“The adventure begins!!! I can’t believe I’m actually (finally!) on my way to Europe! Really – I can’t believe it. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet that I’m getting ready to spend ten weeks exploring this exciting and diverse continent.”
And with that first journal entry, I began an adventure I will never forget!
During the summer of 2006, I had a conversation with one of my best friends about how I had always wanted to live in another country. Not forever – just for a year or two. I wanted to experience life in a different culture. Well lucky for me, Teresa had the same desire! So I immediately went to work researching our options. Obviously we couldn’t live in another country for a year or two if we weren’t also going to be working in said country. Unless we found one of these babies:
And that’s where the first obstacles popped up. I rethought our plans, did some more research, and finally suggested that maybe we were being a bit ambitious, and perhaps we should do a “get our feet wet” trip and just go for a summer. Yes! Decision made. Now for decision number two: where did we want to live for a summer?
We both knew that Europe was our continent of choice. And we were leaning toward either England or France as our country of choice. But as I continued to research and read about different places, the more I kept adding to our potential home away from home options. So what did we do? We scrapped the whole “living in a foreign country” idea and decided to just travel through Europe visiting many different countries, and then we would have an idea of where we would like to return to someday.
What I didn’t want this to become was a whirlwind trip through Europe, traveling every other day, not really getting to immerse ourselves in the places we visited. What did it become? A whirlwind trip through Europe. 🙂 There were just too many places we wanted to visit! But I wouldn’t have changed it for anything! It was the trip of a lifetime and one I will never forget or grow tired of reminiscing about.
Our final 10-week itinerary looked like this:
Pretty intense! But SO exciting!!
With itinerary in place, it was now time to start the fun part – planning!! 🙂 Through this whole process, I discovered that I absolutely love to research and plan trips! And this one took up about five or six months of my life – five or six months that I thoroughly enjoyed!
Most of my research and planning was done online but another large part was through travel books: Rick Steves, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet. I bought a couple and checked the rest out from the library. If I were planning a trip like this today I would probably use the web exclusively. But “back then” I went to town highlighting, earmarking and underlining (not the library books, of course 😉 ).
Most of the planning could be broken down into three categories: Transportation, Accommodations, and Attractions.
After settling on the dates we wanted to leave and return to the U.S., we started looking at flights to London. We decided to fly into/out of London for two reasons: it had the cheapest flights, and we thought it wise to start our trip in an English-speaking country. 🙂
After our “big ticket” item was purchased, I went to work researching the various other modes of transportation we would be using while travelling. Among these were a rental car in England (we used Auto Europe which had significantly lower rates than any other car rental site); flights to/from the continent (easyJet both ways); and train travel once on the continent.
For the train travel we purchased 7-Day Eurail Select Passes covering 5 countries (Austria, Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland) over 2 months. We purchased them in advance through Rick Steves’ website because they were the same price as purchasing directly through Eurail but with some added freebies. Also, we only paid for the cost of a 6-day pass – we received the 7th day free as part of a promotion that was running at the time.
We used our rail passes for longer, more expensive trips and bought individual tickets in country for shorter trips.
This was one of the most challenging aspects of the planning process. We were going to be travelling on a budget (so luxury hotels were definitely out!) but still wanted decent, not scary, accommodations. 🙂
We ended up pre-booking a mix of hostels, B&B’s, and small, family-run hotels. It was perfect! I loved just about every place I stayed and would very likely return to most of them.
I’ll go into more details on specific accommodations as I blog about the various places we visited.
I didn’t want every second of every day we were in Europe to be planned. Other than knowing where we were going to be laying our heads each night, our days were pretty much open to whatever we fancied doing.
Of course we had ideas of things we wanted to do and places we wanted to see, but we didn’t have every second planned out. Which was perfect.
I did research various museum/attraction passes before leaving the U.S. so we left knowing which ones we would buy once in Europe.
A lot went into planning this trip but it was fun and SO worth it! I would do it again in a heartbeat! I can’t wait to start sharing more specifics on the adventures I experienced at all of these destinations! But for now, I will leave with an au revoir, and a short video of things to come. 🙂