Who knew so much effort went into planning a holiday? The only other major vacation I have taken was two years ago in Costa Rica. I planned for that as much as I could for two months prior. I had the hostels all picked out and reserved, I had a respectable itinerary for the two-week stay, and I had ideas for activities organized on almost every day. In the end, most of it didn’t work out the way I had expected. That’s not to say that there was any trouble or everything fell apart and the trip was a disaster – quite the opposite. Not much went the way I planned, but that was probably the best part.
So that is my inspiration for Europe. I will be planning the flights and the short stays in Ireland and Italy, but only because I’ll be there with a friend (coincidentally, the same friend that accompanied me to Costa Rica). After that, the when and where of my travels will depend on little more than my mood. I’m not even buying a round-trip ticket. I’ll get that when I’m good and ready.
So I guess the planning isn’t really much of an effort. Maybe I should have said the preparation for a vacation is. All the books and websites and blogs and friendly advice is really a bit of an overload. I want to make sure I have as much prepared as possible, because I would rather worry about it now than in the middle of nowhere on a dark and stormy night while I sat around a campfire with Pedro and his friend. And there are several important aspects, but a plethora of little details that should be addressed before departing. Of course my passport was due to expire in January, so it was imperative to renew that. As an American, the State Department makes it difficult to travel abroad. Thankfully, none of the countries on the top of my to-visit list required visas; I believe Turkey was the closest. I spent many hours picking out what I believe to be the ideal backpack (I finally chose the High Sierra Sentinel 65-Liter Internal Frame Pack). Then there was applying for an international credit card (with a recommendation from my sister I chose the Barclaycard, awesome for so many more reasons than the included travel insurance), signing up for frequent-flier programs (several of them), obtaining a leave-of-absence from work, continuously searching flights for the best deals, making sure I have a phone plan that will allow me to make calls and send texts and possibly even sexts in Europe, and I’m sure a hundred other hurdles, half of which I haven’t even encountered yet.
And then there is the issue of my lease. I live in a very big house with a very convenient location and quite low rent. With the lease ending in July, do I want to pay rent while in a foreign country? Or do I want to let the lease expire and save several hundred dollars a month? Technically, that could add up to one more month exploring Europe. And although I hope it never comes to this, I may not get another chance to get hopelessly lost in another part of the world without a single worry about responsibilities in the U.S.
So I’ll wrap this up with some words of wisdom. Or whatever. It’s incredibly complicated, and a bit nerve-wracking, but I’m sure it will be worth it. In face I still have about 30 items to buy for my backpack, I have to get my travel discount cards, I have to verify my profile on couchsurfing, I have to notify my banks that I’ll be out of the country, I have to find out what my new chip-and-pin cards’ pins are, I have to look into transportation discounts like the Eurail, I have to keep an eye on my (oil-heavy) investments and most likely sell them at some point before I leave for more liquidity, I have to photo-copy my passport and print copies. That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface, but I guess there is nothing to do except to chip away at the preparations, with the expectation that I’ll surely forget many of them. Regardless, I’m sure this will be the Odyssey of a lifetime!