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Two months, 15,000+ miles — Part 2: Backpacking Europe

NOTE: This is part 2 of a two-part series outlining travel plans for the summer of 2015. First we moved our lives across the United States. Now comes Part 2: Backpacking Europe. Check back for updates.

I’ve got at least another month before I need to act like an adult again. Before starting a new job in mid-July, my wife and I hope to make the most of this adult summer vacation and cover some ground. By my calculations we’ll transverse more than 15,500 miles over the course of 60 days, from trucking our meager belongings back across the U.S. to spending a month backpacking around Europe. Here are plans for the second leg of that journey, playing dumb American tourists as we wander around foreign lands.

Part 2: Figuring out how to get from Oslo, Norway to Sofia Bulgaria, and a lot of places in between

Plans always change it seems, and this month-long trek across the Eurozone isn’t likely to be any different. In fact, our plans have already changed. The map above isn’t really accurate anymore, but with less than a week until lift off — and an 18 hour flight to get my wife and I from Atlanta, Georgia to Oslo, Norway — I don’t have the time or mental fortitude to go back and make the adjustments. So here are the basics:

We’re flying from Atlanta to Oslo, then making our way to the other side of the continent with stops in at least seven countries, and possibly more. We’ve got friends in about half the cities we plan to visit and they’ve have been nice enough to agree to put us up for a couple of nights here and there. Marco, Claus, Zoltan, Daniel, and Mila, if it weren’t for you all this trip wouldn’t even be possible, so thanks for being so awesome and hospitable.

Money is a big thing for us, and it’s taken a lot of penny pinching magic to make this trip even remotely feasible. To get even more thank yous out of the way, my hat goes off to Coury Turczyn and the rest of the staff at the Knoxville Mercury for letting me go gallivanting half way around the globe before coming back to start and new job and act my age again (y’all won’t regret it, promise). Hopefully I’ll have enough cash left in the coffers to cover the cost of gas to take us that final leg from Atlanta to Knoxville when we make it back in July. If not, I’ll hitchhike. (Help support independent, unabashed journalism.)

My wife and I have already been living out of suitcases for a month since trucking our lives from Redding, California to a storage unit in Knoxville, Tennessee (Even more thank yous for my mom and step-dad who have housed us for the past few weeks), but for the Europe trip we’ll need to pair down our baggage even more. All our clothes and other crap will have to fit inside two 46-liter hiking backpacks. More on that later.

His and hers Osprey 46 liter backpacks. Photo by Clay Duda.
Our Osprey 46-liter backpacks mostly all packed for the trip.

We’re taking about a week’s worth of clothes, toiletries, a heavy-as-hell DSLR camera, and a bunch of back issues of the Knoxville Mercury to read on the planes and trains. When not crashing on friends’ couches we’ll be looking for the cheapest accommodations reasonably possible via hostels and Airbnb reservations. We’re still pretty young (late 20s) but our college-party-kegger days are definitely behind us, so we’ll see how it goes holing up in eight-person dorms and such.

We have few solid plans other than dates to be in this town or the other to hang out with friends, and even those are fluid. We’ve bought our flights there and back, departing from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on June 10 and heading back state-side from the Sofia Airport (Летище София) on July 8, and also a Ryanair puddle-jumper to get us from Oslo to Paris on June 16. Other than that we’ll be traveling with a Eurorail Global Pass, which gives us the freedom to go anywhere with 10 travel days within a two-month period. It is not the absolute cheapest option, but we’re hoping it will allow us to see more of the country side as well as  some other countries where we won’t get to stop and spend time. It should also give us the flexibility to change plans on the fly and not stress too much about getting to our next destination. We’ll see.

Here is a calendar with our actual travel plans (Scroll to dates June 10, 2015 thru July 8, 2015 if not automatically displayed on calendar):

I planned to list out bullet points of what we wanted to do in each city, but we’re kind of playing this by ear and seeing where the winds take us. Plus that sounds like a lot of work and I would rather enjoy the last few days I have in the states with friends and family instead of glued to a computer screen. I hope to post an overview of what we’re packing in our backpacks to survive a month abroad here soon, plus an overview and somewhat detailed accounts of each stop or points of interest along the way. But really, who knows what I’ll get to or feel up to posting while on the road. If it becomes too much like work I may just keep a journal and recap at the end. All I know is that at this point, I’m all planned out.

First stop, Oslofjord, where we’ll hopefully see some sunsets like this:

Oslofjord - Oslo, Norway. Creative Commons via DeviantArt, by Hadrurus.
Oslofjord – Oslo, Norway. Creative Commons via DeviantArt, by Hadrurus.

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Clay Duda is a freelance journalist specializing in investigative reporting, feature writing, editorial photography, and digital media.