Skubalon. This word is far more than a simple debate for amusement amongst Greek scholars. This word encompasses lifestyles and a general understanding about the kinds of people the Apostles were, and poses a certain threat, or comfort, depending on which side of the isle you happen to be on.

A little context: Paul and I seem to have some connecting points. I was raised in an incredibly conservative home, and we grew up under the pretext of always seeming to want to outdo the purity index. My mom’s constant phrase was, “don’t water down your faith”. In her perspective, “water down” could probably be seen as “not profitable” as a hail to the verse, “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable”. The mistake that I think happened, was that my mom with golden intentions, translated that verse in her head as, “if it isn’t profitable, it isn’t lawful”. The issue with that, is that the term “profitable” should be relative, while “lawful” should be black and white.

Consequently, I grew up with a constant push to be more “lawful”. If music wasn’t Christian, or if it was too rocky, it wasn’t lawful. If fashion was too “worldly”, it wasn’t lawful. If speech wasn’t proper, it wasn’t lawful. If romantic relationships weren’t practical, they weren’t lawful. So for example: since marriage wasn’t practical in Jr High or High School, romantic feelings weren’t lawful, and I was watched like a hawk by my other siblings to make sure that I wasn’t being flirtatious with a girl when I was 14, lest I break the family law. The music I listened to was heavily monitored and my parents used to preview my CDs, track by track, removing any of the tracks that had too much electric guitar. My Audio Adrenaline CD was taken away, and my Avalon CD was whittled down to 6 tracks. Bright colors became popular when I was in high school, so I once bought a bright orange t-shirt from Target, and when I showed it to my parents, they made me take it back and get my money back. 

My parents would tell me that no one was going to hell by breaking those rules, but that those precepts would help to make sure that my faith wasn’t “watered down”.

There’s something in all of us I think, that wishes for an ideal. We see the Holiness of God, and understandably don’t measure up, so we climb ladders in a hope that God doesn’t need to come down quite as far to reach us. 

I think Paul had a similar mindset. He was raised in a hyper-conservative home, became a top Pharisee, and seemed to also see everything “not profitable” as equating to “not lawful”. If holiness was a ladder, Paul seemed to be in the business of manufacturing rungs. 

So back to Skubalon — this word seems to be of a special importance to me, because curiously, Paul uses this word to describe his previous accolades in wrung manufacturing:

“Although I myself could boast as having confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he is confident in the flesh, I have more reason: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere skubalon, so that I may gain Christ”

Philippians 3:4-8 

So what does skubalon mean exactly? The controversy rests in the NET bible cliff notes describing this word:

“The word here translated ‘dung’ was often used in Greek as a vulgar term for fecal matter. As such it would most likely have had a certain shock value for the readers. This may well be Paul’s meaning here, especially since the context is about what the flesh produces.”

So if we take this note to heart, then the word should have been more properly translated to “shit” or “bullshit”. I mean, what other word could be translated “dung”, but with shock value? “Crap” simply doesn’t have shock value, since you could use that word in a G-rated movie (although amusingly, some translations have suggested “crap” as the appropriate translation). 

From what I’ve seen, this causes a conundrum amongst two sides of the church: the first side seems to be those who came from the world and who are careful to not give someone liberty to swear. They would use the verse “let no unwholesome thing come out of your mouth” as pretext for why Paul would have never used a cuss word. The other side (the one I came from) are those who come from religion and find this word as a source of freedom to explain that not only is Paul outlining the fact that his religious background was worthless, but he was using a cuss word to do it in order to further extend the point.

Espousing a different perspective, even momentarily, can be among the most alien and offensive concepts to our human nature. In my case, it’s very difficult to consider the idea that Paul DIDN’T cuss, because it offers sweet justification for why I no longer identify with the legalistic and religious views that I was raised with. However, I must also consider the perspective of those who find this concept offensive, because in many cases, those on the opposing side of the isle have found a ton of freedom in the structure and self-discipline that the Christian life offers, and this appears to be an affront to that.

So as with many things, I must be careful not to straw man either side (“straw man” is when you prop up an unfairly weak argument on the opposing side so as to be able to easily dismantle it). In preparing for this, I read many articles on both sides of the issue in order to get a full understanding.

So without further ado, the answer lies in etymology, as do many controversial topics to the Christian faith.

Skubalon is another one of those words that only show up a few times in ancient writings, and only once in the Bible. The first record of this word was in the 3rd century BC, and the last reference seems to have been in the late 4th century. As many obscure greek words go, the meaning seems to have changed a bit in those 700 years, becoming less offensive as time went on.

