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Travel to waste or travel to save?


The economic crisis will inevitably affect the tourists. A good thing is that travellers is a completely different species, and with a bit of a wise planning, they can turn it into their advantage.

If you are just out of university and you are struggling to find a job while paying all your bills maybe it’s time for that break you were dreaming of since high school.

road1If you have enough money to pay your rent for the next two months, then you have enough money to spend a few more months in a cheaper country.

It is easier to organise a trip like that now, thanks to the internet. Sites like The Backpacker and the backpacking site will give you tips, ideas and guides to specific countries.

You can plan ahead your accommodation with websites like the hostel-finder and hostelword. map

It wouldn’t make much sense to travel to a country like Luxembourg or Switzerland. If you want your money to last longer, try Latin America, Africa, Asia or Eastern Europe. The British pound is still strong there and you can spend much more time in these countries than you would here, with the same amount of money.

For the practical minds, you can use this trip to gain work experience, while saving money. Either by volunteering or with part-time jobs, you can save on your accommodation and make your CV more unusual and interesting. The Prospects website offers advice but there are literally hundreds of websites with projects abroad. Be careful though, because some of them charge with ridiculous prices for their services.

Remember, when the time comes for you to find a job and settle down, it will be much harder to take a gap year or a break to travel. This period is an ideal time to do it. Leave your stuff at your parents’ house, stop spending your money on your rent and get through the economic crisis in a distant and exotic location.

When you come back, you will have more energy and experience to look for a job and let your CV stand out. Even though we can’t tell how long this crisis will last, it seems that a gap year now will give you nothing to lose.

Not to mention the places that you will see… But that’s another subject!


Author: Dimitra Rizou

all photos from microsoft clipart


November 21, 2008 Posted by | Dimitra - Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m going off the rails on a crazy train


Ok, I’ve said enough about volunteering and exchanges. There are some of us who like to travel in the good old-fashioned way: without any plans at all in advance. jacklondon

Lucky for us, we live in Europe, where there is so much to see in such a short distance. And how to do that? Well, ever since Jack London and his days of ‘The Road’, die-hard travellers know that the ultimate way of travelling is the train.

Green Steam Train by Simon Hart

Green Steam Train by Simon Hart

Why train rules? Because you actually get to see the beautiful scenery of Europe, it’s more environmentally-friendly than planes and unlike them, it will leave you in the middle of the city. There’s more! You always meet interesting people, you don’t have to plan ahead or book and the best part, you are free to say any time, “hey, this place looks cool! Let’s get off here!”. I wanna see you saying that on a plane!

In our modern times, following Jack London’s hobo example would be pointless, since there are now schemes that cater for the wanderers and their wanderlust.

The Interrail pass was introduced in 1973 and is run jointly by all the rail services in Europe. It is a train pass that allows unlimited travel in Europe, except for some high-speed trains. Imagine a monthly travel card, from zones 1 to …the limits of Europe! If you are not a European citizen, you can take the Eurail instead.


You can either purchase a one-country pass from £25, or my favourite, the global pass from £129. This means that you can take trains towards any European destination. You also get a good discount on ferries everywhere, in case you’re a sea-wolf too. Jump from the train on the ferry from Spain to Italy to Greece, or around the Scandinavian countries. See all the places that you can go on this map. You will also have discounts on some hotels, museums, excursions, local buses, as well as other benefits.


If you buy the 22-days or the 1-month continuous pass, it means total freedom. You can literally go to the train station with your backpack and choose randomly the next destination. With all the people that you will meet on the train or the hostels, with the last minute decisions and the unpredictable timetables and more importantly, with all the trains that you will miss because of what you did the previous night, you never know where you might end up! However, if you are a control freak, you can try to plan everything in advance with the timetables, but, be warned, sticking to the plan will probably spoil all the fun!

If it’s your first time, take the advice of the veterans: the less you will pack the better. lonelypolanetBackpacks tend to get heavier by the minute. All you will really need is a good guide, like the Lonely Planet Europe on a shoestring, and of course the little bible with all the timetables that some train stations offer.

Another tip: after covering the must-see capitals that you want to take off your check list, it’s time to go off the beaten track. Find summer fiestas in small villages, deserted beaches and countries that you are not quite sure where they are. You can find a lot of preparation tips on-line. Take a look at the facebook page, or the travellers’ weblog too.

So if you made up your mind, get your ticket, pack a few clothes, take a buddy with you (but choose wisely-you will spend a looot of time together!) and go to conquer Europe!

Author: Dimitra Rizou

Extra Information here.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Dimitra - Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Summer volunteer projects

Travelers who long for new experiences have to spend a lot of time compromising until the next best thing comes. The two programmes I spoke about,  EVS and the AIESEC exchange may be great, but they do require a commitment for time.

Since there are so many people who like travelling or new experiences but don’t have enough time, I will say a few things about some summer opportunities. Many organisations organise voluntary projects around the world that last only a few weeks, like Vine UKVolunteers for Peace, Service Civil International and their British branch, International Voluntary Service.

logosciint ivs-logo_blue

The projects will focus on a local issue like the environment, the underprivileged or the cultural heritage. Details on projects are usually uploaded around springtime but to get an idea, you can take a look at the search engine of SCI or IVS of the volunteer placements.

They usually cover the accommodation and food but volunteers have to pay the tickets. This will probably limit most volunteers to Europe or the Mediterranean countries, but it is a very interesting and alternative way to approach a place. There usually is a small fee, but there is no age limit and you can also go with a friend!

