Tips For Solo Travelers

There are two kinds of people: tourists and travelers. I will never be a tourist since for me it`s boring as hell. If you are a traveler, a brave person who wants to explore Europe spend some time reading this post as I`m going to give you some tips about traveling (like a pro).

VISA: The worst time to apply for Schengen visa is summer since people prefer to go on a vacation at that time and there is a big chance you won`t get your visa on time. I usually travel during spring and autumn. There are less tourists traveling at that time, the prices are lower, it`s not too hot or cold and plus a lot of festivals are organized during spring/ autumn. If you want the cheapest tickets and you are not afraid of cold you should travel during winter. Last year I was able to find a flight from Budapest to Brussels for around €10.

If you are traveling during spring apply for your visa in January. That`s when there are almost no applicants. Book cheap flights several months before your trip, show where you are going to stay and even if your are going from one city to another show the bus ticket. Show all the details to have better chances.

TICKETS: Once you get the visa you can check this webpage to compare and find the best flights for you: skyscanner.com . If you are traveling from one city to another or from one country to another you can check busradar.com to compare and find bus/train tickets. My favorite bus company in Europe is FlixBus. They have comfortable buses, good Internet connection and sockets.

215807627000202

ACCOMMODATION: When you are backpacking and you are young the best places to stay are the hostels. You will have to share the room with several people but it will cost you 3-4 times less than a hotel room. I use booking.com to find good hostels/ hotels in Europe. You can make the booking and pay when you arrive to the venue.

If you are traveling alone staying at a hostel is a good decision as you can meet a lot of travelers. But be careful and use the lockers or ask the receptionist to keep your expensive stuff.

SAFETY: The worst thing is to be robbed when you are traveling alone. There are robbers everywhere even in developed and rich countries. I advise you to keep your money not only in your wallet but also somewhere else. Keep your bank cards and ID/passport separated, take a photo of your passport and keep it in your google drive. I have one more trick I put my wallet in a plastic bag. When the robber opens your bag to steal something the last thing he/she will take will be that plastic bag. 😉

I hope this post was helpful for you and I hope you guys never stop traveling. Don`t be afraid to go solo and don`t be afraid to do something wrong…practice makes perfect!

A Year Later

So last year on this day I moved to Hungary….OK, It was September 15 and I was too busy to write this post earlier! 😀 I remember the feeling when I got to Georgia: it was late night, the airport was full, there were lots of students flying to Budapest with me. I can`t forget the moment when I fastened the seat belt and I understood that from that moment on I was on my own. There will be no one to solve problems for me, to help me when I`m lost, to offer his/her shoulder when I`m down. But I was so ready for that. It was a chance to grow up, to become 100% independent. Challenge accomplished! I was traveling all alone, booking and buying tickets, finding the roads and living alone. Now when my parents tell me to come back home earlier or to be careful in YEREVAN, it sounds funny for me. After all those countries, Yerevan is the safest place to live in! Pecs is also safe! I had lived there for 10 months and nothing happened to me, though there were creepy stories about some killed students.

I know that one year is not a long time, but I miss Budapest, I miss traveling and I miss my friends! I hope to see them after 5-6 months: I`m planning a new trip to Western Europe.

I returned to my beloved company PicsArt and my new mission is to make people happy! 😀 Sounds good, right? It`s really fun working here. The company is really big, it`s like one small city in a city, and you have all the needed things to live in there: lots of cool people, your interesting job, lots of tasty things to eat and you get a massage! Remember that you spend most of your time at your workplace. Make sure you are happy there! I promised myself that I`ll never do any job I don`t like or work at a company I don`t like.

I`m involved in several projects as well. Once a volunteer, always a volunteer! I became EVS mentor for the second time. My sending organization is hosting some German volunteers. Being a mentor after my project is more exciting and important for me, since now I know more about volunteers` needs. I also took part in a photography project which was organized by Armenian and Moldovan photographers. We were there to lead photography master classes for those who wanted to improve their skills. At the end of the project we had an exhibition in Armenia and Moldova.