During the time of Paul, the word was used primarily for “dung”, but there seemed to be a distinction between dung in a chamber pot, and dung that was thrown out:

“till, there is a problem and not a small one in the work of the engineers. When they paved the streets they did not install beneath them underground drainage. Instead τὰ σκύβαλα covers the surface, and especially in the rain when τῶν ἀποσκευῶν is thrown out” (Strabo, Geography. 14.1.37)

Here, the dung (σκύβαλα (Another form of Skubalon) covers the surface, while another word is used when it is thrown out.

Critics have argued further that the word would have been an acceptable word, since there are references to it in a medical sense:

Artemidorus, Oneirocritia (second century AD) “ In the context of his first book, a discussion of anatomy, he refers to human excrement as σκύβαλον (Skubalon)”

Conversely, Josephus uses it to outline the disgusting practices of those suffering a famine during the fall of Jerusalem:

“some persons were driven to that terrible distress as to search the common sewers and old dunghills of cattle, and to eat the dung [σκύβαλα] which they got there”

Because of this, scholars have been divided on the meaning of the word, and it becomes tricky whenever something in the Bible is gray, because both sides can bring strong claims, and thus, your individual perspectives end up reigning supreme.

However, (perhaps because of my own perspective) I found the work of John David Punch to be helpful in this analysis, since he brings up the argument that Paul could have used several other words, yet chose not to. In his words:

“While it is important to remember that it is always tenuous to suggest what words an author must or must not use, it is wise to consider alternative terms that were available at the time of composition, especially any technical terms that are more widely used than obscure slang”

κόπρος, σκῶρ, περίττωμα/περίσσωμα, and χέζω are all words that could have been easily substituted for a less controversial tone, and all those words are used far more commonly in ancient writings. όπρος is associated with animal waste and was used by Homer and is generally seen as an unoffensive term. σκῶρ was commonly used for human waste in an unoffensive way. περίττωμα was used as a medical term describing human waste and was used commonly and without controversy. Lastly, χέζω was used to describe “bowel movement”, and was acceptable to general audiences. As Punch describes: 

“Each of these terms has thousands of occurrences dating back to the time of Homer, none of which appears to have offensive overtones. By contrast, σκύβαλον occurs only a very few times in a comparable period and at least a handful of these appear to have the intent of provoking strong reactions to foul and loathsome descriptions.”

Punch continues: 

“This provides the second piece of evidence to consider. It seems apparent that the term σκύβαλον, and likely various related terms, are regularly used to provoke an emotional response, at least in earlier references. Later usage shows signs that the term had lost much of its shock value (Wallace 2007), but early references seem to suggest that σκύβαλον was used to express extreme disgust. As Lang comments (1985, 445), ‘Only with hesitation does literature seem to have adopted it from popular speech.’ The infrequent occurrence of the term in written form should confirm that understanding of it.”

Lastly, and perhaps the most convincing, is the graffiti at Pompeii. The reason that this is the most convincing to me, is because we have a nearly perfect date (79AD), and we have the word (or at least a derivative) in full context. The graffiti at Pompeii looks very similar to the graffiti of today — a litany of “street terms” that are often inappropriate, and yet sometimes even profound. Here are a few amusing inscriptions that were found:

“I screwed the barmaid.” — Caupona of Athictus; right of the door

“Celadus the Thracian gladiator is the delight of all the girls.” — House of the Gladiators; column in the peristyle

“Cruel Lalagus, why do you not love me?” — On the Vico degli Scienziati

Blondie has taught me to hate dark-haired girls. I shall hate them, if I can, but I wouldn’t mind loving them. Pompeian Venus Fisica wrote this.” — Atrium of the House of the Large Brothel

“If anyone does not believe in Venus, they should gaze at my girl friend.” — Atrium of the House of the Ara Maxima

“Atimetus got me pregnant.” — In Vicolo del Panattiere, House of C. Vibius

So amongst those wonderful phrases (as well as several that were too obscene to list), are 4 phrases with the original latin word (cacare), which is the base for the word κόπρος, a derivative of our word used by Paul:

“Lesbianus, you defecate (cacare) and you write, ‘Hello, everyone!’” — Pottery Shop or Bar of Nicanor; right of the door

“To the one defecating (cacare) here. Beware of the curse. If you look down on this curse, may you have an angry Jupiter for an enemy.” — House of Pascius Hermes; left of the door

“Defecator (cacare), may everything turn out okay so that you can leave this place.” — Just outside the Vesuvius gate

“’Secundus defecated (cacare) here’ three time on one wall.” — House of the Centennial; in the latrine near the front door

“Apollinaris, the doctor of the emperor Titus, defecated (cacare) well here.” — House of the Gem

This to me, offers some legitimate context. Skubalon was a word that would have been at home amongst bathroom stall scribbles. It was crude and offensive.


