Last month, we launched a series on our blog called “We Fly High,” where we interview you, our readers, on your latest, or upcoming adventures to celebrate the fact that we’re not the only ones shutting up and going!
Oh, and also because we now made it easier than ever for you to book cheap tickets on, ahem, our own freakin’ blog! So sit back, get inspired, and prepare to book your next adventure.
In this “We Fly High” segment, we sat down with our girl Addie, who is not only adorable and extremely photogenic, but a 16 year old who lived abroad in France and traveled throughout Europe all of last year. Can we just slow clap to the fact she’s only 16 and is already traveling all over?
First off, where are you from?
My name is Adeleke (aka Addie) and I’m native New Yorker but I spent this past year in Rennes, France!
Amazing name, and shout out to that New York pride.
You’re SO young! How did you convince your parents to let you travel?
It definitely took a lot of work! I attend a boarding school, so my mum was a lot more accustomed to the idea of sending me away than most parents. With that being said, me living in France would bring even bigger challenges. I had to show my mum that I was responsible, meaning that I would stay in touch, handle my money well, and could react maturely in any given situation without her help.
I love how you call your mom, mum! So cute! I also totally agree with having to prove to your parents you’re responsible enough to manage on your own.
Did you travel alone? Were you freaking out a little before? What got you through the scary moments, if any?
I never did have the chance to travel alone but I did travel without teachers. Honestly, I was so scared! I spent two weeks in Spain trying to speak a language that I barely knew. Some of the scariest moments this past year have been: one, getting followed in Spain, two, being seven minutes away from the Bataclan on the night of the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, and three, being homeless for two nights in Dublin and Birmingham. I’ve learned to just shed a tear if needed, and tell myself that I can get through it. I realized that I was so much stronger than I could imagine! Also, my amazing travel buddies Marijka, Jolisa and Wintana (yes, I am blatantly shouting out my girls!!!), were always there to help me get through each and every difficult situation.
Traveling always has a way of testing your ability to persevere, and most importantly, it teaches you how to trust yourself. I’m so happy you came back safely, and of course, full of stories to tell!
Alright, let’s talk money saving tips, how did you afford all of this traveling?
I’m just going to come right out and admit it, my friends and I are hella cheap when we travel. One of my biggest tips would be: don’t plan all your trips like you would luxury vacations! Not only will you not really learn about the place that you’re traveling to because you’ll be staying a touristy location, you’ll also be spending a lot of cash. I stayed in Airbnbs and hostels with my friends. If you invite a friend to Airbnb and that friend books a place, you’ll both earn $19. This was amazing because all my friends were traveling, so before we made new accounts, we had some one invite us. I saved $55 dollars on a trip once!
Otherwise, I did what the locals did. Usually, the people in the countries that I was visiting had cool, non-touristy places where they hung out. These places were usually cheaper. To research, I would do some Google searching in the language of the place I wanted to visit or ask shopkeepers.
As for flights, my friends and I were prepared to leave at anytime, from anywhere. We left in the middle of the week, sometimes leaving the house at 4am, in order to make flights. We packed light! If you wash your clothes regularly, a carry-on suitcase is enough to last you for two weeks. Also, only use cheap airlines/buses. This means Megabus, Ouibus, Ryanair, and Easyjet, among others. And when worst came to worse and I was super broke but still wanted to travel, I took mini vacations, where I bought five dollar bus tickets to a quaint town just outside of Rennes. This way, I got to splurge a bit more since I wasn’t spending as much on travel and shelter.
This sounds exactly like the way Damon and I travel! Glad we’re not the only ones willing to lose sleep for the cheapest ticket, lol!
On the subject of saving money, I’m so glad you’ve stayed in hostels! Give us the real talk, were you grossed out or nervous about the experience?
I definitely was scared at first! I remember when I was booking my first trip to Paris from Rennes, and I was looking at hostels. My friends and I originally booked a certain youth hostel but when I read the reviews of the place, people were retelling horror stories about being woken up to dozens of bed bugs crawling all over their bodies. One visitor said that there were roaches in the shower, bathing with her! I internally shed a tear and decided not to go to that super cheap hostel. Instead, I found another youth hostel that I ended up returning to several times in the future.
I think people definitely give hostels a really bad rep. To be fair though, I’m one of those people that only need the bare basics when I’m traveling: a clean bed, a blanket, a shower, and maybe a locker. I’m always spending loads of time exploring where I visit and I never really cared about where I was sleeping. Also, some of the places I stayed at offered free breakfast, so I was saving even more money!
UM, GROSS 👎! This is why reading and writing reviews is so critical! Staying in hostels is like anything else in life; there are good ones, there are gross ones, but it’s all about trusting the reviews and your gut!
Seems to me like you’ve gravitated more towards Airbnbs, why is that?
It was really hard for me to stay in hostels, other than in Paris, because I’m young! I stayed in Airbnbs most of the time. Often times, mixed with my coupons of course, I would have super cheap places to stay. To give you all an idea, I usually spent between 10-18 euros a night on room and board (but to be honest 18 euros is pushing it). Also, the people that I stayed with were so nice and native! They’re usually super helpful and will gladly shared with me free food and a list of recommended restaurants, attractions, streets, etc. Also, the beds are usually a lot more comfy and there are kitchens.
One big tip: even if it a native recommends something to you that sounds like something you don’t want to do, just try it! I did not want to splurge on a traditional French restaurant in Le Mans but that restaurant ended up being the best French meals I’ve ever eaten, ever. (It’s called L’Auberge des 7 plats. Do me a favor and please check it out).
Aw snap, look at you comin’ through with the good restaurant recommendations. What about specific places to stay? Can you give us any names we should be looking out for?
Besides using Airbnb, in Paris I always stayed at Auberge Internationale de Jeunes. The price usually ranged from 14-18 euros a night, including wi-fi, a locker, and free breakfast. Because I stayed with friends, I usually got a whole room for that same rate, which was awesome!
In terms of places in Europe to travel to, I would recommend Madrid for a cheap and vibrant city. They have a restaurant there, where everything cost 1 euro. For an amazingly friendly city (and if you’re a whiskey fan), go to Dublin. Actually, everyone please go to Dublin. It’s on the more expensive side but the people there are amazingly friendly and you won’t get bored spending time with them.
You heard the girl, everyone go book your ticket to Dublin 😏.
Since you’re only 16, and have so much life experience, how do you feel your travels have impacted your decisions about college and beyond?
My travels have impacted me so much. I’ve definitely decided that I want to travel a lot more down the road, and I’m planning to take a gap year after I finish up my senior year of high school this fall. I want to work as an au pair in Toulouse before college. Aside from figuring this out, I’ve become more confident and independent, but also I’ve realized how important it is to try and connect with other people and understand their culture.
Additionally, traveling made everything so clear for. I was put in situations where I learned so much about myself, how I interact with people, deal with stress, etc. I’ve come out of my comfort so much and I’m generally a more open person. Before France, I wasn’t proud of my life. Yes, I was only 16 but I still felt like I could be doing and seeing more. So I did just that and you should to. So shut up and go!
Addie, I’m so proud, excited, and happy for you! Can’t wait to hear what you have in store for the future, since you already get life and you’re barely a quarter of the way through with it. Thanks again for sharing your adventures with us; cheers to the journey.
Keep in touch with Abbie by visiting her website, feskee.com, a website she created to give professional resources for teen girls; what a boss!
Do you have a “We Fly High” story to share? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “WE FLY HIGH” to be featured!