The only bad thing is that because of my work I don`t have much time to go out to take photos or travel. In Europe it`s so easy and cheap: you get up on Saturday morning and decide to go to Slovenia, Austria or somewhere else. I can`t understand Hungarians who don`t want to travel. It costs nothing and takes 2-3 hours to get to the nearest country. In Armenia the nearest country I can travel to is Georgia.

I like anniversaries since it`s the time when you remember everything you have been trough, all the bad and good things. If I had a chance, I would do some things different and I would spend my EVS year abroad in a different way. But I don`t regret anything and I`m happy to have all the memories and tens of thousands of photos in my dropbox. When people ask me about EVS I answer without any hesitation that they should go for it! For me it`s in the past and I move on and make new plans for my future… 🙂

20150926_023308Budapest, Szimpla Ruin Bar, 2015

Life in Yerevan

It has been one month since I`m back to Armenia. The first thing I wanted to do when we approached Yerevan was to go back to Europe. They told me I would have a depression or difficulties adapting to my old lifestyle and it came true. I miss living alone, I miss talking English, I miss the opportunity of traveling all the time, I miss a lot of things. But as time passes my life becomes more stable and normal: I have a job, I`m back to the community where everyone knows me, I`m an active citizen again.

Even though I was abroad just for 10 months many things have changed in Armenia ( well I can talk about Yerevan for sure).

Prices: now we have the same Hungarian prices and some things are even more expensive than in Hungary. Still, for Western European tourists Armenia is cheap.

Buses: in Armenia you pass money to the driver when you have to get out, we don`t have tickets. And if someone in the bus knows you he/she will fight to pay for you. It`s not a change but just a comparison with Hungary or Europe. In case of cafes and other places it`s the same. Men pay most of the time. Well to be honest I should say this is changing fast and nowadays it`s common to share the bill.

People: Armenians are famous for their hospitality and openness. In case of villages we still keep it. But in Yerevan people don`t trust everyone anymore. If years ago they would invite a stranger for a dinner or offer accommodation (yeah we had Couchsurfing before it was cool) nowadays it`s not that common.

Dating: it has nothing in common with the European or American style. People can talk for ages and dare to kiss after 3 months or so. The third date has nothing to do with sex as it is in US. The first date most probably will not end with a kiss. And in general it moves on so heavy and slow that by the time you kiss you are almost ready to marry. 😀 But I should also mention the new generation who follow Western standards.

As you see Armenia is a mixture of Eastern and Western cultures. And I guess it makes our life more interesting and rich. What makes our life more “interesting” or to be correct troublesome is the political situation. You will never get bored in Yerevan as all the time we riot, we organize demonstrations trying to make our life better. We are a democratic republic but sometimes we face violation of our rights, dictatorship and it feels like we are back to USSR. This time we face serious problems near the borders and inside the country. I`m overloaded with emotions so I`ll try to skip this topic and wish both Armenia and Europe peace and stability. But its also part of my life in Armenia. I wanted to post photos of Armenia but all this time I was occupied with thoughts about my country`s future and all my photos are connected with the current situation.

 

 

 

 

Back to the South

It took forever to write this post. Maybe because I knew this was going to symbolize the end of my project. Last year around this time I got approved for two EVS projects in Spain and Hungary. I went to Hungary. From September 2015 till almost July 2016 I lived in Pecs, Hungary doing my EVS project at the Support Service of the University of Pecs.

I remember my mother`s face when I told her about moving to Hungary. I must say that people were very sceptical about this kind of projects. They think you need to pay money or have someone who can help you pass. I didn`t care about their opinions and just started applying for good projects. And those who search they find!

