Traveling stress is different for everyone and indeed has changed for me at different parts of this trip but one of the things we did as part of our planning was to sit down and think about what is good and bad for us. Realistically thinking this was our once in a life time trip we were planning. It was unlikely we would be going to do anything like this again.
Europe had for us many things to think about and we asked everyone we could think of how they did their trip and what they liked, disliked. Found hard or easy. Should we hire a car and drive, motor home perhaps. Train or fly or cruise. Backpack, hostel, hotel or BnBs. What had people’s budget been. How long is the best length of time. One couple said they loved having a car the whole time. Others said they preferred to use local buses and trains. It was all very interesting and let me say we would hash through and evaluate what we discussed later in context of how we work. We didn’t always take replies as a given, because you need to think about how you are as an individual and as a couple.
The distance meant the cost is greater than a normal overseas holiday. We decided to treat it as a oncer. We needed to do the things that were most important to us. For me Croatia and Ireland to catch up with family was really important. France and Italy were must dos and Turkey and Morocco so we could get some dust in our hair and under our finger nails. I was worried Europe would be a bit the same. We didn’t want this to be a whistle stop tour where we were rushing everywhere and fall into bed exhausted. We decided we needed to stay no less than three nights at a stop so we could have good sleeps and generally longer if possible. We wanted a holiday where we saw a lot of a few places, rather than a bit of a lot of places.
Once we got all those arguments out of the way and settled on a time frame and route, we started to think about how we would do the traveling part. Before I go any further I have said before and will say now that five months has been a tad too long. At about halfway I was really feeling quite homesick. This won’t be the case for everybody and Gilbert was fine. It was just too long for me. In Italy I was feeling like I wanted to ditch the remainder of the trip so we decided to have a rest. We booked an apartment for two weeks in Nice and just slept, cooked our own food, and skyped the kids. At that time we reached the halfway point and after this rest I felt refreshed and ready to go on. It felt like we were on the homeward leg and I could do it. Right now with four weeks roughly to go, I’m excited about each stop as we inch closer to home.
As part of our planning we began to list our stressors. What made things hard for us or stressful because if we were to embark on a trip of a lifetime, we didn’t want it spoiled by things that would make it difficult. For example I wanted to lose weight and be fitter so I would find walking and traveling easier. Ahem.
We read quite a few different travel forums and blogs and one talked about traveling with cabin baggage only. Yep I said ‘only’. At the beginning Gilbert thought it was a great idea and I didn’t think it was possible butttt…. I would give it some thought. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. One of our stressors when we traveled we recognised was managing baggage. Especially now we were older. Not just the weight but waiting at airports. Lugging around trains and buses. So we thought hard about what we really needed and I would say that over the time we have traveled, having less stuff has been liberating. Firstly it’s so much easier arriving at an airport and not having to check baggage in, and leaving an airport, we just walk on out. We also enjoy looking but are not generally buying…because we have no room! We have purchased a Turkish rug and it’s being delivered possibly as I write this. I also posted home a shoebox parcel to clear some of our warmer clothes but in all honesty, we could actually limit our bag even further if we had to. If you are interested in looking into this more read Erins blog neverendingvoyage.com. This inspired us and we used as a bit of a guide for what to pack. I will only add to this that what you pack for a three to five day trip away will probably do for any length of time. Seriously. To be honest too tho we have decided to buy an extra bag in Turkey as there is a few things I want as momentos and so the last couple of flights will have checked luggage.
Another stressor is getting around and IT (Internet tech I mean) is way over my head. Gilbert organises all that stuff. Gives me step by step instructions in the simplest way, and gives me back up support when needed. If you don’t have that, then all I can say is ‘good luck’ because technology is such a good help. So now I’m going to tell you about something I know nothing about, but Gilbert told me to include. We tried Tom Tom and various other GPS systems but the pick of the bunch is ‘co pilot’. This system gives you directions for pretty much anywhere without wifi, so makes driving and walking and finding BnBs down little alleyways in Turkey or Croatia a breeze even in the dead of night. We have even used it on buses and trains to figure out where to get off. You get the app for free and buy the map. For example all of Europe for a small amount and that’s my plug for that. The better you are at this stuff the easier it is. Buying train tickets, googling info, reading forums on anything that is travel related. All this helps enormously.
