BF and I have been back from our 8 week European adventure for a few weeks now and I’ve had some time to reflect on our trip. Today I’ll share some details of our travels and how much our grand adventure cost us!
Living in Paris
During our time abroad, we were primarily based in Paris. We were able to find an apartment to rent on Airbnb, and we were lucky enough to stay in the heart of Paris’ “hipster” neighborhood – Le Marais. The location was perfect because there were tons of great restaurants within walking distance of our apartment and we were also well connected to the metro, which allowed us to get around the city easily and quickly. Between the metro and the great bike sharing program in Paris, Velib, we didn’t take a single cab for trips within the city.
Unlike my days in Cambridge, which consist of waking early, working for 8 to 10 hours, coming home to cook dinner and then relaxing until bed, my days in Paris were much less structured. BF would go off to school each morning and I was on my own until he came home around 4 or 5 pm. I would usually exercise (some combo of the Scientific 7 Minute Workout, a long walk and stretching), practice Portuguese (although much less than I should have) and work on the blog. It was nice to have days that were so flexible and free-form, although I found that because I could always stop to watch How I Met Your Mother re-runs on Netflix, I was somewhat less productive than I am in the office. But that’s OK, I was supposed to be taking a break.
When BF came home in the afternoon, we would usually head out to do some exploring around the city. We did a pretty good job of covering the city, visiting nearly every arrondissement. I simply can’t cover everything we did/saw in Paris – there is just too much to do in that city! We went to amazing museums, saw some great shows, visited beautiful parks, and ate at incredible restaurants.
One of my favorite aspects of our trip was the pace at which we were able to explore Paris. I typically want to see as much as possible on my 7 to 10-day travels, which means that the pace is fast and I am exhausted by trip’s end. In Paris, we had the luxury of taking our time to explore each neighborhood, forgoing the major tourist attractions in favor of an appreciation of the culture of the city. By the end of our trip we had become very familiar with our neighborhood and had a few places, like a bakery around the corner, which we liked to go to regularly. It was fun to feel like a local in a foreign city!
I was previously somewhat lukewarm on Paris, based on two other visits, but now I am firmly convinced that it is one of the greatest cities in the world. I was worried that I might be lonely or homesick during our eight weeks away, but we were so busy with fun activities that I didn’t have time for loneliness!
Travelling around Europe
I’ve covered our side trips in separate recaps (including Normandy, Lisbon, Budapest, Vienna, and Provence/the Cote d’Azur), so I won’t go into detail on those trips here. We really benefited from being based in Paris, which allowed us to easily, quickly and cheaply get to each of these destinations. During college, I chose to study abroad in South America, unlike most of my friends who studied in Europe. I always felt that I had missed out on the opportunity to do a “Eurotour”, so this trip was something of the fulfillment of my college dreams.
In addition to our longer trips, we took a couple of day trips to areas around Paris. We spent an afternoon at Monet’s gardens in Giverny and took the train to Reims to visit a champagne maker. A friend and fellow architect came to visit Paris, and we took a pilgrimage to architect mecca: Villa Savoye designed by Le Corbusier. I didn’t cover much about these side trips on the blog, but you can check out my Instagram for some pictures!
How much did our summer in Europe cost?
The short answer is: a lot. Ha. While we did save money by renting out our own condo in Cambridge, travelling cheaply within Europe and taking advantage of credit card rewards, we still spent a pretty penny. Unfortunately, this was compounded by the fact that I took the summer off from work, un-paid, so on top of spending a lot I also had no income. I was able to handle this because I save aggressively, so while it was slightly painful to watch my net worth go down, I didn’t actually feel any financial strain.
Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY. We had an incredible trip that was worth every dollar we spent. Here is a breakdown of exactly how many dollars that was:
- Paris might be an expensive place to stay, but apparently Cambridge is even more expensive! We actually came out ahead on the rent front, which helped offset some other costs. Granted, the apartment we rented in Paris was not as nice as our condo in Cambridge, but it had an A+ location and had everything we needed for the summer. We also sublet our place in Cambridge for a longer period of time (thanks mom and dad for letting us stay with you!) so we could bring in a little extra cash.
- Changing your flights is a rip off. We originally planned to travel to France for a typical, 10-day vacation. When our plans changed, we incurred a huge cost to change our flights. I’m not sure we could have done anything differently in this case, but in the future I will do everything I can to avoid flight change fees.
- Eating out is expensive. We’re usually pretty good about eating at home, but between our small, poorly equipped rental kitchen and the amazing French cuisine just outside our door, we fell off the wagon big time this summer. And we paid for it. Just to highlight how excessive our restaurant spending was, I looked back at how much I spent eating out in the last year. Turns out that I actually spent less eating out all of last year than BF and I did in two months this summer. Oops! While we had some great meals, if I was doing a trip like this again I would cook at home more. Not only would it save money, but at some point we just really got tired of eating out. We’re glad to be back to home cooking now that we’re home.
My advice about long-term travel
If someone asked me if I would recommend an extended trip of this nature, my answer would be “ABSOLUTELY.” This trip was a great break for me, a way to re-charge and become re-invigorated in my daily life back home. I may only be five years into my career, but five years is a long time to go without more than a week off at a time. I felt that this trip refreshed me and made me excited again about my work. It was also great that it gave me time to work on a side project – this blog – which is something I had contemplated starting for a long time.
We were able to make this trip happen by being opportunistic – taking advantage of a research opportunity for BF and a lull at work for me. While a trip of this nature might seem infeasible for many people (I would have said it was for me, too!), I think that there are ways to make it happen. You could consider working remotely for a time, or taking time off between jobs to travel. The circumstances will surely be different for each individual, but an amazing experience is guaranteed for all.
Have you ever taken an extended trip like this? What was your experience like?