Paul was clearly wanting to convey a certain amount of harshness. That fact is something that most scholars agree to on both sides, due to the fact that he seems to be increasing the intensity as the verse goes on:

“But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss (zēmia, “loss” is a good translation) in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss (zēmioō, [passive] to suffer damage — more intense) of all things, and count them mere skubalon (most intense), so that I may gain Christ”

Taken in the context of etymology, it would seem as if the term would have been at best slang (due to the profound lack of commonality of the term), and at worst offensive. I tend to lean towards the offensive side of the scale.

If you’ve read the Bible enough, this doesn’t seem too far out of character. Jesus called the Pharisee’s “sons of snakes” and “white-washed tombs”. In Galatians, Paul sarcastically tells the religious that if they view circumcision as the means to salvation, they should go all the way and “emasculate themselves entirely”. 

In closing, I believe that there are certain instances where one cuss word can say a thousand words. We should note however, that just like today, there were many Greek cuss words that Paul could have used, and yet didn’t, and the cuss word that he did appear to use was only written once. I don’t believe that cussing like a sailor is helpful to your witness or in line with the language of the apostles:

“If someone believes they have a relationship with God but fails to guard his words then his heart is drifting away and his religion is shallow and empty”

I also don’t believe that truly obscene phrases and words are helpful, and that’s further emphasized with the verse “let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth”.

However, there is a difference between offensive, and unwholesome. The Bible can be very offensive, but it is always wholesome. Telling someone, “you’re a badass” may be offensive if there are kids in the room, but the effect you would have on someone would be positive, thus, wholesome. 

Looking back at my past and comparing notes with Paul gives me a bit of context I think. I can look back at all of my religious strivings and happily use the word “bullshit” to describe them, especially after experiencing the true freedom of Jesus. The fact that I would use a slang and offensive term to describe it carries even more meaning, since by using the word, I am also ironically betraying the concepts of religion. So after much study, I believe Paul was doing the same.

Of Nike, Kaepernick, and Referees

I rarely ever post political things. This isn’t because I don’t have an interest or a desire to be aware of politics. It is because politics are one of the most polarizing arena’s and, call it “middle child syndrome,” but I constantly feel the need to play referee in the fray.

Last week, Nike released an ad showcasing the very controversial Colin Kaepernick (as you may recall, it was Kaepernick who started the movement of not standing during the national anthem). At first, Nike’s stock plummeted. The right-leaning supporters pointed fingers in a childish “serves you right” kind of way, just to have the stocks start to rise again days later, which then had the left-leaning supporters pointing fingers in a “I told ya so” kind of way. And thus, explains my hesitance to ever get into the middle of these kinds of things…

The truth of what actually happened unsurprisingly lies somewhere in the middle. Nike was in the midst of it’s most successful year ever before the ad. Then the ad hit and their stocks plummeted briefly, but then soon after, they began the same trajectory upwards that they had before and made it all too convenient to say “Nike hits record stocks after Kaepernick ad!”.

So now to the actual moral issue at hand: Let’s be clear, Nike is not a humanitarian company. Nike has frequently been plagued by humanitarian horrors, and it’s plagued them since their cruel working conditions were uncovered in the 90s:

“Workers complain that many faint during shift from exhaustion, heat, fumes and poor nutrition. Ernst and Young similarly found in China that the plants have no safety goggles, fume hoods or gloves for workers handling dangerous chemicals such as benzene and toluene, a known carcinogen that poses a fatal risk. Exposure rates were upwards of 177 times that considered dangerous. In the same Chinese factory, almost 78% of the workers had a respiratory disease. Despite the respiratory illness, not one of the workers had been moved to a department that was free from these dangerous chemicals.”

It took a CBS special investigation to finally bring those horrors to the public light, and only then did Nike agree to adapt a Code of Conduct. However:

“According to the Educating for Justice group, between 50 and 100 percent of Nike factories require more working hours than those permitted by the Code of Conduct. In 25 to 50 percent of factories, workers are required to work 7 days a week, and in the same percentage of factories, workers are still paid less than the local minimum wage.”

Let’s not forget, Nike builds these factories in places like Vietnam and South Africa because they can get away with paying them $73.94 and $31.43 per MONTH, respectively. It would take 2 months for Nike to have paid one of their Vietnamese workers what they will sell one pair of shoes for.

So as far as ethics go, it seems all too American of us to flood to the stores to support Nike because of an ad that they ran, without even stopping to consider if they are putting their money where their mouth is. Nike doesn’t care about people. Nike cares about money.

So then there’s the curious experiment about our nation: perhaps it says a lot about the civil rights movement if Nike’s stocks rise? Or perhaps it says a lot about the right-leaning movement if Nike stocks take a hit? Party wars are fun right? Because it’s like cheering on your favorite football team. Except it’s not. Try explaining to a Vietnamese woman — who works ungodly hours and still can’t make enough to live — that the reason you’re cheering on the corporation that is oppressing her is because of a fun political party rival. Besides, the fact that Nike is having a record year in sales is something to celebrate right?

