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Backpacking through Europe: Ryan Shrout ’13

Posted: Jun 24, 2013


"Everyone we met spoke English to some degree. Some of the people in Germany spoke better English than those in Great Britain," Ryan says. (Photo submitted by Ryan Shrout)

What would you do if a friend offered you a round trip airline ticket to Europe?

Ryan Shrout ’13 quickly accepted this gift about a year ago and just returned from an unforgettable backpacking trip to England, France, Germany and Belgium. Traveling with his best friend from high school, he spent two weeks seeing Europe for the first time.

“It’s amazing that we could travel so quickly,” Ryan, a resident of Jacksonville, Fla., says. “You can go halfway around the world and pass through six time zones in a single day.”

Traveling light enough

Carrying two small bags, walking a lot and staying in hostels to save money, Ryan had the opportunity to meet many interesting people along the way.

“We talked with a couple of guys from South Korea and some people from the United States,” he says. “Throughout our trip, we never encountered anyone who was particularly anti-American. Most of the people were incredibly friendly and nice to us. Everyone speaks English to some degree.”

One bit of advice he offers for those planning a European trip: “Make your budget for the trip, and then expect to spend more than that. Expenses you didn’t plan will always pop up.”

Adventure mixed with culture

Riding the high-speed Eurostar passenger train, Ryan traveled through the Chunnel (Channel Tunnel, an undersea rail tunnel) from Kent in the United Kingdom to Calais in northern France. This trip includes the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world.

As an engineering graduate, he was fascinated by the great European cathedrals they visited. “I kept thinking, ‘How do you build a 500-foot tall dome in the 1300s?’” he says. “These are engineering masterpieces. I wonder how long it must have taken to do the analysis for the structure.”

He credits his Honors Program requirement of attending cultural events as the key to helping him appreciate the cultural aspects of Europe.

“The Louvre was absolutely magnificent,” he says. “I saw ‘Mona Lisa,’ but the rest of the art was even more impressive. I would have never thought about going to see art if it hadn’t been for my Honors Program experiences.”

Ryan is now convinced that Europe has better food than the United States does.

“We ate a lot of sandwiches because there are a lot of sandwich shops,” he says. “In Belgium, I tried blood pudding at a market. I also ate a lot of waffles there. You can get them with almost anything on them, and they are smaller and fresher than the ones in the U.S. The best food I ate was in Paris: a coffee crème-filled éclair and a smoked salmon calzone.”

And those Olivet connections? As Ryan learned, those often come when you least expect them. “On one of our flights, I met a guy whose best friend had played basketball at Olivet.”

U.S. states represented among Olivet's student body, as well as 17 countries