Travelling alone: Memoirs of an exchange student on a budget who finished her exams before her friends

I heard a lot of “Tu voyages toute seule? Sympa!” and “Je ne pourrai jamais voyager seul!” during my nine-day trip through France, but travelling alone is something that I have grown to love. I finished my exams before my friends did and wanted to take advantage of the time I had off before classes start on the 2nd, so three hours after I finished my last exam I was on a bus to Paris. I was ready to see and learn some really cool stuff! Plus, I spent two days by myself in Iceland so realistically I could do just about anything, right?

Couchsurfing: 10/10 would recommend
Lots of people who travel like to do so off the beaten path, and many stay on the beaten path. I like doing both, but something that I’ve learned is very valuable when travelling is culture immersion. There was also no way I could afford to spend eight nights staying in hostels in small towns. There was a very simple solution to both of those former points so I took that route, and chose to not spend a single penny on accommodation and be simultaneously thrown into the French way of life. I went Couchsurfing for the first time, and not only once, but in five different cities! Couchsurfing differs from regular travel and hostel accommodation for reasons that are probably quite obvious. My hosts showed me around their cities/towns and some had a lot to say about the history surrounding where they live. It was a very rewarding experience and it made me very thankful that a community like that of Couchsurfing exists and is filled with such giving and accommodating people!
Oh, and for the record, not once did I sleep on an actual couch. Royal treatment, if you ask me!

The backpacker’s diet
With a spending limit in question, restaurants were often out of the question. My diet consisted heavily of random assortments of cheap grocery store items. My typical French backpacking meal: rice cakes, brie cheese, deli sliced turkey, and an apple, all eaten, of course, in the middle of a train station with no utensils (cut-eye was received). I always had peanuts on the side for when the times really got tough. So on the whole the food situation was pretty decent, and to my surprise and excitement, my Couchsurfing hosts all provided me with food while I stayed with them! I often cooked with them or we ordered in. I thought that no-cost accommodation would help my budget, but this was the cherry on top of that sundae.

How to haul it around an entire country without having a mental breakdown
That rail pass that’s plastered all over the web? Not worth it. I fried my brain with calculations upon calculations of how much it would actually cost to travel from place to place. My nine days of train rides through France: 215 euros. The nine day SNCF pass: 240 euros. The headache was worth the 25 euros in savings! And although I ran into some issues along the way, I feel unbelievably proud to have taken a total of 18 inter-city buses and trains in nine days without missing a single one! Things that I always make sure of when running around catching trains and buses: keep my things together and compact so I don’t lose anything, breathe, and remember that there are other trains and buses even if your schedule is completely ruined from one missed connection.

Do you often skip leg day? Then travelling’s for you.
Every day was leg day. Fat was lost, and muscle was most definitely gained. I’m jacked. But not really.
Standout leg days: Étretat (Google it and you’ll understand) and Mont-St-Michel (which I did with my pack, LOL)

Photos to come (eventually)!

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