If the left were to actually care about human rights more than their “party badges,” they would have called Nike out for their hypocrisy and boycotted Nike for attempting to use an ad to pander and manipulate the left into believing that Nike, as a company, cares about people.

The right constantly complains that they are falsely accused of cruelty, when in fact, (or so they would claim) they are the one’s who are helping people. If that’s the case, then your Nike shoe-burning social media posts and boycotts should have started a long time ago, not just when it became a convenient club to bash the left with.

Lastly, if Colin Kaepernick actually cared about humanitarian efforts, he would have done his homework and refused to be the face of a company that cruelly takes advantage of the laws of 3rd world countries in order to exploit the people working there.

Right, left, conservative, liberal — I’m frustrated by the smokescreens that everyone buys into. What if we stood on principles instead of parties? Maybe then we could actually get something done.

See? I told you, it sucks being the referee.

Operation – Make Mondays Happy Again

Mondays. For most people, just that word is enough to cause a sigh and a long list of negative associations. It’s like sledding: for most of the week you climb that hill with your sled, trudging up as far as you can, until 5:00pm on Friday rolls around and you can actually start sledding down the hill. You have a ton of fun through Saturday, relax on Sunday, and then Monday begins the climb back up the hill.

Mondays are even worse for entrepreneurs I think. People wake up on Monday and are often in a bad mood and forcing themselves to be productive. In consequence, they come up with all kinds of “urgent situations” and this turns into a sort of “kick the dog” scenario where the president kicks the COO who kicks the assistant who kicks the department lead and somewhere down the line, the entrepreneur gets kicked because he’s supposed to offer a service somewhere in the mix, and then down the line it goes until the kid kicks the dog.

So what happens to the entrepreneur, is that (in my case) I have 5-6 clients that I could be working with at the same time. So I end up getting kicked 5-6 times on Monday.

My phone and email blows up with all of these “urgent” requests and everyone wants to know what my plans are to resolve their issue so that they can report back up the chain of command.

Monday is the day that everyone holds a lighter in one hand, and a fire extinguisher in the other. They start fires for those below them, and try and put out the ones that their superiors light above them. The entrepreneur ends up trying to put out 5-6 fires and in my experience, wastes so much of their peace and energy and enjoyment to try and please a group of people who are too stressed to prioritize or negotiate respectful timelines and expectations.

I’ve been a full-time entrepreneur now for 2 years. It took me more than a year and half before I realized that it was possible to actually enjoy the start of your week. Believe it or not, the entrepreneur can have better Mondays than those who are employed by others…it just takes a few uncomfortable weeks to set a premise.

Enter, Operation: Make Mondays Happy Again

I decided to try something out: take Monday off. Tell my clients that I will be out of the office on Mondays, and will return on Tuesday. To take it a step further, I decided to plan to make Monday my favorite day, by making it a day for me. I record music, write a blog, go shopping, work out and any and all hobbies that might sound good at the time. I also spend a portion of the day setting things up for the week.

At first, my clients were confused and some of them made such a fuss over the high priority nature of the task, that my first Monday was only a half day off. But after a couple of weeks, my clients started to get used to it. They stopped reaching out, because I would just politely reply, “I’m sorry, I’m not in the office on Mondays, but I will review this task tomorrow”.

The result was incredible. Strangely enough, issues that were “ASAP!” and high priority and high stress environments — those same issues weren’t a big deal on Tuesday morning. When they would reiterate Monday’s request on Tuesday, it was delivered with a realistic suggested timeline, and some tasks ended up being forgotten altogether.

High priority doesn’t always mean highly important. Being busy doesn’t always mean being productive. In a scramble to feel as if you are being productive, you often forget to see if that task is even necessary, or worse, if that same task could be done in a different way that might be more efficient or provide better results. Nothing makes you spin your wheels unnecessarily, more than a stressful environment and high tension demands.

Inventory of my time made me realize that Mondays were responsible for 90% of the hours that were busy but not really making an impact towards anything.

What happened when I turned Monday into me-time, was that I was able to better prepare for things. I would clean my house, meal prep, play music, go get a massage, strategize the week, etc. and by the time Tuesday arrived, I was in a good mood and ready to take on my tasks with vigor.

As far as productivity is concerned, I accomplish more during the weeks where I take Monday off. It’s that simple.

I used to go to bed really late on Sunday night, because I dreaded Monday morning and I would want to squeeze every bit of freedom out of my weekend before I would have to wake up to the chaos. I used to feel like someone kicked me in the gut by the time Monday was over, and it would set the tone and stress levels for me for the entire week. Now, I relax and go to bed early. I wake up in a good mood, and look forward to finally getting to invest in myself.

Work a few hours on Saturday or Sunday if you really need to. Work longer days from Tuesday-Friday. Get creative. Just do your sanity a favor, and avoid getting in line with the firing squad that is Monday morning.

