When I first thought about retiring, I knew that traveling would be one of my priorities. Years ago, traveling with my kids meant making a big bed in the back of the Volkswagen van and driving all night while they slept, completely unrestrained of course. Later it involved car camping trips and sleeping in tents and sleeping bags on the ground. We managed a trip to Disneyland once, a bit of cross country car camping as migrant workers in the 70’s, and once my life settled down a bit I did manage to take a kid or two to San Francisco for a big city visit. We lived in rural Idaho at the time, and “the city” was an exciting destination.
As years passed and I managed to grow from eking out a meager living as a waitress to actually making a real living as a soil scientist, my travel time grew as well. However, by then, my kids were all grown and in the process of eking out their own modest livings and raising their kids. We managed a few local family reunions here and there, and in 2006 when Melody got married, we shared a family cruise to the Mexican Riviera.
My big goal was to manage at least one “big” trip for each of my children. I know that some folks do the big thing with the entire family, paying airfare and hotel for offspring and their spouses and kids and extended families. I don’t think I could even manage a second mortgage for that much money, so my dreams were a bit more modest. No spouses, no kids, just me and one child at a time going to the place of their choice, almost anywhere in the world that they would choose to go. Well, Australia was out since that was just beyond affordable to me, but most other destinations were up for grabs.
Almost two years ago my oldest daughter claimed her trip and we shared a charter Legendary Blues Cruise to the southern Caribbean. Which brings me to today. My youngest daughter was the one who chose to go next and eighteen months ago I paid for this trip to Eastern Europe, and Melody and I have been planning and dreaming about it ever since. It is Melody’s first trip off the continent. It is mother/daughter time at its best, with no distractions of friends, spouses, children, responsibilities. To say we are excited is an understatement.
My first trip to Europe was with Mo, a seasoned traveler who has been to more than 36 countries. I was as giddy and excited on that trip as I expect Melody will be on this one. I have traveled with Mo on several cruises, to Thailand, to Turkey, to Malta, across the US and Canada, and as tough and smart as I think I am, I know how much I depend on Mo’s travel skills and take-charge abilities. I realize that on this trip I will be the experienced one. I won’t have Mo to fall back on…Melody will expect to be able to fall back on me. After all, I am ‘Mom”. I managed a complex life for nearly 60 years before I met Mo so I am sure I should manage just fine!
I have followed Kevin and Ruth across eastern Europe lately, marveling at their resourcefulness, their willingness to search out destinations on their own, to couch-surf and use public transportation, seeing the countries in ways that aren’t limited to the views most tourists get. I, on the other hand, have chosen the tourist route, decidedly and willingly! After traveling with Mo using Grand Circle Tours and Go Ahead Tours, I learned my old ideas about tour travel were just plain silly. It is GREAT not having to worry about all the details. It is GREAT having my luggage show up at my hotel, getting a quickie tour of the city and then having a couple of days on my own to go back to the places I want to explore more deeply.
I decided on GoAhead Tours, mainly because they seem to cater to a younger clientele. I would have loved to do an OAT “(Overseas Adventure Travel) tour, but they are a lot more expensive and I decided against it. Go Ahead does a great job for the price, not fancy, but not cut rate either.
I could easily go to Turkey or Thailand again on my own, once I have been there, but for a first time trip to just about anywhere, I really like having the luxury of a tour. Especially with limited time available, because of course my daughter is still working, I want no hassles. I want to give my daughter the opportunity to see a different part of the world, to expand her horizons, but to do it with just a bit more safety factor than I would feel out there loose on my own.
The photos on the right and below are of the hike to Vernal Falls in Yosemite that I made with my kids back in the 70’s. Melody was 4 and as you can see, most of the hike she was on my back. Hopefully on this trip she will be the one I can lean on instead of the other way around.
Today Melody and I both woke up at 3:30 am, at 4:00 am, all packed and ready with nowhere to go. We sent each other text messages and emails, and laughed about how silly it was. We are driving north to Albany today so that we have an easy commute to Portland tomorrow for our 1:30 departure from PDX for the ten hour flight to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam we will take a short flight to Budapest, spending three days there before traveling the 150 miles to Vienna. Three days in Vienna, with another day to drive to Prague for three more days and the quick 11 day trip will be over.
My knee is functioning rather well, and the brace and trekking poles should help with cobblestone streets and lots of stairs that I expect to climb in these beautiful old world cities. The trekking poles are in checked luggage, in spite of the encouragement of the doctor and the travel agent, too many websites said they could be a problem on the airlines. I decided not to take the chance and will simply lean on my daughter if i need to!
My little girl and I are off to see the world!