The general concept is, “deeds, not words”. Even though you will work for just a few hours per day, you will make a difference to a local community and learn new skills. Volunteer work is not taken for granted – if you don’t do it, nobody else will do it in your place. Whether you want to help a small village in South France organise a music festival or learn how to do pottery in Tunisia, whether you want to be an entertainer in a camping for disabled children on a Greek island, or set up a small local radio station in Berlin, you can find it there. If you can afford to go further than that, even better.

The people I spoke to in the organisation told me that they don’t know anyone who’s done it only once. All of the volunteers come back for more next summer.

Apart from the work, which usually takes only a few hours of your day, you will interact in a unique way with a local community, but most importantly, share a great experience with other international volunteers. This may give you also a good opportunity to organize a big trip around the country after the project is over. It might be easy and fun, it might be challenging and enriching, but no matter what, 2 or 3 weeks later, you will definitely have a good story to tell!

Author: Dimitra Rizou

November 5, 2008 Posted by | Dimitra - Travel | , , | Leave a comment

AIESEC: exchange for the adventurers

Imagine waking up from the sound of the imam’s prayer or elephants crossing the street under your window. The little labyrinth roads and the odd-sounding language will be home to you after some patience and a few weeks. In order to survive in this strange environment you will develop skills you never thought you had.

In my last post I presented the EVS programme as an alternative way of travelling. But I am familiar with two types of travelers: those who want to escape and those who want to explode. For the latter, the ones whose blood is boiling, I will present another exchange programme that might suit them better.

Work Abroad Programme is organized and run by AIESEC, the world’s largest student organization. This programme is different and much more challenging. You can choose from over 100 countries, a period from 8 weeks to 18 months and what is more, you can choose to work on a field related to your studies, in order to gain valuable work experience abroad.

Most placements are paid with a basic salary, especially if you come from a Management, Education or IT and Engineering background. Even if they aren’t paid though, or if you come from a different background, accommodation and food is often provided. The fee for non-members is £350 and the only requirement is that you are a student at a UK university or a recent graduate. More details on this here.

The application can be done on-line but it is better that you talk to a local representative first or visit the AIESEC office of the closest university.

The strength of the programme lies in its volunteers. There will be AIESEC volunteers working in any country you might land. Discovering a totally different culture, especially one that might intimidate you, is not the same when you have a circle of local people around you.

I believe that the further you can go, the better. Europe is always here for us, and it is easily accessible. This programme gives you the opportunity to safely explore another world.

Imagine waking up from the sound of the imam’s prayer or elephants crossing the street under your window. The little labyrinth roads and the odd-sounding language will be home to you after some patience and a few weeks. In order to survive in this strange environment you will develop skills you never thought you had.

I know people who have been everywhere, from Latin America to India and every single one of them came back claiming that their lives were forever changed. My own experience in Morocco confirmed what I had heard: No matter how hard it will be, you will never be the same person when you get home.

ANd if you are wondering why AIESEC does what it does… Here’s a presentation of AIESEC’s mission

Author: Dimitra Rizou

Some extra information here.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Dimitra - Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

European Voluntary Service

Young wannabe travelers usually face one of life greatest ironies, or the most unwelcome manifestation of Murphy’s Law: When you are young you have time and no money and when you get older you have money but no time.

As someone who grudgingly left the first category to enter the second, I feel the urge to shout back at the lucky penniless ones to stop complaining, because time is more important than money when it comes to conquering the world.

I know that there are young ambitious Kerouaks out there who sleep dribbling on the map on their pillows and whose never-used backpack collects dust under the bed. They watch the travel programmes on TV mumbling curses to the presenters and count the coins in their pocket that can barely take them to the airport. I know it because I’ve been one.

There is good news however and it’s about time you found out.

Visiting a country and taking photos of the postcard attractions is an experience that is easy to do if you can save some money and easy to forget. Imagine, however, staying there and becoming part of the local culture. Imagine the possibility to see a country for what it is-the good and the bad- and to take part in a group effort to make it a better place. Sounds cheesy? Try it first.

There are now opportunities for cheap travel that is more than just tourism. NGOs, the European Union and other Bodies, organize exchanges that vary according to someone’s age, availability and interests. They all involve voluntary work.

One of these programmes that sounds too good to be true is the European Voluntary Service, part of the Youth In Action programme from the European Commission. It is open to people from 18 to 30 years old and is administrated in the UK by the British Council.

The aim of this programme that started as a pilot in 1996, is not only to help local communities, but to offer a true learning experience to young people. There is something for everyone no matter their interests, as a quick look at the Database of Accredited Organizations can tell.

According to the British Council, in 2007, 164 young British went abroad for the EVS and 381 foreign people were hosted in the UK. In general, placements last 6 or 12 months, but there are projects that last from 2 weeks.

There are no fees involved, while food, accommodation, insurance, linguistic support and an allowance is provided. So money won’t be an excuse from now on!

The other advantages are hard to summarize and depend on your initiative. Learning a new language, making friends from around the world, taking part in a project that matters and having a great work experience to add to your CV is just some of them.

Are you already packing, or dismissing it? Take a deep breath. Before getting excited or suspicious learn more. Talk to the organizations involved, read the information on the website and see what previous or current volunteers say.

Or you can ignore this and go back to daydreaming about the world out there, wasting your precious time away… Remember though, there are people who decide to get up and do it. Which one will you be?

Author: Dimitra Rizou

Extra Information here.

October 23, 2008 Posted by | Dimitra - Travel | , , , | 3 Comments