Thursday, August 26, 2010

2 - So...why Europe and why now? 2010

Written by Karen
Lac d'Annecy, France
So... we decided to go backpacking through Europe a few months ago.  I scheduled a 3-week vacation in September - one of the shoulder months that we try and plan our travels around.  There are less crowds; usually good weather; and, better travel deals.  We bandied about several different destinations, but instead of the typical 7 – 10 days that usually defined our vacations, we decided that this year we would go for a longer period of time.  Why?  Different and the usual reasons.  But, for me, the biggest reason was that after Adam had his emergency quadruple heart bypass surgery at the young age of 50 last Thanksgiving, due to genetics, the ripe knowledge of life being short could no longer be ignored, but had to be plucked and savored.  If not now, when? 

The idea of backpacking through Europe came slowly and through a process of elimination.  The falling euro held considerable appeal; for once, we were on the winning end of the ticket.  Once we settled on Europe, we began to research the various modes of transportation: campervan; car rental; trains; and continental flights.  That’s when the germ of backpacking through Europe really took hold and started to grow.  We couldn’t decide on what cities to visit, but we knew that we didn’t want to drive.  Too stressful…’ahh, honey, we’ve missed the exit’ with the unfamiliar signage and driving patterns gave us both unpleasant future images.  So, that left either flying between cities or taking the train.  And, we chose the train, purchasing a 21-country eurail pass to give us the most flexibility, both over our schedules and options, as well as letting us get off the beaten track and just wander.

Bernina Express, Switzerland
So, traveling around on the rails would mean that we would have to travel lightly.  Not just because we would have to carry our packs, but also because we wanted to meld into the larger population, wherever we ended up – and not stand out as an over-packed and obvious tourist. 

Over the past several years, we had been taking steps towards this longer type of excursion: renting apartments in downtown Tokyo, Puerto Vallarta, Berlin and Paris for a week at a time, and blending into the neighborhoods as best we could.  We observed others and fell into the natural rhythm of each neighborhood.  We watched and learned where the really good neighborhood bakeries, restaurants, caf├ęs and grocery stores were. We tried out our rudimentary language and pantomime skills and met our neighbors and found other hidden gems off the beaten track.  We fell in love, over and over again, with the different cultures, people, food, sights and sounds as we embraced the slower breathing of another life – really living and not just blasting through the day, just to collapse on the couch at the end of the day and wait for the routine to restart at 5:00 am the following morning.  Despite us both fully enjoying our careers, it is a fast-paced life that we lead, and our travel excursions are a cool respite from the super-charged heat of our daily lives.  

Sunset over Lake Como, Italy
So, that’s why Europe and that’s why now.  And somewhere in between, I hope we have a safe and enchanting journey…6 days and counting.  The fog has finally started to roll in chasing away the heat of the past couple of days.  We’ll start to pay attention to the extended European forecasts and see where the wind, or in our case, the weather will take us.  

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