Most people don’t stop to think about what’s effective. They are more concerned with what appears diligent. It is because of this, that you might get some pushback, especially in the initial stages. But the benefits far outweigh the discomfort and if you are an entrepreneur, I would suggest that you are one of the few people who are even capable of defying this poisonous habit of turning one day of your week into the day you hate the most. And if us entrepreneurs pick up the torch, who knows? Maybe we’ll get others to follow.

A Backpacker’s Crash Course To Europe

Last fall, I had the opportunity to backpack Europe for just shy of 2 months. I left with not much of a game plan, and learned nearly every perceivable lesson the hard way. Despite this, it was an incredible trip that I was so fortunate to have taken.

After I returned home, I had multiple friends of mine who felt inspired to do the very same thing, and many of them were asking for advice on exactly how to do it.

Perhaps you’ve always wanted to do it, but you just never knew where to start? Perhaps you never thought you could afford it? Perhaps you are just scared of being alone, overseas? This blog post is my attempt to answer many of those questions, as well as give you some practical advice on how to make it as fun an affordable as possible.

It’s not as expensive as you might think

1) Timing is crucial

I for one, don’t really care if I’m in Europe in July or September, but apparently that’s not the case for many. If you extend your trip to late Summer and early Fall, you’ll save thousands, not just in airfare, but in bus fare and lodging as well. Besides, Europe in the Fall is gorgeous.

2) Airfare.

I think the first obstacle that many face when they plan to go overseas, is the price of airfare. When I initially researched the idea, I nearly lost hope, as most tickets I found were in the $2,000-$3,000 range and my budget seemed entirely unrealistic. It was quite a pleasant surprise then, when some friends of mine referred me to websites that became a staple in the rest of my European travel. Here are some that I used to find tickets well south of $500:

Get to the East Coast first

The biggest mistake that I see, is when people try to book direct flights out of Denver or Chicago. Getting to the East Coast is fairly cheap if you shop deals with Southwest or Frontier. From there, flights to Europe are incredibly reasonable if you know where to look.

WOW Airlines

Based in Iceland, WOW Airlines not only offers nearly unbeatable prices from the East Coast to some of the major stops in Europe, but they offer to let you take a stopover in Iceland for no extra charge. As I’m writing this, you can go from Boston to Amsterdam in September for $200. Seems too good to be true right? It’s not. I did it last Fall.

Pro Tip: Don’t book round trip. Fly from US to Europe in the American version of the site, and then change to the European version of the site to book your flight home. Strangely enough, I found cheaper return flights that way, even considering the currency change. Sure, it’s not much of a difference, but who doesn’t like saving $10 when they can?

Norwegian Airlines

I’m not sure how they do it, but Norwegian Airlines manages to have even cheaper flights than WOW Airlines. You won’t get the option to have a stopover in Iceland, but it’s a great flight to book on your way home, after you’ve seen Iceland on your way out. If you book from the East coast in late Summer or early Fall, you can get flights South of $200*.

*Note, there is extra cost for baggage. If you are like me and managed to get everything into a large back pack, then you’ll be fine. But planning a family vacation with multiple items of luggage might add up quick.


Easyjet was my go-to airline once I got to Europe. Many times, it was cheaper to fly than to take a bus or train. I was able to get from Prague to Barcelona for $40, and from Barcelona to Rome for $60. I wish I would have discovered them before I left for Europe, as I wasted hundreds of dollars in the first half of my trip using busses and trains. It’s not a luxury airline by any means, but I’d much rather spend 2 hours on a plane that didn’t give me complimentary peanuts, than 8 hours on a bus that did.

Google Flights

Did you know Google has their own flight search website? I didn’t find this one until mid-way through my trip, and I wish I had. It has a very handy search tool, that allows you to pick a departure airport, and then simply search around the world map, viewing prices for every airport on the globe. This way, you can instantly see if going to a major airport offers the same price as a smaller one a few miles away. It’s also a great way to go places that you may not have thought of.

Final thoughts

I’m assuming the basics are already known to you, but try to make sure you aren’t booking flights on the weekend. Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be cheaper than Friday or Saturday in most instances. Lastly, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Paris are often the cheapest cities to fly in and out of on an international flight. Don’t worry too much about going straight from America to your desired destination. Easyjet and Google Flights can get you almost anywhere in Europe for incredibly cheap once you’re across the pond.

3) European Travel

Knowing how to travel inexpensively, once you’re in Europe is going to be vital in having money left over to do cool things like enjoying the restaurants and sites. Here are a few ways you can do that:


One of the best apps I ever downloaded. Not only are the prices far cheaper, but everything gets paid through your app, so you don’t have to worry about tipping a cab driver or whether or not the cabby accepts cards. Lastly, the Uber drivers find YOU, which is incredibly convenient when you’re lost in a foreign country. Not that that ever happens *ahem*.


