Travelling as a young European

shinoukMany young people love the idea of traveling (without parents/guardians), but have no idea how to realise their dream. Planning a trip requires a lot of organisation, dedication and sadly, also money. But how do you plan a trip without using your whole bank account? And what are the best ways to plan and book?

At first, if you don’t want to travel alone, find a group of friends who are quite flexible and have the same expectations. Many plans end forehanded, due to different views.

With that done, you are able to start finding a nice destination. In order not to spend way too much money, you can think a little out of the box. Instead of going to Adriatic coastlines, you could also go to Croatia. If you want to go skiing, don’t go to Lech, you can also ski in the Czech Republic. For the citytrippers among us, go to Budapest instead of Stockholm or London.

Think also of the manner you get to the place of your choice. If you decided to travel a little bit farther from home, is can be cheaper to go by airplane. is a great site for booking cheap tickets. If you want to see more than one place, book an Interrail Global pass. This is a special train ticket for young people, that allows you to travel by train through 30 countries in Europe! They also have One Country passes, so if you’re just traveling through one country, that might be the best option for you.

After having found your dream destination it is time to book your accommodations. The best advice for young people is to stay in hostels. Hostels are not that expensive, mostly quite central and above all, they are great places to meet other travellers. Especially if you are a solo traveller, it is amazing to meet new people. But even if you are with a group of friends, if you meet other persons in your hostels, they mostly become instant friends.

Try to book early, most hostels offer early bird deals! If you have any doubts, just call them, most of the times they take away all of your doubts. If you are under 18, some hostels only allow you to stay in their hostel if you have an allowance letter from you parents/guardians with a photocopy of their ID or passport! Many hostels don’t have this clearly written out on their site, so pay attention if this is necessary.

You can always just go with the flow and don’t plan anything ahead. The risk with this method is that you miss some amazing this your place of choice has to offer. I prefer to have some sort of planning, so I’m sure I don’t forget things. For me, the fun of planning a trip is almost as nice as the trip itself.


About the author:

Shinouk EttemaShinouk Ettema (17) took part in the Dutch edition of “My Europe” in 2014. When coming home from Vossius Gymnasium in Amsterdam, she loves to go horse riding, play the guitar and do fun things with her friends. Shinouk is not quite sure yet what her profession should be, but it should involve making contact with other cultures, lots of travelling and writing.

For me, My Europe is…

…a place where everyone can interact with each other to achieve more together than they would have on their own.

Europe’s role in the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII


It is a commonly held opinion that Syria’s civil war is the worst humanitarian disaster of our time. Nowadays, it is believed that it all started in the Syrian city of Deraa where the Assad family held the power. In March 2011 locals took to the streets to protest after 15 schoolchildren were arrested and tortured for writing anti-government graffiti on a wall. The protests were peaceful, calling for the release of the children, democracy and greater freedom in the country. The government responded with the army opening fire on protesters. The opposition is split between groups of rebel fighters, political parties and people living in exile, who cannot return to their country. The war is now between those for or against President Assad. In Iraq 2014, an extremist group (Islamic State) began to take over large areas of the country (they are a radical militant group which has used violence against anyone who doesn’t agree with their point of view). Many Syrian people have been forced to leave their homes and escape to other countries with a desperate need of help. Europe has said they will accept refugees. But is this feasible ?

If Syria´s civil war is the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II, every single person should think; what are we doing wrong? If in 2015 an atrocity of that size happens, the whole world should make an effort to help and understand. In the first place, not only Europe but every single continent of the world should have an open border for anyone who needs it.

On the one hand, allowing refuges into your country is an act of humanity. As it refers to Europe; having an open border for all refuges is necessary by all means. As people may not know Syrians could bring a new culture to Europe and Europeans should accept them, regardless of their cultural and ethnical background. As there are hundreds of thousands of refugees, at least half of them are children which means an opportunity for the growing economy and an increasing number in the European population. The major European obligation come from the fact that we know that more than 11 million are forced to leave their homes, more than 220,000 have been killed, and over 12,2 million are in need of assistance, and that it is only up to us to improve their situation.

On the other hand, it is easy to be against having an open border, because people are used to seeing first the negative side of everything. For Europe, having an open border and accepting refugees in each country means having at least half of the population against them. As Syrians are coming to Europe to be safe, they do not plan anything, and they cannot bring anything, that means Europe will have to provide them food, medical assistance, homes, schools for the children, water etc. All of this has to be paid by Europeans.

Moreover, Europeans cannot feel safe in their country as a consequence of the prejudiced anti-Islamic attitude which considers Islam to be equivalent of terrorism, which makes Europeans believe that refuges will not be able to adapt to their lifestyle.

We can conclude by saying that it is a fact that when people are in front of a problem like this, they often think it is impossible to solve and leave the problems to others. I honestly believe that we should intervene in this civil war in Syria, and we have the resources to help them.


About the author:

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetPaulo Ordoñez is a 16-year old student from Spain who enjoys sports ,traveling and photography.