I left my job at PicsArt and opened my heart to the adventures. Well it was hard…the city was small, I was working and living alone, many people couldn`t speak English, no Armenians in the town, misunderstandings between me and my colleagues….All those things made me regret about not going to Spain at the beginning. But some time later I tried to find the best sides of my project, look for new people in the town and travel all the time. My days were active, full of plans and projects.

1

During those 10 months I used the chance to travel the World. I was in 12-14 countries traveling solo or with some friends. As many people ask me I can share the secret: NO, my father is not an oligarch and I`m not father`s spoiled daughter. I earned my money, I saved 5 months to spend on traveling and I`m proud of it. You just gotta know how to organize the trip without spending money on stupid things. But at the same time you should pay for your basic needs to be safe and sound….like accommodation and food. I tried something like Couchsurfing once and I regret! But after all you only remember the best moments and the experience you had there.

Traveling is a drug. If you try it once you can`t stop. I traveled before but this year it was much more often and the more I was traveling the more I wanted to live like a vagabond musician. Just pack all my life in a backpack and wander the World all my life. Of course it`s not only fun. You can be in danger, you can be robbed and stay without any documents, you can fall in love and understand you are never gonna meet again, you can get attached to one place and leave your heart there…it`s both sad and satisfying. But I prefer this to safe boring life in one city. I guess stability is good but I feel I`m not really ready for that right now. I just want to be blown by the wind and wake up in different countries every day. There will be a day that I`ll want to stop, unpack my bags, find someone, maybe have kids and a house…or no.

I was leaving Hungary with this mess in my head. Even Pope Francis was in Armenia so it was my turn, too. Armenia is not far if you fly straight from Budapest but my organization bought a ticket which was like a round-the-world trip. I went to Budapest from my city, then flew to Istanbul ( two-hour delay), I stayed in the airport for 10 hours then flew to Tbilisi (two-hour delay, no Internet). After Tbilisi I went to Yerevan the next day. It took almost two days and 4 cups of coffee to get to Yerevan. And the changes were funny. I had a lot of time to examine people and take some photos. People in the South are much more louder. If in Budapest people were blondish and silent in Istanbul they were darker and louder. Then I got to Tbilisi where people were almost shouting and the noses were bigger. And when I finally got to Yerevan the picture was quite different. We are loud, we are dark-haired, we use a lot of gestures. When I came back I let myself free and realized I`m also using lots of gestures. And now I totally accept this…I`m from the South and that`s the way we are!

I`ve come back one week ago but I still can`t fully realize I`m back. I was away for only 10 months but now I`m dealing with cultural shock and I don`t feel I belong here anymore. The first thing I wanted to do when I got home was to fly back the next day. I guess I need some time, some drinks with my friends to feel the vibe of Yerevan.

Three Countries in One Day

My hosting organization which is at the same time my coordinating organization had 2 volunteers before me. One of them came for one semester, the last volunteer and I stayed here for 2 semesters (10 months). My coordinator who is at the same time my supervisor created a tradition and every year at the end of the project he takes the volunteers to one day trip through old lands of Hungary.

Hungary used to be a big country like Armenia but like us they also lost territories during the history. In Armenia there is one famous tour idea traveling to our former lands in Turkey. So he organized something like this. We started from Pecs where I live, we went to Mohacs where the famous battle between Hungarians and Turks took place, then we went to Baja where my coordinator was born, then to Serbia and Croatia.

1

So Mohacs battle is one of the most important battles for Hungarians. They lost it and that`s when Ottomans occupied the country. Hungarians say they don`t like Turks because of this but I don`t think so. At least political situation says the opposite and even among students Turks have some priorities and special programs. But I believe they don`t like them because of their religion. Yeah, John Lennon died dreaming….

After Hungarian history lesson by my coordinator and one funny guide (or he was a teacher) we drove to Baja. It`s a small city next to the river where I suppose everyone is obsessed with fish like my coordinator. He invited me to try fish near the river, I walked in the city for a while and we headed to our next destination in Serbia.