If Uber happens to not be available and you must use a cab, don’t make the mistake of hailing a cab at the airport. When I arrived in London, I called a cab and was quoted $130 for a 30 minute drive. I did a quick google search of nearby cab services and got the same drive for $40.

Car rentals

Renting a car in Europe comes with the benefit of total freedom, but at the cost of quite a few challenges. Be very sure that you need to rent and consider those challenges beforehand. Here are some of the challenges I faced:

  • Most cars in Europe are manuals, and if you’re in Northern Ireland or England, you’ll be driving on the opposite side of the car, shifting with your left hand and trying to navigate roundabouts whilst driving on the opposite side of the road. I was very comfortable driving a stick, and still had a lot of trouble getting used to everything.
  • Always buy extra insurance and don’t ever put the rental on a debit card. I made the mistake of using my debit card in Germany, and saw $1250 taken out of my account due to a flat tire. Apparently Germany isn’t very familiar with mishaps. The fact that I spent an extra $20 on insurance was the only reason I saw that money again, but not for another 2 months.
  • Map out your route beforehand and become familiar with it. Cell phone service can be sketchy in Europe and few things are more stressful than to be desperately trying to take the correct exit in a backwards roundabout while your GPS is saying “recalculating”.


Airfare and Trains are fairly cheap when you’re in a developed part of Europe, but if you are wanting to go somewhere like Croatia or the Austrian Alps, bus lines are going to be a stress-free and fairly cheap alternative.


FlixBus was by far the best bus line that I used. Every one that I used included WiFi, power outlets, and onboard rest rooms. Also, there are no baggage fees.

Be careful with Eurolines. They offer cheap tickets, but they have baggage fees and they only take cash in the currency of the country that you’re in. I would have been stranded in Munich, had not a generous man in the back of the line come forward and paid mine for me.

Subways and Public Transit

This was one of my favorite parts of Europe. At first it seems like a rat race and it can be difficult to surmise the correct stops to get off on, but most countries offer 3 day unlimited bus and subway passes for very cheap, so if you happen to miss a stop, it costs nothing but time wasted to retrace your steps. I met quite a few friends on the public transit system, and it’s a liberating feeling to know that you can explore an entire European city at your leisure and not have to worry about conforming to a time schedule or having to count the miles you traveled.

Tip #1 – Google maps can navigate the public transit system.

While using phone data in a foreign country can get expensive, keeping your GPS on won’t charge you anything. I suggest mapping your route beforehand on your Google maps app, and then just watching your GPS location to know which lines to take and how close you are to each stop. This is much easier than trying to ask someone who doesn’t speak your language if it’s time to get off, and it will give you the peace of mind of being able to tell from the GPS if you are close to your destination.

Tip #2 – Pay for a ticket.

Countries like France and England have strict security in their subways and bus stops. However, countries like the Czech Republic and Croatia have little to none. While it may seem tempting to do what “everyone else is doing” and just step on to the public transit, keep in mind that most people there have cards that they pay on a monthly or yearly basis. Random checks are rare, but the last thing you want is to be detained by law enforcement in a foreign country, all because you didn’t want to pay $25 for a 3-day unlimited pass.

Tip #3 – Be aware of when the public transit closes

In some countries, the public transit system runs all night. However, I almost got stranded in Prague because I wasn’t aware that they shut everything down at midnight.

4) Lodging

This is another necessity that can both be intimidating, as well as expensive if you don’t know where to look. However, if you do it right, you can stay in most places for a fraction of what it would cost you in the States.

Air B&B

Air B&B is a collection of homes that hosts open up to you. This was hands down my favorite way to find lodging. Not only are they nearly everywhere in Europe, but they are often incredibly accommodating, as well as cheap. Granted, the rates go up and down depending on location and time of year, but the most that I ever paid for an Air B&B was $24 per night, and on some occasions, I only paid $11 per night.

With Air B&B, you get a chance for some well-needed alone time. This might not seem that important if you’re an extrovert, but I didn’t discover Air B&B until midway through my trip, and after 3 weeks staying in hostels, I was entirely sick of people and you’d be surprised how refreshing it is to finally get a room to yourself.

The other underrated aspect of Air B&B, is the fact that on many occasions, the host of the home gave me advice on what to see, from a local’s perspective. I was also fed countless meals for free, although that was merely a perk and isn’t to be counted on.


Hostels are a great way to meet new people. Not only will you be in the company of many other travelers like yourself, but the atmosphere is often very fun and exciting.

Hostel Tip #1 – Bring a towel and shampoo

Most hostels charge extra to rent a towel, and soap and shampoo are luxuries.