Refugee crisis


“The number of people living as refugees from war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, for the first time since World War Two” states a report by the UN refugee agency. Not surprisingly at all, the current refugee crisis has become one of the most widely debated issues due to its repercussion on a global scale. While everyone agrees that the origin of such crisis was the Arab Spring, a series of peaceful, pro-democracy movements that began in 2011 across the Middle East which, unfortunately, led to terrible wars in Libya and Syria, most people fail to have similar ideas regarding what should be done in order to tackle the problem of how to host millions of people.

The notion that Europe should take in a number of refugees as large as necessary has been backed up by many using the following arguments. In the first place, since the article 14 of the UDHR states that everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy asylum in other countries, the advocates of an open European border claim that it is the duty of all to host the refugees. Besides the fact that it is a basic human right, empathy makes people want to help to the extent possible to those exposed to inhumane situations; would a normal person not want help when he has been forced to abandon everything he knew, to live in harsh conditions in refugee camps, or even to attempt to cross seas with no safety measures risking his life and the lives of his loved ones? Secondly, developing regions hosted 86% of the world’s refugees. Taking into account that according to UNHCR, it would cost $20,537,705 only to finance the Syria Regional Refugee Coordination Office, it becomes clear that the costs are high. Developing countries appear to simply not be able to afford to invest the necessary money on refugee camps as opposed to European countries. Lastly, refugees have skills, talents and aspirations, and the ability to contribute socially and economically.

On the other hand, a number of European nations have made it clear they are not willing to welcome many newcomers, despite the current crisis, e.g., Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban built a barbed-wire fence along Hungary’s border with Serbia and introduced a new migratory law making any fence crossing a criminal offense. Those who agree with the Hungarian Prime Minister often argue that taking in all asylum-seekers would have a negative effect on European societies as well as economies. Refugees will not only be a “loss of capital” for the states but also a threat to their civic identity. People shudder at the sight of the potential change that the refugees might bring with them, something which contributes to the rise of an anti-immigration feeling. Illustrating this point, Orban stated: “Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian?”

In conclusion, the EU has announced an emergency quota system that will spread out the influx of refugees across its member states, aiming to improve the situation and avoid irrevocable mistakes. I strongly support the opinion of having open European borders for all Syrians and Afghans and honestly believe that the European Union should be realistic about the number of refugees that will arrive in the near future to our continent as to handle the crisis appropriately.


About the author:

Photo Mónica Martínez Jorge is 16-year-old student from Spain who is interested in politics. 

Message to our world leaders

Professor Pohl

Today we stand at an era of major change, but we are also at a crossroad where we have to make decisions on how we want to live our lives in the future.

The terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015 and the terror in many parts of the world today (e.g. IS and Boko Haram) illustrate in an extreme way that patriarchal structures are still very dominant in most parts of the world.

Not only have men invented religion but they also use religion to justify their actions. They want to decide on how people should live their cultural, religious as well as their social and professional lives. They misuse religion as a justification for their terrorist acts and want to create chaos, fear and a feeling of insecurity worldwide.

The consequence in western countries is not only the fear of more terrorist attacks but also an increase of right-wing extremism. In other words, liberal democracy is threatened from two sites: Global terrorism and right-wing radicalism.

We also know that the world has become more connected through modern digital communication systems that enable the sharing of information on a global level within seconds. Yet, at the same time terrorists are also using the same media for their own purposes.

Thus, the world has become more connected but also more vulnerable. What can we do about it?

  • We need a global territorial reform. The main world leaders, who are currently meeting at the G20 summit in Turkey have to send a strong political signal showing that they condemn the terrorist acts and that they do not tolerate war and terror. Moreover they need to demonstrate their will to solve current and arising conflicts between their countries. This means that state borders have to be determined and guaranteed. The use of armed forces will be necessary to carry out this task.
  • Furthermore it is indispensable to promote the inclusion and equal opportunities in countries with a high number of socially deprived groups and a high unemployment rate. It is important to create structures with equal access to education as well as economic and social help for those who need it, so that people get the chance to live in their own countries and are not forced to be refugees in the search for a better life.
  • Finally, the separation of state and religion is necessary for a successful global territorial reform. Moreover, the acceptance of every culture and every religion are fundamental requirements for a peaceful coexistence.

All of this might seem utopian. However, it is a project that is feasible if the powerful of the world today are willing to put it into practice.


About the author:

MP1Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl is the Founder and Chairman of Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, the think tank that organises “My Europe”. more…


One Social Europe: Discovering Europe in a van (part 3)

Taking a break from studies and work: Viktoria and Felix travelled through Europe (copyright by Viktoria Hautkappe & Felix Junker)
Taking a break from studies and work: Viktoria and Felix travelled through Europe (copyright by Viktoria Hautkappe & Felix Junker)

Here is the last part of our mini series on Viktoria’s and Felix’ initiative “One Social Europe”. In their van, they crossed 21 European countries and visited social projects. In part three of their exclusive interview for Spotlight Europe, the two young Germans speak about surprises, challenges and lessons learnt in six months.

