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8 years ago today...

A memory just popped up on Facebook that it was this day in 2014 that I booked a flight to Rome for my wife and I for our 25th anniversary. This was before I'd really heard of Rick Steves except for being that guy on PBS. Except for the US and a couple of trips to Mexico I'd never been out of Canada. I'd always researched/planned my trips to death and this was no exception. I remember buying the RS guide for Rome and being surprised that this guy on PBS also had books. I almost didn't buy it because I thought the blue and yellow cover looked tacky (especiallythe yellow; still not a fan). But wow, talk about required reading for my Europe for Beginners 101 self learnt course. Two nuggets of information stuck out for me as I studied that book; not all hotels rooms will have the their own bathroom and crossing the street in Rome may be an adventure for the uninitiated.

I'm curious about the rest of you while you pre-planned your first trip to somewhere foreign and new. What did you learn that made you realize you weren't going to be in Kansas anymore?

Posted by
13431 posts

Fun question. Here is my answer, but its a bit long so here is a link: https://1drv.ms/b/s!Ai7Zk-szxfTJislTrBKd9VgaTJoVlg?e=ZNYHzX

Not me, but I convinced a couple I know, in their late 50's, to take a trip a few months ago. I helped them pick where and put them in touch with an excellent guide. They saw Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Hungary (all the COVID easy to get into countries).

They came back and the first words were "CRAP! we have wasted so much of our lives". A month later they purchased an apartment in Budapest and bought return tickets.

Posted by
10004 posts

It took me 20 years to convince my husband to get a passport. He surprised me in 2008 with that acquisition and he selected Italy (given a choice of France, the UK, or IT) as our first destination for our 25th anniversary year in 2010. Rick Steves was my go-to and I read everything I could get my hands on. Also took an Italian for Travelers class and almost quit at the first lesson it was so hard!

I persevered with the language and the trip planning, which I could NEVER have done so successfully without Rick's books and this Forum. The first trip was so great (Hubby said on day 4 of 22, "We have to come back!") that we were planning the next trip on our flight home. A year-and-a-half later, I got a transfer to Rome where we lived -- and traveled extensively -- for almost 5 years. I am now reasonably fluent in Italian.

I cannot imagine not going to Europe every year (Except for 2020, of course) and will until I die.

What did you learn that made you realize you weren't going to be in Kansas anymore?

That there are many ways to live and enjoy life, not just what we are used to. Also, that public transportation that works is a blessing to the traveler and resident alike. We never rent cars in Europe these days.

Posted by
6272 posts

Didn't pre plan as I was 21 and had been invited by the then boyfriend to travel with him. He was going as a representative for his father’s business. It was 1972. Whirlwind tour. Amsterdam, Brussels, Munich, Bremen, Copenhagen, London and Paris where I met up with college friends who were backpacking through Europe.

Looking out the window of my flight landing in Amsterdam and seeing a windmill. That smoking was allowed on planes. Learning you could eat sliced meats and cheeses for breakfast, walk about a red light district, feel completely comfortable walking city streets after 10pm, how to properly enjoy a cup of coffee, that not everyone spoke English, how universal a nod of the head and a smile were, that the fast food concept was American, how great public transport and train travel was. Learned what ensuite meant, to look at pictures of food in restaurant windows. Helpful as i sure didn't want a plate of calves liver. How to properly appreciate art especially since I didn’t pay attention in my high school art history class. Visited the Rijksmuseum on my own in Amsterdam. Walked into the room where Rembrandt’s Night Watch was hanging. Just me. No guard, no barrier. This was before some idiot took a knife to it. To be able to see how he painted the lamp light reflection in the eyes…. Have never forgotten that moment.

The first trip also instilled my love of London. Maybe it was because I was happy to hear English ( whether the Queen’s or not ) again and that you could sit in a pub and relax without being asked to give up your table. I’d also say it was the moment I had the entire day to myself in London. Walked out the front door of the hotel and Big Ben was chiming. Made me smile. Got lost meandering but didn’t care.

Hope to return in July for Wimbledon.

Posted by
3898 posts

Uncle Sam pre-planned my first overseas trip. That was in 1977 a couple years after Franco died and Spain was just beginning to experiment with its new freedoms. The still hard core Guardia Civil with sub machine guns right outside the base made me realize I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. It was a very memorable assignment and a great time to be over there, witnessing the transition. Few people had cars, and those that did had the Spain made Seat. There were only 6 interstates and a few toll roads, parking in Madrid, Sevilla, and Granada was easy, one could still drive beneath the Segovia aqueduct, most sights were free to enter, the civil war widows always dressed in black hung out in their house doors, and if you wanted hot water at a hotel you had to pay for it.. Our 3 bedroom apartment rent, at it’s worst, was $125 a month. Finally, the border between Spain and Gibraltar was closed so to get to it one needed to go to Africa first, then come back to it.

Eight years ago we were getting ready to go to Santiago, Chile. Another nice trip

Posted by
2213 posts

James, loved the link. I thought I was a brave traveller because friends told me so because I rented a car and drove in Mexico. But when I read stories like yours I realize that I've had mild adventures and have yet to take that extra step.