Hostel Tip #2 – Buy a padlock

It’s very easy to get things stolen when there are 16 random people in a room. Keep your belongings close and buy a padlock to store everything while you sleep. I had a camera stolen in a hostel in London after leaving it for less than 5 minutes.

Hostel Tip #3 – Privacy is obsolete

Once again, 16 random people in a room. If you want the room to be same-sex, you’ll have to pay extra. Don’t be surprised to have people changing in front of you and if you’re a woman, use extra caution to not get yourself in a vulnerable situation.


Hotels in Europe aren’t like the ones in America. In Europe, you usually get what you pay for. Rooms can go for $20 per night, but they are often a tiny room with a cot and may or may not have a shared bathroom. If you want a hotel that is similar to America, you’ll have to pay American prices in Western Europe.

Eastern Europe is a different story. EVERYTHING is cheaper in places like Prague and Croatia, so getting a nice hotel is much more affordable.

Bed and Breakfast

The bed and breakfast that I stayed in in Ireland was far less expensive than I thought. I payed 60 pounds for one night, and it was by far the most accommodating place that I went to in Europe. I can’t speak for anywhere else in Europe, but don’t immediately write off a Bed and Breakfast until you’ve shopped around.

All in all, I would recommend a mixture of all of those options. Stay in Air B&B’s for price, privacy and local travel recommendations, stay in hostels if you want to meet a ton of really awesome people and don’t mind close quarters, and be sure and break it up with an occasional stay at a hotel or Bed and Breakfast. Backpacking Europe can be tiring and you’ll be glad you spent a little extra a few times to stay in a nice place to break things up.

What to pack

If you are truly backpacking it, then the biggest curse you’re going to have is packing too much stuff. It might seem tempting to want to be able to dress for any occasion, but the truth is that when you get dropped off at a train station and you have to walk 2 miles, you’re going to want that backpack to be as light as possible. Furthermore, the more you pack into your backpack, the more time you’re going to have to spend to put it all back together when you leave for a new place. Lastly, souvenirs are going to be impossible to get if you’re backpack is bursting at the seams.

  • I recommend no more than 4 or 5 sets of clothing and extra underwear and socks.
  • I had two pairs of shoes; one for hiking, and one for strolling. Make sure they are supported, as you will be spending hours on your feet on cobblestone streets.
  • Try and dress semi-European. While it’s fairly obvious that you’re not a local, looking like you’re an American will leave you more susceptible to pickpockets, and it’s kind of nice to be able to blend in a little and not feel like a tourist everywhere you go. I bought a newsie cap and I often wore a scarf. Hats are also nice when you don’t get a chance to shower for a couple of days.
  • Get a conversion kit so that you can plug into the outlets out there. Best buy sells a whole European kit for fairly cheap.
  • Take a small bag to bring along on day trips. I had a burlap bag that I could stuff some food, etc. into and it came in very handy. It’s also nice to stuff layers of clothes into when it gets hotter later in the day.
  • Be careful with your overcoats, as they can take up a lot of space. I packed one coat, flannels and a thick hoodie. By layering up and using a scarf, hat and gloves, I was able to stay warm in almost any weather.
  • Pack a portable charger. Battery life is a necessity over there when you’re trying to navigate back to where you’re staying.
  • Pack a small extension cord with a splitter at the end. This was vital when you have one power converter and more than one electrical device that needs charging.

How to pack

By the end of the trip, I had finally mastered the art of packing my stuff up in a way in which it all worked efficiently. Packing and unpacking your backpack when you get to places will prove to be no easy task, but if you follow my steps, you’ll be able to do it much more effectively.

  • Go to a supermarket and get the biggest ziplock bags available. Gallon sized bags worked for me, but it was very tight. Also, get a pack of dryer sheets.
  • Take a set of clothes and roll each article of clothing as tightly as possible.
  • Put the dryer sheet in the zip lock bag, and then put each article of clothing in the bag.
  • Compress the bag so that there aren’t any air pockets and then seal the bag.
  • Do this for every change of clothes that you have and be sure to pack extra zip-lock bags.

This method proved effective for multiple reasons:

  • The zip-lock bags keep all of your clothes dry in case your bag should happen to get wet.
  • This method effectively prevents your dirty laundry from contaminating your clean laundry.
  • The dryer sheet makes all of your clothes smell awesome.
  • By packing a change of clothes in one zip-lock bag, you can just reach into your bag and pull out one change of clothing, without having to dig around for other articles. Very handy when it’s 4am and you’re in a dark room with 16 other sleeping people.
  • On several occasions, there were shower stalls with very little in the way of preventing water from soaking the floor. By putting your clothes in a zip-lock bag, you can prevent them from getting wet.

