By Emma Walker
Interrailing was, in six words, an unbelievable and eye-opening experience. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to visit places such as Berlin, Prague, Geneva, Montpelier, Barcelona, Valencia and Paris in such a short time period, giving me the opportunity to improve my language skills as I went. It is something I would recommend to anyone, especially whilst you can take advantage of the free DiscoverEU pass, but first, here are a few things to consider.
It is possible to grow tired of eating out (honestly)
Given the abundance of traditional cultural food, and that it should’ve been a welcome break from the somewhat questionable meals I cooked during first year, it does feel strange to be writing this. However, when you have spent a significant amount of your budget on eating out for every meal for the first few days of the trip, and now need to spend as little as humanly possible on food for the remaining weeks, it is more than likely that you will be cooking a fair few meals. Having experienced this, I would recommend cooking vegetarian food whilst interrailing. Many hostels have a communal food area for basics like pasta, rice, and herbs and spices, so you’ll be able to make meals cheaply by just buying vegetables and sauce. Plus, by cooking vegetarian food you won’t need to worry that you’ve given yourself food poisoning by means of undercooked meat, especially when the cooking and storage facilities in the hostel kitchen inevitably leave rather a lot to be desired.
You may feel disheartened in your linguistic ability
This has always been quite a big issue for me whilst travelling abroad, as I tend to be quite shy. Simply put, it can be quite unnerving when you’re about to take on your second year of a degree in Spanish and suddenly something that you learned at GCSE slips out of your mind. My advice in this situation would be to befriend people in your hostel who speak your target language – it truly surprised me how much easier it was to practise in a non-pressurised environment. Failing that, don’t be too hard on yourself if you do run into difficulties expressing what you want to say. According to British Council statistics, you’re one of a quarter of British adults that can hold a conversation in a foreign language – so be proud of yourself for trying!
It is very different from an all-inclusive holiday
Whilst I knew interrailing would differ from the family holidays I was used to, it still came as quite a shock to have to plan everything we wanted to do for ourselves. Although we had our fair share of unpredictable mishaps (returning to our hostel room to be greeted by my possessions thrown all over the floor by a man who had drunkenly got the wrong room to nap in being just one example of said mishaps), there are several ways to make the experience as hassle-free as possible. Probably the most important piece of advice I would give would be to make an itinerary of where each hostel is and look up the route there before you go, print them out and have a copy each. (A disclaimer: I must give the credit for this to the other girls I went interrailing with; I was by no means organised enough to have done this!) Obviously this saves a lot of time frantically Google mapping it, only to realise it’s three buses/a 50 minute metro ride/2 hour walk away. It also means that if you were to lose one another, you would be able to make your way to where you needed to be.