That's why the EU is investing in Europe's future by creating opportunities for young people to integrate and feel a sense of their European identity.
DiscoverEU is a European Union initiative that allows 18 year olds to travel - for free - around the continent and across the channel for up to thirty days. The project started in 2018 with 12,000 tickets, but has proven so popular that 12,000 more were offered out the following spring. The eventual aim is to give all 18 year olds access to a pass.
By providing a borderless travel experience across 30 European countries, DiscoverEU enables travelers to meet and connect with people from different backgrounds, new cultures, and uncover more about the abundant history, diversity and shared values of Europe.
One such participant was Lithuanian Patricija Gedaite who used her ticket as an opportunity to explore Italy in-depth. Delivered. talks to Patricija about her travelling experience, the challenges, the surprises and what she learned.
Is there much integration between cultures where you live?
Where I grew up in Lithuania, the population is a little diverse. Lithuanians and people from neighboring countries such as Poland and Russia all live together in the same towns, we go to the same schools and do extracurricular activities together, but people tend to stick with their own cultures.
Before you went travelling with DiscoverEU, had you had much experience travelling around Europe?
I'd been travelling with my family on vacations and I'd been to six or seven countries with Erasmus+ projects too, but I hadn't yet had much experience travelling solo.
What made you want to go travelling around Europe?
What I wanted from this trip was to learn how to be a bit more self-sufficient. It was the first time I was completely free and independent in deciding where I was going and what I was doing, so I needed to know how to properly navigate. I also wanted to learn about another country on a deeper level. I chose Italy as I'd been before for skiing and beach holidays, but I wanted to go out and see things tourists don't usually get to experience.
Where did you visit and how did you plan your trip?
To get there, I took a route through Poland, Austria, and the Czech Republic before arriving in the North of Italy. From there, I travelled southwards through a total of 18 different cities and villages including Florence, Siena, Cinque Terre, Rome, Bari and Matera. My favorite spot was Valle d'Aosta, a park full of lakes and beautiful mountainous landscapes.
I was on a gap year so I had plenty of free time and I planned to make the most of it by going for the whole month of September. It was perfect because the climate was not too hot and there were not so many crowds of tourists. For cheap accommodation, I used couch surfing websites and it was a great opportunity to meet interesting and open-minded local people.
All-in-all, I found that the way I'd imagined the journey was completely different to how it actually went - there were so many unexpected struggles and funny surprises. It felt adventurous to always be planning in the moment, changing destination last minute, but it was easy with Europe's infrastructure. The trains were super convenient and comfortable so I barely noticed time flying by when I was travelling between places.