europe backpacking

Photos: Copenhagen, Denmark by Jessica Lee

I landed in Copenhagen, Denmark, as dinner time was just beginning.

I had just come from Reykjavik, Iceland, where the community was small and there wasn't much to explore.

Copenhagen was perfect in that there was lots going on, lights everywhere and people travelling about.

A rush of cyclists sped past me towards the lit-up city and I followed them in that direction, excited by a new city to explore.

The thing I loved most about Copenhagen was its gorgeous aesthetics. There were cafes on every corner and all the buildings were meticulously kept.

I didn't see trash on any of the streets. There were only friends meeting with each other and happy couples. I definitely fell in love with this city at first sight. I wanted to move here for maybe a year or so. Waking up each day to beautiful streets and charming cafes would be wonderful.

Copenhagen was still early in my backpacking trip and I had spent the past year weening myself off of shopping and needless money spending to save up for this trip, so I quickly grew tired of walking through the commercial centre, despite all the cool boutiques. I settled down in a cafe and just people watched.

Danish people are quite fashionable.

I wandered towards the main square and stumbled upon the Christmas Market.

There's a Christmas Market in Toronto (third last photo) which started a couple of years ago, and is based on these European Christmas Markets. I had gone, and loved it. But being in a European one definitely beat out the Toronto one. I think it has something to do with the old buildings and cobblestone floors around you.

It feels more authentic with European cuisines, rather than poutine. But if you're in Toronto during Christmas season, you might as well check it out because it's beautiful with all the lights.

Another thing I loved about Copenhagen was its walkability. I never took the public transportation because everything I wanted to go to was easily accessible.

The only downside about Copenhagen are its expensive prices. As the third richest city in the world, it can be difficult to afford to live there. I spent $8 on a hot chocolate, and it was normal pricing. A bar meal was $20 for bangers and mash. It was delicious, but you can definitely get better value in less expensive cities.

Will I try to move to Copenhagen in the future? Perhaps. Currently Sydney, Melbourne, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Rome are on my list for top places to try to live in (for reasons I will later explain), but Copenhagen ranks pretty high up there too.

More photos of my time in Copenhagen:

Malmo, Sweden by Jessica Lee

Malmo, Sweden, is not where my trip to Europe began, but it is pretty close.

After a brief two days in Copenhagen, Denmark, I went to stay with my friend Myra in Lund.

I remember having trouble adjusting to the new timezones in Europe. I would sleep until noon, not make it out of the house until 1 pm, then find that the sun set in Sweden at around 3 pm. I never really got to see Sweden in the daylight as much as I would have liked to.

Then one day, we took a day trip to Malmo, to see one of her friends for dinner.

A train ride from Lund to Malmo is around 12 minutes. It was amazing to see another fully formed city with a square and established businesses within such a short distance.

In other big cities such as Berlin, it takes much longer to get to another suburb by train. Why are some cities bigger geographically? I am not an expert in urban sprawl, but I liked seeing the differences myself firsthand.

Anyway, here is what Malmo looks like:

One thing that stuck out to me the most was the design and the architecture.

We went into this furniture store which was full of fresh and inspiring ideas.

Usually, travellers don't like "consumerism" because buying more things means more things to carry around with them. Most hardcore travellers I know/ read about don't usually hang around the urban shopping centres, but I find this tragic because when a store is artfully done, it's like going to a design museum- for free!

This Swedish store we were in even offered free tea and coffee.

While we were in Malmo, they also had some sort of festival. Candles were being lit in the streets.

And there was a market of vintage/ handmade things in the square.

We settled down for a coffee break, went grocery shopping and then night set in.

Here is a photo of our dinner: salad, lasagna, ginger cookies and Swedish tea.

Homeward Bound by Jessica Lee

It's been a long journey, but I'm finally on my way home. I went to 14 countries in a little less than three months. I bathed in a geothermal spring with mountains in the background and also travelled by camel in the Sahara Desert. It's been a great three months of meeting new and interesting people, learning from them and expanding my viewpoints. I've also been extremely blessed to see so many beautiful sights and experience so many new things. On the flipside, I realized I also miss home a lot. I miss things usually taken for granted like a home-cooked meal or being able to sleep in your own bed without having to pack everything up again the next day.

Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing new towns and cities these past couple of months but it's also taught me the simple joys of knowing you have a place to sleep at night and it's definitely made me appreciate small things like being able to walk around my bathroom with bare feet because my bathroom at home has clean floors, unlike some of the hostels I stayed at. Another thing I used to take for granted was being able to make tea at home and at work so easily. Hot water is not always available at hostels because sometimes the kitchen is closed.

Maybe in the next few weeks I will get wanderlust again but for now I'm quite happy to be somewhere familiar, as cold as Toronto is. I have all my friends around and I know the city better than the back of my hand. I am relieved to be back home because it means I can rest and recuperate, and get ready for the next chapter of my life, wherever it may lead.

Thank you for following my adventures here and on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I will be updating with more photos in the next few weeks!

Gear Update: Minimalism and Strategy 2 months in by Jessica Lee

It’s been two months since I started my journey and I keep reflecting about how I can improve on packing for the next trip. I agree with the 80/20 rule in that only 20 percent of the stuff you pack you end up using 80 percent of the time. Therefore, the next time I backpack anywhere, I plan to cut my packing down into half of what I’m bringing- only the useful things I use most of the time.

I’ve found that carrying stuff can seriously limit what I’m able to do. For example, I wanted to make a day trip to Pisa, Italy, instead of staying there but I couldn’t walk with all my things to the attractions and then hop on the train to the next city. If I were able to pack everything onto a daypack, then that would be perfect.

The flipside of having so little things of course is that you can’t go shopping. There were many times I saw beautiful leather goods in Morocco but I always held off on buying things because of the agony I would endure carrying belongings from town to town.

I think the solution is a balance between minimalism and strategy. What’s weighing me down right now are books that I’ve finished reading but won’t give away and a jacket that I have no use for because I bought a warmer one along the way. On my next trip, I plan to bring only things I can part with and one set of clothes that will stay with me the whole way. And all of my electronics so I can process my work. This trip, I brought things that I could part with (like a pair of sweat pants I regretted saying goodbye to when I found out it was cold in Malaga), and that made more room in my pack as I bought new European things.

I’m lucky because I’m meeting a friend from home who has kindly offered to help me bring some of my things back home so I can travel lighter the rest of the way, but I know I won’t always have friends who travel during the same time as me, so for next time, I will have to be smarter with what I’m bringing.

Of course, I’ve definitely improved with my packing since two years ago when I couldn’t even walk 300 metres to my hotel in Indonesia with my luggage and had to get a taxi. These days, walking 1 km with my stuff is possible. One can always improve though- hopefully I will be a packing pro by the next trip!