Holidays are supposed to be relaxing. For me, one of the most stressful aspects of travelling abroad is flying – from the airport to the flight itself. So why not let the train take the strain?
In my summer break from university, I was fortunate enough to win a free Interrail ticket through DiscoverEU which allowed me to experience European train travel. It was always something that had interested me as many friends and family members had given high praise to the alternative to flying, and I am an advocate for train travel in this country.
I embarked on the journey alone, which at first was a daunting prospect. But, I cannot recommend solo travel enough if you feel confident enough to do so. It was a pleasure to be on my own watch, doing things I wanted to do when I wanted to do them. Being alone does not constitute being lonely either; I chose to stay in hostels which allowed me to meet people from all over the world, as well getting to know the locals.
My first destination was Brussels, arriving on the Eurostar from London. The irony of being in the home of the EU headquarters set in as I considered the ease of travel I had as a result of free movement, which may not be the case for much longer. This made me appreciate my fortunate position as I continued my journey through to Munich. Much the same as Brussels, I only spent one night in Munich – just enough time to get a feel for the city through my favourite method; eating and drinking.
As a student of Classical Studies, I spent the majority of my trip in Italy, hence my hastiness to travel south through Belgium and Germany. One of the highlights of my trip was the train journey between Munich and Venice, through the Austrian mountains. Snowy tops still present even at the beginning of August, which reflected the sunshine straight down into the deep valleys. The views were ones you would never experience 12,000 metres up in the air.
After Venice, a spectacle in its own right, I proceeded to Rome, Florence, Bologna, and Milan. I spent two to three nights in each location, but could have happily stayed two to three weeks. The beauty of interrailing is it leaves you wanting more, gaining a small insight into each destination. You are inspired by those you meet on your way; where they are from, have been or are going. You decide where you would revisit and where else you would go next time. For me, there will definitely be a next time.
So, swap planes for trains and experience it for yourself. Whether you go solo or as a group, with your friends or family, under 21 or not. And if you are lucky enough to be 18 this year, look into DiscoverEU for yourself. Bon Voyage!