What surprised you most during your trip?
Felix: The hospitality we received nearly everywhere! Let me give you an example: On our first day of the trip we’ve been invited to the house of our first host. She went to sleep on the couch and somehow “forced” us to go and sleep in her bed. And the next day she invited us to a family dinner at her aunt’s house. It was the most fantastic start you could have imagined for our trip.
Viktoria: I think it was myself, who surprised me the most. At the beginning of the tour I’ve been extremely nervous, but after a while I realized, this was simply not necessary. I learned to face challenges and keep calm in difficult situations.

What were the biggest challenges you had to face?
Viktoria: Well, the car….
Felix: Yes! We’ve been to the garage a few times. I think it was five times during six months.
Viktoria: Everything just turned out so well, that there were not really big problems we had to face. Of course there were some learnings about living the moment and take it as it is. But we never had the feeling of being absolutely overwhelmed by a situation.

If you had to pick one particular social project to present, which one would you choose?

Discovering Europe's people, landscapes and social projects (copyright by Viktoria Hautkappe & Felix Junker)
Discovering Europe’s people, landscapes and social projects (copyright by Viktoria Hautkappe & Felix Junker)

Viktoria: This is one of the most difficult questions you could ask! It’s the same with “Which was your favourite country?” Because there is not only one answer. I have been deeply touched by the animal welfare projects, because this is something which is very close to my heart. And of those I think it would be either the Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland or the Fundacja “Pod Psia Gwiazda” in Poland.
Felix: I think there is not one to point out. They all have a very important reason to be there. All their work is necessary for the community they are set in.

 What is the most important lesson you have learned about Europe?
Felix: Freedom is not only a word! Freedom is something that is lived within Europe. Here you find humanity and you can realize how important it is to get involved in campaigning for each other.
Viktoria: Europe is simply a wonderful continent. A place of interesting cultures, unbelievable socially engaged people and there is no other place in the world, where I would have loved to spent these six months, than Europe!

What would you say to other young Europeans who are planning a similar adventure?
Viktoria: Just do it! And that’s it.

Thanks for the interview, Viktoria and Felix! It’s been a pleasure to follow you on your adventures.

About the interview partners:

IMG_3725 Viktoria (25) and Felix (26) are inspired by the idea of Europe: peaceful coexistence of different countries and cultures, the cooperation of the European countries, the freedom to travel – to experience Europe as a social continent.

With the project ‘One Social Europe’, their goal was to inform how Europeans are involved in social or non-profit projects and how they bring their country, their society or Europe further – on the way to become one social europe.

One Social Europe: the donkey sanctuary (part 2)

Donkey Maureen is being looked after at the Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland (copyright by Viktoria Hautkappe and Felix Junker)
Donkey Maureen is being looked after at the Donkey Sanctuary in Ireland (copyright by Viktoria Hautkappe and Felix Junker)

Viktoria (25) and Felix (26) take you on a trip to a social project in Ireland – the Donkey Sanctuary. With their initiative ‘One Social Europe‘, they travelled Europe in their van for six months and presented charitable initiatives on their website. The two young adults drove 17,212 kilometres in 172 days and visited 21 countries. Among the projects they discovered are fair trade campaigns, activities for elderly people, youth organisations and volunteer opportunities in rural areas. Spotlight Europe had a tough job to pick just one project, but in the end we decided to take you the place where donkeys find a new home in County Cork, Ireland.

Maureen takes a look through the fence with her big brown eyes. Cautiously her flour-white muzzle comes closer and she touches us gently, calls for attention and cuddles. Maureen is small, brown and has quite long ears. She is one of over 100 donkeys in the Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll and we like her immediately.

Here in the sanctuary old, sick, neglected or simply not wanted donkeys find a new home – or a transition home until they can move into a permanent new one. Overall, more than 4,000 donkeys were rescued from bad posture, nursed and brought to a new home by the establishment.

Maureen can surely expect a new donkey-friendly home, which she will share with at least one other donkey. The animals are herd animals, an exchange of individual animals is not possible. If new donkeys come into the system, they often bring their “partner-animals”, such as cats, sheep or horses with them. Donkeys have a high need for social contacts to other animal partners.

But not all residents of the large, beautiful area will leave the farm one day. Some donkeys remain all their life on the farm – partly because they have experienced so much that it would not be possible of sending them into a new home, partly because they were raised by the employees of the farm with the bottle and you do not want these animals to be forced leaving their home, if it is not absolutely necessary.

One of these donkeys is Richie. Richie is large, brown-spotted white and has beautiful black-brown eyes, which look friendly at everyone in the area. His mother died of blood poisoning, when he was 10 days old. Since that day, he has been living at the station, first as a bottle-fed baby, now as a fully integrated member of a group of quieter animals.

If you want to learn more about the Donkey Sanctuary there is a lot of interesting information on the website of the sanctuary.

About the authors:

IMG_3725 Viktoria (25) and Felix (26) are inspired by the idea of Europe: peaceful coexistence of different countries and cultures, the cooperation of the European countries, the freedom to travel – to experience Europe as a social continent.

With the project ‘One Social Europe’, their goal was to inform how Europeans are involved in social or non-profit projects and how they bring their country, their society or Europe further – on the way to become one social europe.