I am sitting here looking at my first travel planning book, the 1990 edition of Frommer’s Europe on $40 a Day. This was before we owned a computer and long before cell phones. I had just finished my MBA at SMU and we wanted to celebrate. We had always wanted to go to Europe but never thought we had enough money to do it. So we saved money and frequent flier miles and banked overtime and vacation days and we finally just decided to go for it. It was risky. We sure didn’t have much money. It would be the first time in our lives we wouldn’t be with family for Christmas. But that trip changed our lives. It changed our perspective on what’s possible. It altered our worldview. It felt courageous. It was mind blowing. I’m tearing up just thinking about it.
I read that book nearly cover to cover in just a few days in the fall of 1990. It has yellow highlights and pencil marks and circles and stars all over it. I asked everyone I knew who had traveled to Europe what they liked best, how to save money, how to get around, how to make a phone call. Our friends threw a party for us and gave us toilet paper, knowing that we would need it, because at that time not all European bathrooms had toilet paper! We stayed with my boss’s friends in London and a friend of mine from work who lived in Germany. We stayed in B&Bs and Hostels and Pensions. We had a calendar on the door where we marked the days off as we got closer to our departure. What joy it was to plan, to learn, to prepare and then to GO!!! We felt like the luckiest people in the world, and I’m pretty sure we were right.
I wrote a journal on that first trip and it is by far my best souvenir. The next year I read each day’s entry and relived that very first time abroad. Since that time – since we figured out that we could do it, we could travel, if we just made the right life choices, we have been fortunate to go many places around the world. I’ve been to over 30 countries so far – and there so many more are out there…in the words of Dr. Seuss, “Oh the Places You’ll Go!”
Times have changed. Technology has transformed our lives. But the passion and excitement and joy of planning a trip, actually traveling and then remembering all the nuances of the people and places and experiences, gets better every single time we go somewhere. I love helping people have this experience! That’s why I plan study abroad programs. That’s why I am a travel consultant and started Euro Travel Coach. It is incredible to help students and families and couples go abroad for the first time or the fortieth time. I adore helping to make it possible for others to experience new cultures and new ways of doing things. I love to learn about the rest of the world and I get to do that when I plan trips whether it’s for me and my family or someone else!
Travel planning is time consuming. When I sit down to plan a trip I read everything I can get my hands on about the destinations. It’s easier now because I have experience to lean on, but there’s always something new to investigate. The Internet provides never-ending resources on every last detail. I daydream over accommodations and meals and museums and hikes and language. I get excited for people knowing that they are going to get to taste limoncello for the first time or smell the musty aromas in the wine cellar of a fabulous vintner. It’s all just so exciting. And I think it helps so much to talk to someone who has been there and done it already so that you can build on his or her experiences and make your time abroad exactly what you want it to be. I’ve learned that it’s important to have the plan in place – and then simply enjoy the experience…meet the people, taste the gelato, and drink in the culture (literally!) Some of the best parts of travel are unplanned…it just takes a good plan to get there.
I would love it if you would comment on my blog, share your own travel experiences or tell me what you'd like to hear!! Let's open up the conversation! This can be fun!