Backpacking through Europe

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Backpacking through Europe | Denver Wedding Photographer

Man, oh man! we are excited to share these photos and experiences with you guys! Andy and I shot a wedding in Switzerland last summer, but we went a month early to backpack Europe together.

I want these pictures to encourage you, to give you actual courage to get out of your comfort zone. Maybe for you, that means something totally different than buying the plane ticket to Europe. Awesome! But if it does mean going to Europe, then just do it. Go. You don’t need a boyfriend, or even a friend. Save your pennies, research places you want to go, pack some food and go. Know there will be times you are scared, times when you’re lonely, times when you feel your expectations haven’t been met, but know it’ll be crazy worth it. There’s a freedom you’ve never felt before. Everytime I look at pictures of this trip, I’m jealous of the girl in them! I’m reminded that all the trouble was absolutely worth it and to go through the effort of doing it again. I am reminded how vital it is to the human experience to step, no jump, outside your comfort zone. When we take the leap, we feel and see and do and love in ways we didn’t know were possible, and every risk you take dissipates into joy.

But I also want to mention some things the pictures don’t show. This trip is easily romanticized because they show a beautiful trip to beautiful places with *ahem* a beautiful man. Yes,I was able to go with Andy, and yes it was awesome! But there were also really hard parts! To be completely honest, we had just gotten engaged and had made the the decision to wait until marriage, even though we were sleeping in a tent together each night. Seriously, that was HARD. I also got annoyed with Andy plenty of times because you know what, backpacking through Europe is hard; you usually don’t know the language or the culture or where the heck you’re going and 99% of the time things don’t go as planned. Sometimes I would take that annoyance out on Andy and then realize, “ oh wait, he doesn't know where to go either! He didn’t mess up my plans. He’s on my team!” I learned that Andy is the most chill, patient, kindest, giving human on the planet. And you usually don’t get to learn those things about about someone unless you’re in a situation together where they have to use those characteristics. That’s why is so important to not wait until everything is perfect to get out of your comfort zone (it never will be), but just go for it, trust in the growth, and venture onwards! Take tons of pictures and write all your experiences down.


"Every time we move anywhere, there is a place we start from, a place we end up at, places in between, and a direction. There is an indisputable common sense to this statement and yet it is both simple and broad enough to contain all experience and life as we know it. The language of a journey, trip, or pilgrimage has been used to express a seemingly limitless body of ideas–many of which often appear contradictory... the journey metaphor is applied to so many scenarios and meanings that both our expectations for and reflections on our travels are often convoluted and disjointed."

My friend Amelia wrote that in her senior thesis about her evolving relationship with travel. She's got this way with words that make you think, man. I deeply feel that human thing she is describing about travel. The messiness of it and how it means so many different things. When I think back to my travels, it's a montage. Quick flashes of memory. Place to place to place. New faces. Joining crowds in unfamiliar streets. Noise. Languages I can't comprehend. Europe has this beautiful, dynamic heart with a thread of history that runs throughout the streets and architecture. It's an amazing feeling to have something so old be so new to you. If you haven't gone, you gotta go. I don't care if you don't have enough money or time. Make it work. Save up, pack some food, pack a tent, and just go. Bonus points if you can convince a friend. You won't regret it.

First Country: Espana!


We flew into Barcelona which made me REAL happy because I'd taken an intensive 7 week immersion crash course in Spanish the previous summer and I began to adore learning Spanish. Andy's famjam is from Mexico and his parents don't speak English, so when Andy and I started talking about marriage, it was time for me to learn his heart language. If you know me, you know this was no easy task! Languages are apparently not my thing. But against all odds, I fell in love with Spanish. It was amazing to be in a Spanish speaking country after all the hard work of learning. 

We stayed in Barcelona five incredible days- days filled with delicious tapas, sangria (if you know, you know), beach nights, museum hunting, and Spanish speaking. Actually, Andy and I only spoke to each other in Spanish for most of the week, which was hilarious. Andy's Spanish might be great, but his sense of direction is not. Whoops! When we'd inevitably get lost and we couldn't figure how in the world to get where we going, the language barrier made it impossible for me to get up set with him. Maybe that should be some new marriage technique- argue in you second language so you can't argue! ha! We met up with our dear friend Lilian who was living there at the time. It was an absolute dream.

Italia! 

We spent an incredible week living out of a teeny tiny Italian car with our friend, Melaine. As romantic as Italy is, we were straight-up ROUGHING it! We were on a tight budget, so Melaine was very gracious to live like bums with us (admittedly, we still found a way to eat like kings). From backpacking along the coast to exploring little vineyard towns with an airbnb host who owns a castle (the dude was literally a famous chef, it's fineeee), Italy will forever be one of our favorite countries. The people were so nice and the food was just too dang good. 

