How I booked the most spontaneous trip of my life

get to london fastNote: This article goes out to the colleague who made me promise I was going to post something by the end of today. It’s not what he was expecting, but to be honest, I myself didn’t have a clue I was going to write something like this either.

There might be a lot of things you don’t know about me, but if you still haven’t found out about my deep love for London, then you really don’t know me at all. Our story goes back all the way to October 2013, when I visited the city for the first time and felt like it was the perfect place to spend my youth – no obligations, just fun. Ever since then, I’ve landed in 4 of its 6 airports and have taken almost every route to its center, staying both in a hotel as well as in an airbnb and at a friends’ house. So just to be clear: I kinda knew what I was getting myself into this morning.

Since I fell asleep way too early yesterday evening due to the lack of after work activities in Vienna, I woke up very early today, having some spare time before work. A friend of mine had asked me on Facebook how to find the cheapest tickets from Malta to anywhere around the world, so I suggested him to look up Kayak Explore and Google Flights. My problem with Google Flights was that I still hadn’t managed to fully understand what it can do for the user, so I ended up playing with it for a while. One thing led to another: I saw the prices for flights from Malta to London, then changed the dates to today-Sunday, then…changed the location to Vienna. And there it was: Eurowings, 15th of Jan, departure at 6 pm (after work jajaja), return on Sunday evening. 110 Euros (Schnäppchen, as we call it around here). That’s probably all I needed in order to hit the “Book now” button.

Then, after around 5 minutes in the check-out basket, I had the confirmation from Eurowings. Next thing I did was to open up Airbnb, because I knew for sure that wasn’t any chance to find anything less expensive than Airbnb on such short notice. I limited my search to the “direct booking” options with a lighting bolt and basically had two options around City. The reason why I went for City is that one of my best friends now lives there, she didn’t know anything about my arrival, so I at least wanted to make the way towards her area easier and more enjoyable. There were two fitting options and I went for the cheaper one, based in Camden Town (hurray for finally choosing a location for my hipster heart!). No time to do other more complicated decisions.

To finish off the trip organization, I knew that since I’m landing on Stansted I needed a way to get to the city. Having no previous experience on how to get from different drop off points to Camden Town, I decided to go for my favourite bus company – National Express, I love you and your free WiFi on board– as well as my favourite bus stop at London Liverpool Street. That’s the place I arrived to for the very first time in 2013 and it was about time to relive that moment. I scheduled the bus ticket for around 40 minutes after the expected plane arrival, since you have to cross UK borders and show your passport, which takes around 15-30 minutes to complete, depending on how crowded it gets. Note to self: please take your ePassport if you want to drastically reduce the time spent at the border! I forgot mine every single time so far, including now (because it’s easier to just bring along my Romanian ID card).

That being said, the adventure is about to begin! Right now I’m writing to you from the bus on my way to Liverpool Street and I hope that this weekend will be exactly as I imagine the city every time I think about it: magical. Looking forward to meeting friends and acquaintances – really curious about the new places I’m about to check out. Wish me luck and this time I promise you’ll stay updated along the way.

How Tel Aviv took me to new places

Tel Aviv beach takes you to new places

If there’s something I was really afraid of doing in the past, it was traveling alone to a completely unknown country. The uncertainty that crossed my mind whenever I was about to hit the “book” button on some really good destinations was…paralyzing. “How will I handle the unfamiliar situations? What if I get bored? What if something happens to me? How can I deal with the loneliness?” Especially the communication aspect of traveling has kept me away from diving into it all by myself. One of the things I love the most is sharing great moments of each trip with somebody. This is why, whenever I see bloggers going on their own to every place on this Earth, I secretly admire them and wish I were in their shoes.

One evening while I was discussing a travel idea with a friend on Skype, he sent me the link to a new flight booking website I didn’t know about. I randomly searched for “Tel Aviv”. It was a thing I had been doing for the past months, while trying to convince a couple of my friends to join me there – with no luck. “Too unsafe!”, “Too far away!”, “Too many days off!” were some of their excuses. So to my surprise, the site actually worked well, giving me around 20 Euros discount from the previous searches I’d done a few days ago. My friend didn’t even notice the slight change of tone while I was booking the trip – then suddenly, at the end of the night, I told him what I did. He laughed.

