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Travel Inspiration

I have planned and executed three trips to Europe in the past six years, two of them in the last 15 months. Each was two weeks with my wife and her mother and all planned with using Rick's guidebooks, DVDs and a lot of help from those of you on the TH. Those days are over as my MIL turned 89 in Avignon in September and doesn't want to travel any more. With my wife's encouragement I have the opportunity to go back to Europe solo. I am 68, newly retired (my wife is still working) and neither time or money is an obstacle, but I'm having trouble putting together an itinerary of about 30 days. I have traveled alone all over the US on business but never alone overseas. After lots of thought I have determined that since all of these trips were done with RS materials that maybe they are all starting to run together. By that I mean that there are only so many small hill towns, cathedrals and museums until they begin to look the same to me. I have a list of things that I wanted to do when we traveled together but was not able to do because my travel partners didn't want to or couldn't do physically. That forms the base of my plan, but they are spread out from Scotland and England to France and Italy. There are places in Europe that I've never been to, but I don't want it to be more of the same things I've seen and done in the countries listed above. Has anyone out there who has been as devoted to RS as I have been ever experienced this, and if so what did you do about it on your next trip? I've never done a RS tour and thought about inserting a short one somewhere in the middle of my trip, but friends say that once you've traveled independently as I have that I wouldn't enjoy a tour. I'm looking for ideas and inspiration and in the past I've always found it from many of you. Here's hoping you have some for me now. Thanks.

Jim

Posted by
4637 posts

Jim, I don't think that because you traveled independently you would not enjoy Rick Steves tours. At least it's not valid for me and my friends. You say you want something different this time. What about Eastern Europe? (I mean that part of Europe which used to be behind Iron Curtain). I would suggest do easier countries on your own, more challenging with Rick Steves. IMHO easier countries would be Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary; more challenging those farther east. We just did Croatia and Slovenia with R.S. Those should be easier countries, too, but public transportation is a little challenge, especially trains (not too many options). With R.S. I did Turkey, Paris and heart of France and Slovenia & Croatia (and Bosnia was added as a bonus). This last trip was very scenic and diverse. R.S. is also doing Bulgaria (little challenge on your own), Tallin, Helsinki, St. Petersburg. You have 30 days so you can choose R.S. trip (usually about 14 days) and you have 14 days on your own. I would choose just one or max. two countries. Poland? Czech Republic and Slovakia (used to be Czechoslovakia)? Hungary? You can find more information in R.S. book: Best of Eastern Europe and Prague and the Czech Republic. I can help you with the C.R. and to certain degree with Slovakia and I am sure James would do the same for you with Hungary.

Posted by
9363 posts

I travel solo a lot for the very reason you mentioned - there are things I want to do that others I have traveled with were uninterested in, or couldn't do. What do you have on your list so far? I wouldn't listen to those who say you wouldn't enjoy a tour. I have traveled independently a lot but have still enjoyed the company and the education a tour can provide. It might be a welcome change in your routine to add one in the middle somewhere. I would choose one that covered an area where you might be less comfortable being on your own, anyway (Turkey, eastern Europe) or where it might be more difficulty to make the travel arrangements yourself. Give us some idea of what you are interested in doing, and we can help you work up an itinerary.

Posted by
3558 posts

Since you "have a list of things that...forms the base of [your] plan, but they are spread out from Scotland and England to France and Italy" it would be helpful to know what that list has on it, as well as some basics about preferred time of year and mode(s) of travel. With that info we might be better able to help. Depending on what's on it, your 30 days might be just right or not enough time.

My husband and I are slow travelers and revel in just being where we are. On our first trip together, we spent 2 months and just hit the highlights from Iceland to Sicily and back to Ireland. Now we go back and spend a month each year in more concentrated areas. The typical tourist-visited museums and cathedrals are not reasons for us to go or stay anywhere. We love the odd options and surprises. With his interest in auto racing, we always go someplace that you will never find in any RS guide. So if you have some special interest, you can always build your trip around that, if you haven't already.

Posted by
2081 posts

Jim,

im impressed that you have the attitude of "been there and done that". its all down hill from here.

Ive used mostly RS books but i dont have blinders on and use all i can get my hands on within reason and cost. The way i see it RS has only covered a small piece of the world so there are alot of other places to see.

I dont use guide books as inspiration, i use them as ways to find out how to get there. i use travel shows, the internet, chatting with people and anything i come across that give me an idea on what to do/see.

you may want to think about if you have any passion/hobbies that can be included.