On the borders we had to wait for some time. Both on Serbian and Croatian borders. They had never seen Armenian passport before…I guess. 😀 Of course Armenians go to Croatia and Serbia and I crossed Croatian border several times but not from this part of the country. But at the end everything was fine and I got some new stamps in my passport. Well to say I saw Serbia will be wrong as we had short time and that part of the country used to belong to Hungary so the buildings were the same. Anyway we had beautiful view near the border between Serbia and Croatia. The river was dividing the countries surrounded by trees.

We got to Osijek when it was late already so we just walked next to the river enjoying summer sunset and went home.

I think this was my last trip during my EVS. I finish my project and go back to Armenia after 9 days. Mother says I traveled enough and now it`s time to come back and settle down…she doesn`t realize I just start…it`s not the end!

Wroclaw and Krakow

After Berlin I headed to Poland. My first stop was in Wroclaw. It`s a small but as I think underrated city. I loved that colorful city which is not spoiled by tourists. People were so open and nice. I must confess I had wrong opinion about Poland. For me it was the same Russia but after my short trip I like Polish people and their colorful buildings so much. I was always sure tall and blond people are not for me…but never say never until you try. I was not feeling short next to them but I was admiring the way they are…tall, handsome guards.

I had a lot of time to walk in the city and take photos (that`s why they are so many) but in the evening I was tired of being alone so I went to one art bar. You know small bars where friends gather and have fun. After one beer I already had friends. One of them even had Armenian grandmother. Compared to Berlin not so many people could speak English but I could have fun and be part of farewell party. One of their bartenders was leaving.

After who days of burning under the Sun and torturing my feet I went to another more famous Polish city Krakow.

 

 

The city is more famous because of the history but still people were happy and active. There was a festival, a lot of young people, tourists and horses. I had only one day but Krakow is not so big and it`s very green. People from Yerevan will understand me…my city is not green at all. We cut all the trees. Maybe we think new malls will produce oxygen.

I finished my trip and took my bus to Budapest with mixed feelings of sadness, fatigue and yearning….

 

Berlin, meine Lieblingsstadt

Months of learning German, years of listening to German music…that`s what Germany is for me. I always loved Germany even without ever being there. Something is so close to me. I`m from the South and I really love emotional people but I must say I also adore German punctuality. Modern Armenia is in the middle of East and West and you can feel it in our culture. But for me there is also South vs. North party in my head.

I regret spending such a short time in Germany as it was not enough at all to see, feel and experience everything Berlin could offer. At the beginning it was raining so hard and when I got off the bus I just wanted to run back. But I was lucky as after several hours it was hot and sunny. I was staying in the center but I still had to spend so much time in the metro. Berlin is big and busy city. It can take one hour to get from one side of the city to another by metro. The streets are full of locals and foreigners. Everyone could speak English, high quality service, TASTY FRUITS…in one word perfect city for me. Im totally in love with Berlin. So much that I plan working there. But to be honest the impression depends on the experience you have in certain cities. I had crazy days, I did things I had never done in my life….Im sure it made me love the city more then I would without all that. But whatever happens in Berlin stays in Berlin 😀 I leave part of my heart and soul there…promising to come back!

TACHELES is closed! I wanted to visit Tacheles so bad but it has been closed for two years already. That`s one of the bad aspects of Berlin. They destroy old buildings to build new offices like we do in Yerevan. The city has no value for me if it`s all new-built. If you don`t have history and story to tell then you are empty and boring.

About Germans being cold: I can`t say it`s just a stereotype but its not 100% true. I know many Germans and it`s easy with most of them. Of course they will not use gestures like Italians or Spanish but they smile and express emotions like anyone else. About being nationalist…well all the countries have that. I`m living in Hungary which is the most nationalistic county in Europe and I`m still alive. 😀

By the way I was so surprised to see Armenian flag near Brandenburg gates. As I learned later Germany recognized Armenian genocide the day I was there.