Posted by
583 posts

My first trip to Europe was in 1998. I had less than a weeks notice as my husband was deployed and we found out they were making a port stop. The kids and I took off to go see him. I had NO idea what I was in for! I remember getting on the plane thinking "what am I doing? The kids are only 4 and 7 and I have no idea what to expect". I knew I was not home anymore when we landed and going through the Lisbon airport there heavily armed guards. Best decision ever though, and we have been traveling to Europe regularly ever since!

BTW, we live just a few miles from the RS headquarters. I remember before our London, Scotland and France trip, I would go and sit in the RS office for hours reading the various travel books by the fire. At that time, there was basically a little library of various travel brand of books that you could read there right there. It gave me a good starting point for that trip, and then I knew which of RS books I wanted to buy.

Posted by
1645 posts

I went to Europe for the first time when I was 21. I had never even been on a plane before. I went with a class from another university where a history professor took a group of students each May. I audited the class. I missed my own college graduation to go which dismayed my then boyfriend, now husband.

We stayed in budget hotels and rode the trains. We washed laundry in the sink and hung it out to dry on the balcony. We visited historical sites and the UN in Belgium. We hitchhiked in the Black Forest.

I remember being surprised by lunch meat for breakfast, no lettuce for salads, and no ice. And then there were 100 ways to flush a toilet that you actually might have to pay to use.

One day near the end of our trip we had a free day in Munich. Three of us bought train tickets and went to Salzburg for the day. I came back thinking I could do this on my own.

I am not sure what captured my heart when I went but I knew I wanted to go back. I convinced my now husband to spend the money to go to Europe rather than save for a house. We actually went twice for three weeks each time before we had kids. We even visited Hungry and Yugoslavia when they were communist. In those days, there was no internet and it was more challenging to plan than now. We sent post cards to try to reserve rooms but often ended up visiting the tourist bureau. Of course, we were younger too and still tell the stories of some of the places we ended up at.

Now our kids are all grown and we have been traveling yearly (except 2020) since 2017.

Posted by
13431 posts

Allan, when I was growing up we use to drive to Monterey, Mexico every summer. And always a few trips to a border town. Not the same these days. I just wont do it. I was in Mexico City a month ago. Beautiful place. And today i just returned from the border (have some work within eyesight of the international bridge in Eagle Pass). The drive down and back is always "interesting". So you got me beat. I felt safer in Albania last year than I do along the Mexican border these days.

Posted by
2213 posts

My welcome to Mexico moment. It was a business/leisure trip to Cabo. I can't recall who I booked the car with but it was one of the major companies like Enterprise or Alamo that offered in-airport service and a shuttle to the car. The shuttle turned out to be a pick-up truck with plastic milk crates in the back to sit on. It was dark and so I couldn't tell if we were on a road to the car lot, but it felt like we were bouncing through a farmer's field to get there. Once we arrived they did the usual spiel to check the car for damage; "mark anything larger than a quarter", he said. I started making so many notes that I eventually circled the entire car on the form. It ran well and we had no issues though.

Posted by
7459 posts

Allan it's just so wild to think that that was only eight years ago ! Fun !

Posted by
5345 posts

My first trip outside North America was a three night stopover in London on my way to Saudi Arabia in 1981 taking a job with the US Army Corps of Engineers.
It was amazing, the Tower of London, Westminister Abbey, going into the House of Commons while in session for the PM's question time. I was hooked on foreign travel.

Back in the 80s, foreign travel was relatively more expensive than it is today. Airfare was higher as was lodging and dining. Still, the crowds were far smaller. You didn't have to make appointments to visit key sites.

I have visited 78 foreign countries and enjoyed them all. Never had a serious problem with managing with the language, although some Parisians were unhappy that I didn't speak French.

Travel is a multifaceted experience. You learn just from being in the country. You learn other cultures, history, art as well as some amazingly scenic places. I learned in the Middle East not to every stick out our thumb like you were hitchhiking. That gesture is considered there the same as giving someone the middle finger in the USA. I learned that in China people are a year old when born.

I remember coming into Moscow from the airport north of the city and seeing the HUGE multistory sized tank replicas of tank traps to mark how far the Germany Army came to Moscow in WWII. I learned that despite that Turkish and Greek food is similar, never tell a Greek that. I found beautiful places like Alaskan glaciers, Pacific Islands, going around Cape Horn or some Norwegian Fjords.
Going through the Panama Canal was amazing. Travel is a learning experience and should be savored.

Posted by
2213 posts

Allan it's just so wild to think that that was only eight years ago !
Fun !

I've definitely evolved as a tourist in 8 years. I hate to use the word, but we've gone from touristy family vacations to thought provoking historical travels. I'm not regretting my family vacations since I've got some precious memories, but I'm looking forward to moving forward. But who knows, in 10 years there may be grandchildren and we'll pick up where we left off at Disney creating new memories.