Deciding on budget wasn’t as hard as I thought it might be at the start. People were very generous with their experiences and advice and I also read several blogs. The lonely planet guide gave some variables and with all that info I came up with something in the middle that we felt comfortable with. If you’re wondering, email me and we can talk further but I set up a numbers doc that has helped us keep track and we are pleased with how it’s gone. Travel is expensive but if you’ve set something realistic it will more likely go to plan.
Accommodation is another biggie. We don’t like it too hot, or too cold, or too dirty, or too noisey…but it depends on where that all fits on your scale. BnBs are a lot cheaper than hotels mostly tho some actually are hotels advertising their extra space. Some we talked to who had tried airbnb and said it was fantastic and a third of their holiday was that. One person we talked to said they tried it and hated it. He said people just wanted to ‘talk’ to them. They weren’t their friends and didn’t want to get home after a full day of sightseeing and have to talk to strangers. Hmmm. I’m naturally a blabber mouth and Gilbert definitely more so with this trip and we have thoroughly enjoyed airbnb BECAUSE we have been able to chat to real people.
Find out what kind of work they do, where’s the best bar, bus to catch, what are they cooking for dinner, their thoughts on their country and just ‘people’ stuff. Not all BnBs have been as clean as we’d like, but I’d say maybe only two out of the thirty or so. The rest have been fantastic and ten times better than staying in a hotel. In saying that sometimes we have chosen a hotel or on airbnb, a whole apartment which gives us some privacy, complete rest and everything we need to cook and do our washing. So you need to think about how ‘gregarious’ you wish to be or mix it up a little.
You need to think about how you like to move from place to place and I’ve personally loved trains, (except maybe the over night we used to get to Grananda) but it still can be stressful getting organised sometimes. Instructions for buying tickets etc seems to be seriously lacking in most places and for the most part I would say you just have to keep asking, or Gilbert will often Google the questions. It must have been so much harder before Internet. So much harder. We wanted to do some different kinds of travel and we also wanted to be quite free so unlike most people we didn’t book everything months ahead. In fact we just had a couple of stays and return flight and in some cases that has cost us more, and in some we have picked up a bargain. We didn’t want to hire a car for three months and not have freedom to choose so we have mostly booked as we went. We also wanted to do a variety of things, so we hired cars when we wanted, used trains and local ferries at times, took a cruise and occasionally flew. Like we flew from Croatia to Turkey and cruised back to Rome. Just how it worked out at the time and we’ve enjoyed having that freedom. We book air bnb 4-7 days ahead which has been easy mostly.
Just on another note I falsely expected that BnB meant bed AND breakfast. Some do breakfasts, some don’t, and some that do are not great anyway. We ended up carrying a small supply of meusili and coffee. We supplemented that on arrival with fruit, cheese, baguette, nuts and dried fruit. This meant we managed no matter what.
Here’s an example of why we like air bnb. Last night we bought a bottle of wine at the little shop down the road on the way back. We opened it when we got home and invited Roseen from upstairs and John to share with us. Roseen is retired and staying here a month. She is French born. Lived and worked in Spain for a number of years but has a house in America where she until recently was a university lecturer. She added some fresh Cheese to the table. John is Brazilan born but his Mum is a perfumer, she has a good nose, so they have lived all over the place. He speaks several languages and calls himself a linguist. This is his Mums house but he is running the bnb while she is on contract in China. I hear him greeting newcomers in whichever language they prefer. Anyway we sat for a couple of hours and had some lively and interesting conversation about, well everything really. This morning at breakfast we ate fresh fruit and Roseen made a tomato dish with bread and John joined us in time to help us sort out our Map and plan for the day. We went and saw things we would never have found off the tourist route and then when in town ran into Ha and Bo again and joined them for coffee and beers and tapas. They have rented an apartment and seem very much like us, except younger and fitter!
I’m not saying you can’t have a good holiday using just hotels. I’m saying think about what you like. Mix it up by choosing smaller and boutique hotels. If you hate BnBs because you have to talk to people then this kind of holiday is not going to suit you. If it would be more stressful not having everything booked, then go ahead and book the most important things. So line up the things that are stressors for you and work out how you are going to eliminate them. That way you are going to really enjoy it.