How to plan

Don’t cram it all in

When you’re in America, plotting your course, it’s going to be tempting to try and hit every place in as little time as possible. What I learned, was that if you don’t space things out enough, the experience starts to be like a slideshow moving too fast; you don’t have enough time to enjoy yourself and take it all in. On top of that, travel is exhausting. It’s disheartening to know you only have one night somewhere and you have to get up early the next morning to catch a flight. It’s better to fully get to experience 5 places, than to rush through 15 places.

Account for jet lag

It’s no joke. It takes 3-5 days to fully start to function like a normal human being after you get there. Start staying up late a few days before you leave and don’t expect to hit the ground running when you get there.

Buy a camera

Yes, cell phone camera’s have come a long way, but having a camera with optical zoom made for some priceless photographs. Also, having a camera makes you more conscious of the fact that you should be taking pictures. Lastly, being able to use my camera allowed my phone battery to stay alive for much longer. If you’re traveling alone, a selfie stick isn’t a bad idea. It gets exhausting to make random strangers stop and take your picture, and it’s a little nerve racking to give your phone or camera to a stranger.

Keep an empty credit card on standby

You never know what kinds of things might happen over there. By having an unused credit card as an emergency reserve, you’ll have a way to buy a last minute hotel, or if worst comes to worst, a flight home.

Hidden gems in Europe

I wasn’t over there for nearly long enough to see everything, but I can highlight some of my favorite places that I did get to see, as well as comment of a few that were a little disappointing. I have separated them by their different types of appeal, but keep in mind that I’m not personally drawn to parties and fast-paced cultures, so my tastes might not represent yours.


Iceland was the most magical place I’ve ever seen in regards to scenery. It was a mixture of foreboding white-capped mountains, breathtaking waterfalls and surrounded by plains that were a striking contrast of black lava rock, blanketed in rich green moss. However, expect the culture to be a bit standoffish and be prepared to spend a lot of money. Iceland is the second most expensive place in Europe, the first being Oslo, Norway.

Switzerland was a close second. It has plenty in the form of beautiful rolling hills, but the small towns were unmatched in their art and quaint village fronts.


Ireland, no contest. The people there welcome you like you are family and I got to experience my lifelong dream of raising a Guinness whilst singing Irish folk tunes in a crowded pub. It’s a place of hospitality and there’s a warmth there that makes you feel like your home.


Rome was like being in a dream for the historically inclined. You’ve seen pictures of the colosseum, but I can assure you that it’s nothing like walking through it and witnessing the sheer magnitude of it. Be sure and take a least 3 days aside for Rome if you love history. It’s eerie, surreal and simply magical.

Vienna was fascinating for the more recent history. You get to go to coffee shops that frequented the likes of Hitler, Freud, Stalin and Toto and you pass by countless sites that you’ve only previously seen in black and white photos. The culture was also very hospitable and polite.


I had previously been impressed by the architecture in London, Paris and Vienna, but they were nothing in comparison to some of the buildings in Prague. Prague was one of the few places that Hitler didn’t bomb and it was because he took such a liking to it. And for good reason.

Overall Experience

Croatia has recently gained popularity, and for good reason. It’s a perfect combination of breathtaking ocean and mountain views, rich culture, and historical cities that date back to the early Roman Empire. Plus, the exchange rate is fantastic, so you’ll be able to enjoy incredible Italian-style meals for very reasonable prices. This was by far the most surprising hidden gem that I discovered in Europe

London was wonderful! It was very charming and you have the ability of seeing a variety of fascinating and historical sites in one leisurely stroll. It’s also fun to see constant arial footage in movies and news broadcasts and be able to say “I was there!”.

A bit disappointing

Perhaps I have exceedingly high standards from being able to see so much, or perhaps it just didn’t fit my taste, but Paris was surprisingly a little disappointing. There were some really rough spots that I wasn’t expecting, and the people there were less inviting than anywhere else I went. Plus, they are dedicated to their French language and don’t bend over backwards to help you if you can’t speak French, so it can feel a bit overwhelming.

Barcelona would probably be a top location for many, but it just never struck a chord with me. I was expecting a laid-back, Spanish lifestyle, and instead it was a very fast-paced, bustling city. It was also very diverse, so it didn’t feel like you were experiencing one culture. Perhaps I was all too familiar with that kind of thing in America, so it wasn’t as exciting as some of the other places. I wouldn’t go out of my way to return to it.

I may have based this off of one bad experience, but Germany charged me $1250 for a flat tire, and then almost made me sleep on the street because I couldn’t pay cash for a 4 euro baggage fee. The town of Munich seemed very industrial and closed down a 9pm and the people there were rude. I had a manager unplug my phone charger in a coffee shop because it wasn’t allowed, even though I had bought a cup of coffee. There was just nothing warm about it.

In closing

So there you have it…a hitchhiker’s crash course on Europe. I hope that it proved useful for some and I hope that if you have an opportunity to visit Europe, that you take advantage of it! I know I’ll never regret doing it!