Backpacking vacations around Europe have always been a popular rite of passage for young Americans. It’s a chance to explore the world and get some life experience.
If you don’t have your parents supporting you, it might seem well out of reach. There are options, though. Should you not fancy teaching English to children, one option is to go on a working backpacking trip. A working backpacking trip is exactly what it says. You work your way around Europe on the proceeds of your labours.
Adequate planning is essential. Try to do it without planning and you’re taking an enormous risk.
Where are You Going?
It helps to know where you’re going. Always have a return ticket booked in case of trouble, but it’s handy to have an idea of where you want to go.
This is isn’t just about finding work. The work is a means to an end. Write down a list of some of the sights you absolutely want to see. Plan a route on a map and figure out the best way to get there.
None of this is locked in. In many cases, travellers will see an awesome deal and travel to somewhere else instead. It’s something to fall back on. It offers some structure to your trip.
Your Work Options
There are lots of work options available. Attempt to keep it as legal as possible. None of us would object to the occasional few days of paid slightly-less-than-legal work, but if you get caught it can ruin your trip.
Europe is full of part-time work. English teaching isn’t as prominent, like it is in Asia, but seasonal work is available in abundance.
Backpackers often work on the vineyards and farms of Southern Europe. There are positions available in countries like Italy, Spain, and Greece.
Typical jobs include:
- Working in a bar.
- Au pair work.
- Teaching English.
- Farm/vineyard work.
- Tour guide (multi-linguals only).
This is the big one. You have to prepare for travel. The chances are you won’t be able to read the road signs outside of the major cities.
Thanks to the European Union, there’s a greater level of integration on this continent. It’s pretty easy to find someone who speaks English. And sat navs will all cover this well-travelled continent.
Avoid getting the cheapest sat nav available. Look for something that’s sturdy and can stand up to rolling around in your luggage for the next three months. Sometimes the extra investment goes a long way.
Plan your trip through Google Earth before you go. Note down where the major monuments and landmarks are. It’s a good idea to write down where the train stations and tourist information offices are.
Accommodation can only be planned so far in advance. You’re potentially limiting yourself by planning every single place you’re going to stay.
Seasonal work can be difficult to gauge. There have been many cases where the owner of the farm might ask someone to stay on for a few extra days. You also might choose to leave earlier than anticipated.
Planned accommodation tends to restrict you. Furthermore, you have to go to certain places at a certain time. Forget impromptu trips and excursions.
The best way to prepare for accommodation is to plan one or two destinations. Alternatively, plan your first and last accommodation options. It offers flexibility without being restrictive.
In short, preparation is important, but it shouldn’t form the basis of your trip. The beauty of backpacking is everything isn’t planned. The shocks and the stresses will make the trip memorable. And that’s the essence of working your way around Europe.