So did I, having no clue of what was expecting me in the process. Three denied rooms on Airbnb later, I was beginning to wonder whether this was as good of an idea as I originally thought. My friend from London wanted to join me, but then couldn’t find a ticket. I was even hoping that I might convince a guy to join last minute – didn’t work either. One night before the trip, I was scared like crazy and thought about the worst things that could happen.

And then it stopped. People had been telling me that the security checks are awful, that one should be at the airport 3-4 hours before departure. So in a way, I thought: “If they keep me at the gate from going to Tel Aviv, then maybe it’s for a good reason”. I left it in destiny’s hands…and destiny had quite a sense of humor. Having arrived 3 hours before the journey, I found out that my flight with El Al had been cancelled.

“Ok, so now what? Should I just go back?” The lovely lady at the information desk gave me a hotline number for El Al and I found out that my flight had been rebooked on an Austrian jet later in the evening. Basically, that meant that the security checks were EXACTLY like on every other flight I take from Vienna, so I got to the gate in about 15 minutes. This left me with another 3 hours spare to browse on my phone (because somebody advised me to not bring my laptop with me due to the harsh security checks…) and get an insane amount of snacks from airport cafes. Don’t be like me, read a book, do something productive while waiting.

After boarding, I immediately fell asleep. When I woke up, we were almost there. Now all that mattered was to get through their security checks, get a taxi, get some sleep, hop on a bus to Jerusalem the next day at 7 am. Piece of cake. What I didn’t know was what was expecting me after arriving at the destination…

Want to find out? Like, share and stay tuned for more fun from Israel 🙂

 

Why traveling is not the answer to all your questions in life

where is andra london traveling first blog

The phenomenon traveling has reached never before seen levels of mainstream. People who were once bound to live within the borders of a single state now have the chance (and money) to go abroad. Destinations that were once but a simple dot on a map have now become “places where you can go on a low-budget trip” for a 2-week vacation. Airplane rides get cheaper, accommodations get more creative, travel blogs spread like the smell of freshly baked croissants and, since holiday pics get the most likes on Facebook, a whole bunch of people are asking themselves: how can I travel more? Why do others travel more than me?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m also one of those people mentioned above. My story starts somewhere in the middle of Romania (Sibiu to be precise) in 1991, back when the iron curtain was falling and the borders were opening. Up until the age of 14, I hated everyone who told me cool stories about their travels abroad, because I knew that we couldn’t afford to take them as well. Then, thankfully, things changed back in the summer of 2006, when my dad took me on a 3-week road trip through Europe and I fell in love with Vienna. Four years later I moved there to pursue my dreams of becoming a very dedicated student (NOT!) and guess what happened? I started traveling. More. And more. And more.

2014 was the year of my most plane rides so far. If I have any flashbacks from places I’ve seen, they’re probably from 2014. It seemed to be a year where (at least on Facebook), it looked like I had won the lottery and decided to blow the money fast and in as many countries as possible. It looked like I had it all figured out. I’ve never heard so many people telling me they envy me, that they want to be like me, that they don’t understand how I found the time and cash to do it all. Honestly, I still can’t provide a good enough explanation for it.

What I can tell you is that 2014 was the year I found out the least things about myself. During all those travels I really didn’t find the time to ask myself some serious questions involving my future being preoccupied with sightseeing spots and restaurants. It seemed a lot simpler to post a pic or book another trip than to dig deep into my emotions and my perceptions of the life I want to lead. It’s still amazing to see what a 22-year old can achieve with 80 Euros and a bit of planning beforehand (traveled to Stockholm for a weekend with Austrian Airlines) – but don’t confuse trip booking with life decisions.

That being said, traveling is one of the best things you can do in your life. It will broaden your horizons and will make you become a person that generally understands more about the world, because you get to experience it first hand. And since we live in a world in which you can manage to go to New York for 300 Euros or Beijing for 250, why not take advantage of it? That’s why I made this travel blog. I don’t want to show you how to answer the vital questions of your life, but I really want you to stop being envious of other people’s traveling habits and start making your own. It’s easy and I believe it can be taught, if you will read me twice a week from now on.

This is why I’m launching this challenge: if you “like” this article below and get it to at least 100 likes by Thursday, I promise you two articles a week in March and April. But I need to know for sure that you’re willing to read me if I’m willing to write.

Just to spice things up a bit: I’m writing this article up in the air above Quebec on my way to…find out where in my next article 🙂 and by following me on Instagram and Twitter.