Musings on Traveling in Europe in the New Decade

The dogs love running around Highclere

The dogs love running around Highclere

Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.

— – Ray Bradbury

It’s a new year and a new decade. At this very moment, I’m on the Highclere estate, taking care of some wonderful dogs. I’m here for a month by myself while Greg is in Wisconsin helping to renovate Chelsea and Sam’s house in Madison. Being here solo has given me time to pause and think about how fortunate we are. We have been traveling through Europe nearly full time for 2 ½ years, and there is just so much more to see!

Travel is a privilege

When I taught international business at Tarleton State University in Texas, I would talk to my students about how truly privileged we all are. As broke college students, they didn’t usually feel that way. I understand that. I also understand that they are among the most well educated people on the planet.

Less than 7% of the world’s population has a college degree. So, because these students were sitting in a college classroom, that qualified them as among the privileged few. They had a chance to be educated. Hopefully, that education will make it easier for them be a positive influence in the world. “To those who have much, much is expected”. It’s what they will do with the privilege that is important.

One of Betsy’s Study Abroad groups in Ireland

One of Betsy’s Study Abroad groups in Ireland

Not everyone can travel. Some people are too sick, have parents or children they care for, face overwhelming debt, or work multiple jobs just to pay the rent. For these people, travel in the imminent future would be difficult. So, for those of us who are able to travel, it is important to recognize how truly fortunate we are.

I do recognize that. I truly do. I can’t believe how lucky we are to do what we are doing. That doesn’t mean we aren’t working hard – we work really hard! But we are privileged, and we are grateful.

Why do I love to travel so much?

Doesn’t everyone love to travel? Actually – no. Some people are much happier staying home, and I get that. But my heart wants to go, do, see, experience, and share with everyone who shows a bit of interest. It’s just part of my DNA I guess.

Hadrian’s Wall with the family in 1999

Hadrian’s Wall with the family in 1999

When I was young, I was a gymnast. I had high hopes of being in the Olympics. I was pretty good – but I wasn’t THAT good. But one of the real reasons I wanted to make it to the Olympics was because they were held all over the world. I just wanted to go! Seriously! I thought being in the Olympics would be my ticket to traveling to exotic places. Well, my gymnastic abilities were not enough to get me there, so I had to try to find another way.

It took some time and some grit, but eventually we figured out a way to make travel a priority, as a family. We worked hard and made choices that allowed us the privilege of traveling to many places, most of them in Europe. What have I gained in the process? What are some of the benefits of making that choice?

Travel Gives You the Chance to Try Incredible Food

Fresh white truffles shaved onto risotto

Fresh white truffles shaved onto risotto

Yes. Food is one of the things I enjoy most as we travel through Europe. Enjoying the unique dishes in each place we travel, lovingly made by local people, is one of the many things I appreciate as we travel from place to place. Pici pasta in Tuscany, white truffles in Piedmont, Fish & Chips in Dublin, a good Sunday roast in London, Lángos and goulash in Budapest, the best kebap in Berlin, bread fresh from the oven in Copenhagen….the list goes on and on. And the wine! We have tasted so much incredible wine from Brunello and Barolo to Riesling and Champagne. It is all so delicious.

Travel is Healthy

I know, I know – we eat so much fabulous food and drink so much incredible wine when we travel….how could that possibly be healthy? Well, we walk a lot when we travel. We get out and move. We hike, and bike and breath fresh air. This is all good for the body and good for the soul. This article in Forbes describes 5 Reasons Why Travel is Good for Your Mental Health. Each item on the list represents how travel contributes to your overall well-being.

Hiking Banff National Park

Hiking Banff National Park

The other side of this health issue is that – just like everyone else, I’m not getting any younger. I am finding that the physical challenges of aging are creeping up on me. I have a really bad knee. I have high blood pressure. I have friends who have died from cancer when they were younger than me. I need to travel NOW. I plan to travel for a good long time, but I really want to do all that I can in the present, because I just don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I think that’s a healthy attitude.