IE. If youre a WW2 buff, how about Iwo Jima? or the Solomon Islands?

To me, there has to be something there for me to make the trip unless im going thru/by/near it.

Im going to try and make it to St. Petersburg and Moscow next year. RS doenst cover these, yet. Others do, but my inspiration came when the Strogonoff exibit came to our small town. I was extremely impressed with what was on display and that was only a smidge, so i made it a thing to do/see if i could. I can now, so its on my list and the Hermatige will be #1 on my list. Im an art/architect history student so seeing it with my own eyes instead of in a book or on a screen is way better. Some of the hermatige i didnt study/see in class, but i cant not be impressed at all of the art that was saved. If youre not into musuems, then thats okay, but you need to find what floats your boat. I cant nor can anyone else proivde that inspiration.

If you get email, youve probably seen some of the slide shows showing things and places around the world. Those will give me ideas too. some of them are so different that i would have never guessed places like that exist.

My dad is the same way. He wants to do what i want to do, but if hes on his own, hes board. I cant provide inspiration for him, its something that comes from within.

Also, i love horses, so i try and ride in each country i visit. It makes no difference if its a one hour ride down a path or in Hyde park, or on a mountain top in Kawaii. Horses are one of my other passions and it doesnt make a difference where im at. if im with a horse, the world fades away.

There is soooo much to do/see out there i dont see how you could not have places lined up for years.

have you tried googling "what to do/see in X".

happy trails.

Posted by
6570 posts

Jim:

I too am a Rick Steves devotee, however I've learned far more on this website than in any travel book. I also mix in Booking.com, AirBnB.com and Trip Advisor for area recommendations.

Please let us know where you've visited in the past, and the areas you'd prefer not to return to.

Then, we may can suggest some good objective and interesting itineraries for you.

With one month, you have time to take two completely different trips flying between regions inexpensively on a budget European air carrier.

Posted by
4125 posts

Jim, Here's a thought.

What's new?

Europe is always new, but in your case the big new is you are traveling solo. That's going to be very different and not just in the ways you've noted.

Think about what that means for you, what aspects are daunting or disappointing and what are exciting and open doors. Would you take a self-guided walking tour for few days? Hunker down in a sunny small town (Provence, Tuscany) for a week?

Neither of those are especially Rick Steves sorts of tropes, but you are a seasoned traveler and can use your experience to break new ground.

I think you should also give yourself permission to take two shorter trips, if you like, rather than one long month on the road alone.

Posted by
31303 posts

Jim,

As there are places in Europe that you still want to see, there's no reason you shouldn't travel solo (especially as you have your Wife's "encouragement"). If you're concerned about being overloaded with hill towns, cathedrals and museums, it's very easy to schedule only as many of those as you can tolerate, since you'll be totally in charge of the Itinerary.

I'm also retired and the method I've been using for the past several years is to combine a RS tour along with self-guided travel both before and after the tour. So far I've found that to be a good combination. With the tours, I tend to learn more about the history and culture of each place. It's also nice being with a group for part of the time rather than being totally on my own for the entire trip. The people that tend to take RS tours are interesting and very easy to travel with. One other benefit of the tours is that they take care of the logistics of at least part of my trips (hotels, transportation, etc.), so it's not as much work for me to plan. I have taken trips where I was totally on my own for as long as two months, and those are a lot of work to arrange.

I also enjoy the self-guided part of the trip as I can see the sights that interest me most (such as WW-II historic sites, interesting photo op's, etc.), and I can keep my own schedule. If the weather changes or whatever, I can quickly adjust my touring plans accordingly.

One point to mention..... If you think you might want more flexibility on a tour, you could look at the My Way Tours. They take care of hotels, transportation and provide a Tour Escort, but tour members are responsible for their own sightseeing in each location. I've taken both regular guided RS tours as well as a My Way tour, and each has pros & cons.

As you already have a list of places that you want to see, that's a good start in planning your trip. It shouldn't be too difficult to choose the number of places that fit a 30 day time frame, and then work out a realistic Itinerary using open-jaw flights.

Although you've travelled solo on business trips in the U.S., you may have a bit of "adjustment" being in Europe on your own. You'll have to deal with the solitude and also the fact that you won't have anyone to share the memories with. Although they may listen politely, your Wife, family or friends won't have the same enthusiasm when you describe the places or special moments you had on the trip, since they weren't part of the experience.

Good luck with your planning!