I had studied art for a month in Italy the previous summer, and so I was over the moon to spend another week in my favorite country and explore new towns. Again, if you haven't been, you've got to go. And my biggest piece of unsolicited advice? When you go, make friends. Take time to step out of the comfort of hanging with other Americans you met at your hostel. This is true for every country, even though I know how hard it can be to make yourself do it. My second piece of unsolicited advice? Write it all down.

Espana, la France , + Switzerland 

We flew back to Spain and hopped on a cheap 2€ city train from Barcelona that would take us right to the French border. At this point, Andy and I didn't have too many plans, but we knew we had a bit more than 1.5 weeks before we were shooting in Geneva.

We explored, camped on mountain tops we found along the way, and hitch-hiked through the Pyrenees. Andy speaks French and France it one of his favorite places. It was amazing to watch him make friends in every little town we visited; he's so inspiring! He just runs around getting to know people with that big smile of his. The French people we met were so kind, especially when we tried to speak French. As we met people we were given so much bread, cheese, and fruit it was awesome. We talked politics, religion, culture, and just got to embrace southern French culture. We met so many people hitch-hiking and on the trail. The south of France will forever be in our hearts and one of the best parts of our trip.

When we reached the boarder in France, we were told about the "little yellow train" that runs through the Pyrenees. It was just as awesome as it sounds and we were able to explore so much more of the Pyrenees! Highly recommend. And if you go, I hope you'll meet all the cute european old people we did. One of my favorite parts was walking down a random road that said "fruits et legumes" and meeting a 90 year old man fully kicking and so excited to make his first American friends. He had never seen american money before, so after paying for some fruits, we gave him our change and a dollar bill. He was so excited it was one of the cutest things. We had a great conversation with him because of Andy's mad French skills. If you can't tell, really admire that guy. (Side note: really bummed i didn't go to a language school as a kid. It's crazy how many languages kids around the world grow up speaking. Often, we're so selfish as Americans to think it'll just be fine to stick with English and not prioritize language in primary school. Ugh.)

Moving on, one night we stayed at a French campground, and let me tell you, the french know HOW to camp!! They had ping pong + pool with a view, pizza + wine, and it was so cheap! Super clean and classy. And all this for camping!? Time to step it up, America. 

We took this picture after sitting at a coffee shop / bakery all day in France (i think? ha) because we were SO tired. We had been together mostly one-on-one for like 3 weeks at this point, and had been backpacking for days, and just needed a human break. We sat, on our phones / reading our books, for like 9 hours -- rarely talking. After those 9 hours, we went to the bathroom, chugged some water and filled up our bottles again and hit the road to find a place to sleep that night. Cute pic, but neeeeeded break from the romanticized *backpacking through europe-ness.

We took this picture after sitting at a coffee shop / bakery all day in France (i think? ha) because we were SO tired. We had been together mostly one-on-one for like 3 weeks at this point, and had been backpacking for days, and just needed a human break. We sat, on our phones / reading our books, for like 9 hours -- rarely talking. After those 9 hours, we went to the bathroom, chugged some water and filled up our bottles again and hit the road to find a place to sleep that night. Cute pic, but neeeeeded break from the romanticized *backpacking through europe-ness.

THE ALPS

Buddyyyy. So, at this point we had been hauling some pretty heavy bags around for a while and desperately wanted to backpack for a few days through the French-Swiss Alps before the wedding. We hitch-hiked to Geneva and met up with our wedding family + friends so we could drop our bags off. We went to college with most of them and were SO pumped to hang in Geneva during the wedding week. We packed up just a few clothes, packs of tuna, protein bars, and headed out. I really wanted to show Andy my favorite little Swiss town, Grindelwald (which we eventually named our cat after)! But, we were pretty much broke at this point and taking a train to the french alps was much cheaper. We ended up hiking around Mont Blanc! As we were backpacking for 4 days, we’d split a protein bar for lunch and have half a flour wrap and half a can of tuna for dinner. Occasionally, we'd have a piece of fruit. It was hilarious. We were so hungry because we were putting in 10 miles a day, but it was SO worth it. The last night of our trip, we camped outside a random little hotel that was deep in the mountains with no road that lead to it, only a trail for hikers. They had pizza, and we definitely spent 30 euros on a medium pizza. You gotta do what you gotta do. We hiked with a Kiwi and guy from the Netherlands for most of trail, and that was great. We learned tons about socialism, and working for Nat Geo. The kiwi was only 20 years old and had lead Nat Geo expeditions and was climbing Everest later that year. IT'S FINE.

GENEVA

Oh man, wedding week! We rode vespas and walked everywhere we went. Days were spent swimming in Lake Geneva with the best people and taking boats to medieval villages, while nights were spent dancing in the the heart of city and prepping for the best wedding ever (see the wedding photos here).

There were 33 of us staying in the Masters house. We're talking mattresses on the floor and in the attic. They were the most kind and hospitable hosts, more concerned about including everybody than anything else. This was such a restful, life-giving part of our trip after walking miles and miles and miles. We'd lay under in the apple and plum trees in the orchard next to their house, spending the day reading, and just catching up with old friends. Best week everrrr.