How to Have a Perfect* European Vacation, Part I (*Nothing is perfect)

enchantedcastleMy blogs are a little off schedule because my husband and I just returned from two cold but nostalgic weeks in Germany, driving along the Mosel and Rhine Rivers. We retraced a route we took on our honeymoon many years ago and stayed again at one of our favorite hotels, the lovely Burghotel Auf Schönburg in Oberwesel. Oh man, have prices gone up.

My love for travel stems from a semester abroad during college at the University of Freiburg in Germany’s Black Forest, followed by a summer studying the modern British novel at St. Clare’s College, Oxford, England. I was hooked. And when my husband and I got married a few years later, we decided (much to our parents’ chagrin) to spend the three months before his induction into the Air Force traveling through Europe rather than doing something sensible like getting jobs and saving money. We spent all our savings–actually all my husband’s savings (I’d never saved a dime in my life). It was worth every cent. 

I’ve always liked Rick Steves’ philosophy of travel: “If things aren’t to your liking, change your liking.” After all, we travel to expand our horizons and to experience different cultures. Those who insist on having everything they’re used to at home should stay home and watch the Travel ChannelAfter several decades of foreign travel, I’ve developed my own philosophy: no mishaps, no memories.  

What makes foreign travel exciting, in my opinion, are not only the differences but also the “disasters,” the things that go wrong. If everything goes exactly as planned, you might come home with a few souvenirs and some nice photographs. But memories, those experiences that stay with you long after the trip has ended—the ones you invariably relate when people say, “So, tell me about your trip”—are the disasters. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating true disasters like automobile accidents or health crises, but rather those odd, strange, unexpected, and frankly funny things that happen when you don’t know exactly what’s going on. The stranger the culture, the greater the potential for confusion. Confusion leads to misunderstanding and misdirection, which lead in turn to adventure and memories.  

Next week I’ll give you an example from our first family trip to England. Trust me, it did not go as expected.

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