DiscoverEU

Interrail through the eyes of young travellers

DiscoverEU gives 18 year-olds from the European Union (EU) the chance to win a free Interrail Pass. The EU and Eurail/Interrail introduced the scheme to give young Europeans the chance to learn about their neighbouring countries and cultures by travelling there by rail. For many, it is their first time travelling so far on their own. The people they meet, the skills they gain and the experiences they have will stay with them forever.

In this new regular feature, we will share stories from users of the DiscoverEU scheme to show you what they learned and what tips they’d give to future travellers. Perhaps they’ll inspire you to apply to DiscoverEU, or if you’re already over 18, then to buy a Pass and experience it for yourself… You’re never too young or old to go on a Eurail/Interrail trip!

Milos, Slovakia

How would you rate your overall experience? I won the Interrail Pass last year and went on to experience the best year of my whole life. The life of the traveller is the best way to live! One morning you wake in Porto (Portugal) and by the evening you are looking for accommodation in Valencia (Spain). As you go, you never know what troubles you might need to solve and that's exactly what travelling is about. What have you learned and experienced during your DiscoverEU journey? I travelled with my 2 classmates across Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. I experienced different countries, different people and different lifestyles. Every day or two you have to switch languages and you have to acclimate to the next place you are visiting. It's exciting to live like that. Looking back on your trip, what advice can you give to others? Definitely, if anything goes wrong, just say it doesn't matter. There are unlimited options of how to handle the situation in which you are right now. I hadn’t booked my ticket from Barcelona to Paris two days in advance and when I was ready to buy it on the day of departure, they just said to me that the tickets are sold two days in advance. I had two options: to stay in Barcelona and pay for accommodation, or take 5 or 6 trains through the night to Paris. I just risked it and I will never regret it. During this "night journey" I met 7 people, from 5 different countries and we had the same target – to get to Paris. It was a fun and unforgettable experience. Has your trip changed the way you view travelling by train? Completely! If I now had to choose which way of travelling is most comfortable, I would say by train, without hesitation. Is there anything else you'd like to share with us? Even if you do not win a Eurail/Interrail Pass, I wish that EVERY traveller will spend at least one great summer travelling with Eurail/Interrail, as I did.

Magnus, Denmark

How would you rate your overall experience? My overall experience was very good. By travelling by train I really learned that it is not only about the destination, but the journey. By that, I mean that travelling by train was a magnificent experience on its own. Sometimes we met some train conductors that were very nice to us and helped us, but sometimes they can get a little tricky. It was very interesting that not everyone speaks good English, so it was very interesting to communicate with others through two languages. I met a lot of nice people from all over Europe, so I am very grateful for this experience. What have you learned and experienced during your DiscoverEU journey? I learned a lot about Europe and myself, but also small things like how to spell the names of some small cities that I never thought I was going to spell, because I had to write them in my Travel Diary. To start with Europe… I learned a lot about the differences in culture, even though we are so close to each other (only a train trip away :D ). People eat differently, talk differently, look different, but in the end, everyone was very nice to us and wanted to help. I learned a lot about myself, because I had to take responsibility and make decisions under time pressure. I had to make some choices about some trains and had to make some important calls to some hotels and other things. I feel a lot more compatible with that now and I feel a lot more mature after my 1-month trip. I learned that I can take care of myself and explore the world by myself. Looking back on your trip, what advice can you give to others? Jump into it. Have fun and just do it. Pay whatever it costs, because you are not going to regret it. Take the whole month away, not only 2 weeks. Go to some big cities, but also try and go to some small cities, maybe with some beautiful nature. Has your trip changed the way you view travelling by train? I would pick travelling by train over plane every day after my Interrail trip. I loved going to all of these beautiful cities, but travelling by train was the best experience of my trip. The travel days were the best days. I would recommend it to everyone I know, and I would definitely do it again! Is there anything else you'd like to share with us? I went to Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland, and it was so beautiful. I would recommend Switzerland to everyone, because the nature was so beautiful. Pay whatever it costs!

Sára, Hungary

How would you rate your overall experience? My journey was fantastic. All the things that happened to me and all the memories I (accidentally) made during those 15 days of travelling will stay with me for my whole life. I really loved it! Thanks to this, I realised how much I love travelling by train, how many incredible places I can get to by them and, most importantly, that this kind of low budget backpacking is much more my style and more enjoyable than staying in fancy hotels and following fixed itineraries. What have you learned and experienced during your DiscoverEU journey? I've learnt a lot about myself. I had to solve many unexpected problems on my own, take care of my belongings and organise the trip by myself. During the journey I met new cultures and lots of genial people, and became more tolerant and open-minded. My language skills also developed a lot as I arrived in unknown countries and with every new day I realised how diverse and wonderful the EU is and how lucky I am to live in one of its member countries. Looking back on your trip, what advice can you give to others? During a journey like this you learn so much about yourself. By the end you re-evaluate so many things regarding what is really worthwhile. You learn a lot about tolerance and flexibility – you can find or shape your own values while experiencing wonderful places, meeting new cultures and making everlasting memories. Has your trip changed the way you view travelling by train? Absolutely! I always liked trains but unfortunately (especially for me living with my parents and studying) a cheap plane ticket is often a better option because of the high train ticket prices. Travelling by train has its own magic, as you see the view constantly changing around you and the feeling when you wake up in the morning in a whole new country cannot be compared to anything else. I find it to be the best kind of public transport, especially in western Europe where the train systems are quite modern. Unfortunately, many people don't realise how practical trains are and opt for planes or cars. I also like that when you travel by train you can spend the time productively and the simplicity of it encourages you to make greener or more simple life decisions after the journey has ended too.

Luke, United Kingdom

How would you rate your overall experience? I absolutely loved the Interrail Pass – it gave me a freedom like no other. I was able to complete a journey across an entire continent that would have been far more difficult any other way. What have you learned and experienced during your DiscoverEU journey? I learned that you should be present in the moment and with the people around you, you should take the time to put down your phone and focus on what people have to say. Often people have incredible stories to tell or similar interests to share and you're just stuck behind the screen of your phone, watching someone online thousands of miles away. Take time to be present and live in the real world, experience the differences of each country you visit, and take the time to really absorb everything. Looking back on your trip, what advice can you give to others? • Don't try and cram too much travelling into a short period of time. Pick countries that you’re interested in, but not too far from each other. Try to use your Interrail Pass travel days to cover the longer distances and then use your own money on smaller intercity travel within those countries. • Try to pack as light as you can: pick a few outfits and stick with them, and don't pack useless items that you may only use once on a trip. If you're with a group, a pack of cards is essential. • If you're on a budget, eating out at restaurants every night is the worst thing you can do. Try to find accommodation with cooking facilities, where you can prepare and cook your own food. Has your trip changed the way you view travelling by train? After my trip, it's made me realise how easily you can use trains to cover such large distances. I feel like most people are always inclined to want to find a flight somewhere, whereas taking a train can sometimes be quicker as you don't have to arrive at the train station hours before your flight or wait for boarding. As soon as your train arrives, you simply get on and go. Another really great thing about train travel is that a lot of train companies have night trains. This means that you can get on a train, fall asleep and wake up in a new country!