Written June 2017
I regret not writing more about our Europe trip when it actually happened. Or at least in the year it happened. Now here we are three years later and I feel the need to post at least something about it before I print my journal.
I remember being overwhelmed by the day to day. For the sake of spontaneity, we hadn’t booked any lodging beforehand. We quickly learned that wasn’t ideal, so I spent hours at each destination researching and booking accommodations for our future cities. In six weeks, we hardly had a break. We were used to work weeks and weekends. In Europe, we were constantly on the move. And it was hard not to be! We could hardly justify sleeping in or lounging around a hostel dorm room (who would want to do that anyway?) when excitement, adventure and more was outside our door. It started to wear on us. We bickered. We didn’t enjoy everything. We didn’t always have positive attitudes. We dwelt on unmet expectations. But we survived.
In so many ways, I thought Europe would be a mini version of China to us, but it wasn’t. I had to adjust my expectations. Traveling in Europe was so much more expensive than traveling in China. Our lodging preferences/standards had changed. And the sites themselves were different. In China, we felt like explorers taking on the undiscovered world. In Europe, we were just another pair of tourists crowding the museums and fumbling around the market. When traveling in China, we aimed to not only see the sites, but see them as a local. We lived, ate and traveled just like them. In Europe, we lacked that element, and it was missed. I didn’t feel like we were getting the whole picture. We’d see parts of a city, but only the tourist-centric parts. I knew there was more, yet it felt inaccessible.
Eventually, I realized comparison is the thief of joy. In a sense, I had to let go of China and take hold of Europe. It wasn’t going to be the same, but we could enjoy it for what it was.
After Germany, we started to get the hang of things. We stopped pushing ourselves to do and see things just because they were on the typical “must-see” list. Instead, we tried to balance our days with a mix of culture, food, people, natural wonders and man-made sights. We realized and accepted that paying for big city attractions and museums wasn’t really our thing. Instead, in bigger cities we enjoyed biking through public squares, wandering through walking streets and eating local snacks at public parks. This way we stumbled upon free concerts, neighborhood festivals, etc. In more outdoorsy areas, we enjoyed hiking, biking and getting off the beaten path.
From memory, emails, Google docs and spreadsheets, IM chats with Mandi and notes scribbled in a notebook, the next several posts include what we did, where we stayed and what we spent in Europe:
June 14: Quit our jobs!
June 15-July 3: Packed up, moved our stuff to Orem and stored it in Grammy and Grandpa Stevens’ rental home basement, went to Lake Powell with the Stevens, went to Brentwood with the Lunts, went to Carlsbad with the Stevens and left from there!
July 4-8: Barcelona, Spain
July 9: Bern, Switzerland
July 10-12: Schenkenzell, Germany
July 13-16: Paris, France
July 17-18: Tours, France
July 19-20: Brussels, Belgium
July 21-24: Amsterdam, Netherlands
July 25-28: London, England
July 29-31: Bath, England
August 1: Bristol, England
August 2-3: Dublin, Ireland
August 4: Cork, Ireland
August 5-7: Killarney, Ireland
August 8: Galway, Ireland
August 9-11: Omagh, Northern Ireland
August 12: Belfast, Northern Ireland
August 13: Fly to Los Angeles, spend the night. I don’t remember where we stayed, other than it was near the airport and included a free shuttle. It’s worth mentioning though, because I remember a few funny details. I remember being starving because the flight home from Ireland ran out in-flight meals and instead gave us 5,000 air mile points. Great, but we’re still hungry. When we got to the hotel, we walked to the closest restaurant, which happened to be a KFC/Taco Bell combo place. We were the only Caucasian customers. We didn’t bother leaving our room after eating; we were so happy to not feel guilty about not exploring. There was nothing to explore, so instead we crashed in bed, watched TV and slept. I remember the next morning pulling the sheets off the mattress to find the brand — I swore it was the most comfortable bed I’d ever slept in.
August 13: Arrive in Salt Lake City
We didn’t keep a detailed log, so we aren’t exactly sure how much we spent on the trip. We saved a ton — like my whole paycheck every month for a year — and had about $20,000 set aside, but I think we only spent between $12-$15,000.