about.

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The Vatican City is basically up the street from me and the Pope lives there. Enough said. Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. Like the fact that it also directly related to my major since Christianity had an impact on the Roman Empire during and after its fall. …plus the Pope lives there. 🙂

No, I did not go to Berlin for Oktoberfest, I did not go to Amsterdam for the Red Light District, nor did I go to Prague or Budapest. But I did go to places that impacted me as a person and a student, that made me rethink my current place in life, my identity as a multiracial and multicultural individual, and made me reevaluate what I might want to do with my academics in the future. That is just as important and just as great of an experience as going to every country in Europe. The value is the same, and I’m kind of happy that it’s cheaper.

Vanda Moore is a student at the University of Kentucky and an official API Student Blogger. Vanda is studying abroad with API in Rome, Italy.

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