Travel Prompts you to Keep Learning

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am always FULL of questions. When I travel, I end up having way more questions than answers. I learn so much when I travel, and then I have to learn some more to fill in some of the blanks!

I am reading a book right now called The Shortest History of Europe. I don’t think I would have ever picked up this book if I hadn’t been traveling here and questioning how Europe came to be as it is today. There seems to be a history lesson around every corner in Europe. I feel like Europeans feel their history more than we do in North America.

We learn from history. Those who don’t learn from it are doomed to repeat it, right? So traveling here makes me want to develop an understanding of how history brought each European country to where it is today – and learn where they want to go from here.

The Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin

The Ishtar Gate at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin

Travel Helps You Understand Other Cultures

A home visit in Croatia was one of the highlights of this trip

A home visit in Croatia was one of the highlights of this trip

This may be my biggest take away from the traveling I have enjoyed over the years. The more I learn about people around the world, the more I discover that we are really all more alike than we are different. We all love our families. We thirst for meaning in life. We hunger to make our communities better. We all want to have balance and purpose in our life. We all need nourishment for our bodies and our souls.

As I travel, I learn that people in other places have different ways of doing things, and that’s OK! It’s even a good thing! We can learn from each other, appreciate each other, and accept one another. We don’t have to agree on how to do something – learning how others accomplish some of the same things makes us appreciate our own ways all the more.

Travel is an Experience that Brings Lifetime Memories

This is how we pack for a hike!

This is how we pack for a hike!

A popular saying these days is “buy experiences, not things”. The Atlantic published an article about this philosophy a few years back, and the sentiment is truer than ever. The experiences we invest in tend to make us happier than the things that we buy.

What pulls on my heartstrings? Memories of travel with my family. That time we went to Scotland when our kids were 5 and 8 and we rode horses high above Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness. The humor in reading to my kids about the Roman Forum when they were falling asleep from jet lag. The joy of hiking in Spain and enjoying a picnic at the top of a mountain. We ate our delicious dried meats and local cheeses and drank wine straight out of the bottle.

What European Destinations are on our List for the next decade?

Sometimes Greg and I play a game where each one of us, independently, makes a list of all the places we really, really want to go. Then we compare our notes to see which places we have in common. That should be our priority list for where we travel in the next year. It’s a fun way to spend an evening, dreaming of travel, usually while sipping on wine.

One of the benefits of traveling the way we do is that we are open to all sorts of opportunities, so we often simply say “yes” and go where the connection takes us. But our list making game has helped us to be intentional about traveling to places like Sicily, Alsace, the Mosel Valley and Islay in Scotland in the past few years.

In the coming decade, we want to take an even deeper dive into Europe. We want to spend more time in Barcelona, hike the Tour de Mont Blanc, visit Krakow and Warsaw, return to Burgundy and Bordeaux, see the Norwegian fjords on a sunny day. I just realized our list is too long to detail here. Let’s just say we have a lot we still want to see and do.

We plan to keep exploring opportunities that we will learn from and enjoy, and that we can pass on to our guests and clients. We love helping people travel to Europe, and the more we are able to experience ourselves, the better prepared we’ll be to create great experiences for others.

Always dreaming of our next trip

Always dreaming of our next trip

Where do your travel dreams take you? We can help with that! Remember that we are always available to you and your friends and family for custom trip planning to Italy, France, Ireland, the UK and all of Europe. We are experts in creating custom travel itineraries and leading small group trips to European destinations. Feel free to reach out via email — We’re always available to talk about travel!

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Betsy Ball – Betsy is co-founder and partner of Euro Travel Coach (ETC), which crafts custom European vacations for independent travelers and leads small group trips to Europe. She is a passionate and culturally curious traveler who thoroughly enjoys sharing her love for exploring Europe with ETC clients. Prior to founding ETC, Betsy taught International Business at Tarleton State University in Texas (part of the A & M System) where she led study abroad trips to multiple European countries and other worldwide destinations. She retired from teaching two and a half years ago and now travels 9 months of the year in Europe. She has a degree in hotel, restaurant management from Michigan State University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She also holds a Level 3 certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.

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