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If you had 2 months....

Old Mar 20th, 2003, 05:17 AM
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If you had 2 months....

If you had two months to travel in Europe, would you concentrate on only a few countries or the whole continent?
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 05:25 AM
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I think that the answer is very dependent on past travel experiences (Europe and elsewhere), and future travel expectations.

For almost everyone I can think of, my answer is simply don't do it. Don't spend 8 weeks; spend 3 weeks, put half the money you have allocated for this in the bank, and take another thre weeks the following year, building on your enjoyment from the experience you gained in the first three week trip. And this advice would NOT be limited to those who are on their first trip to Europe. Same advice if you had been there one, two or several times before.

I know others will offer you their perspective on having done just what you are asking, and telling you how this, that or the other turned out to be a great (or not so great) plan. And I would never argue with them.

Just offering my counter-opinion for balance.

Best wishes,

Rex
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 05:48 AM
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i too am planning a two month trip this summer. I'm reading an excellent book I would highly recommend called First time Europe by Louis Casa Bianca. The point he makes is don't exhaust yourself. You'll get mixed up and won't enjoy every architecture or museum, scenery for what its worth. Take a few countries and see them, absorb the culture and stay while. You don't want to come home exhausted and constantly be rushed to the next spot. You'll lose the purpose of your vacation. Here's an example of what I am planning:
Italy, Spain, France, Germany, London and Amsterdam.
Good luck!
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 06:40 AM
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You know, I like your reasoning Rex. I am getting to the age where I'm considering early retirement and my spouse and I talked about taking 2-3 months and touring Europe. But your thoughts have given me something to think about! By spacing out our trips, it'll give us something to "look forward" to for a year, planning, talking etc. and for the 3 weeks we can "park" in one place and still see lots.
Hmmm....
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 06:45 AM
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We did just that in 1999 and followed the spring flowers across southern Europe. From mid-March thru mid-May we hit Andalusia, Provence, Cote d' Azur, Veneto, most of Austria, Prague, and the Romantic Road. The time of year is a big factor, and car or train travel is also a factor. We drove the entire route--using the Peuguot lease program.
Do not think in countries--think regions. We also ate white asparagus in 5 countries that trip--but it was spring. Let me know if you need more.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 07:01 AM
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I second Rex's suggestion. Cut up the travel time into shorter segments. I once took off on an 8 week tour of Europe. First I was ill prepared. Secondly, I burned out before it was over. Thirdly, I did not know how to plan expenses and I was broke by the end of it.

If you have 2 months, let me suggest you try to split it up into at least 3 shorter visits.

Each time you make a trip, you learn how to do it better. The first trip might be a 3 week survey to decide what you really want to see and do.
The next two or three trips will enable you to capitalize on your experiences and revised plans. There are two or three places that I return to because I like being there. Switzerland, particularly the Berner Oberland, leads the league. And for opera there is no place quite like Vienna.

I would start with the easy ones, where you are most likely to find success and very few barriers. I think Switzerland and Austria are easy to tour. Many people speak English and transportation is efficient. Austria, for the mountains, is a good place to have a car. So is southern Germany outside of the major cities.

I think the British Isles would be a good place to start, too, because of the common language. Ireland is almost a land unto itself.

Scandanavia is charming as well.

Let me sign off with this anecdote which is true. For some reason on my long trip I saved Paris until last. I arrived there short of money, the weather was awful, I was tired, I had not prepared myself for Paris, the Louvre guards went on strike, and I had not the foggiest notion of how to get to Versailles.
As a result I hated the place with a dedicated passion.

In fact, it was a long long time before I went back. After I returned, I saw that had I done it a little differently the first time, my view of the whole city would have been different.

So don't push it too long, or too hard.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 08:03 AM
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I think what we're not being told is that Quebec appears to be a college student (or soon to be graduate) who is interested in a biking trip across Europe staying in hostels & budget hotels. I can't help but maybe others can.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 08:07 AM
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That would not alter my opinion, mclaurie - - I have nieces, nephews and daughters (some of which are fairly experienced travelers abroad, others are quite green, even domestically, and never-been-abroad category) - - and I thought about how I would answer them before I posted my reply.

I would tell them the same thing I posted here.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 08:19 AM
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I think I would respectfully disagree with Rex. Reading quebec's other posts I see that he/she is a cyclist. I am as well and would love to spend that amount of time exploring Europe on a bike. I think I would probably stay in 2 to 4 places; Tuscany, the Ticino, the Netherlands and Croatia. If quebec is young he/she will have plenty of opportunties to return.

You should talk to Mina. Her 2 month trip turned into 4 months. I bet she could give you excellent advice.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 08:32 AM
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What a lovely question to ponder. I'm not one to jump around a lot, I'd probably stay in each place for a long time but I might jump a long distance between each stay. Since I like to travel alone, I prefer to spend my evenings in large cities as opposed to towns. I'd probably spend a week or two in each city with some day trips into smaller towns and maybe a night or two in some small towns in between.

So, for example, I might spend a week or two each in London, Paris, Prague, Vienna and Rome with a night in smaller towns in between some of those stays.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 08:39 AM
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We never do less than 6 weeks at a time and limit our travels to two countries each trip.
 
Old Mar 20th, 2003, 09:26 AM
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My first trip to Europe, when I was 25, was intended to be only 1-2 months (only had a 2 month Eurail pass), yet it turned into a six month trip. Sixteen years later this was indeed one of the wisest things I've ever done in my life. And I've done some pretty interesting things!

Now that my beloved dog is gone, I hope to take many more extended trips. It has been such a lovely way to really settle into an area, get to know the language, the locals, and have more flexibility to be open to the unexpected opportunities that inevitably arise.

In two months, my preference would go towards a few countries, not the whole continent.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 09:40 AM
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Like Dolcevita, I only planned on 2 months (I also, only had a two month rail pass). As Grasshopper said, my trip has turned to 4.

See what floats your boat, and try to focus on a region. I say "try" because I have discovered that plans have a way of going down the tubes. That is the joy of an extended trip. If you are planning to go in the summer, do try to book your hostels a few days in advance, as the best lodging gets filled up early. As I am traveling in the winter/spring, I have not had any problems with just showing up.

So much of it depends on what kind of person you are. Do you have a lot of energy, and like to roll with the punches...or do you like to hang out and relax for days at a time? Seeing the "continent" would take a lot of moving around in two months, and it is exhausting...yet exhilarating at the same time. If you are young, and you wish to spend the two months, I say go for it...do it now. In 5 years, I doubt I will have the stamina to sustain what I have been doing. There will be chances for you in the future for 2-3 week trips (I hope). Going for months at a time is far harder to do.

As also mentioned, I would advise you strongly assess your ability to budget. Very important on an extended trip.

I would be happy to help you, via email, if budget travel is what you intend to do. If you'd like, email me at [email protected]. The places I've been so far (in case any of them are places you are interested in) are: Paris, Bruges, Cologne, Rothenburg, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, Grunau, Cesky Krumlov, Prague, Florence, Venice, Olomouc, Interlaken, Barcelona, Sevilla, Siena, and Lucca. I can help with hostels or budget locations with these cities.

I hope you have a wonderful trip.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 10:08 AM
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I'm completely torn on this. I am 24 years old and my boss is being very gracious by allowing me a 2 month leave to travel. Orginally my friend and I wanted to get a Eurail pass and explore the whole continent from Greece-Scandanavia. Yet, I really want to visit small towns and explore some countryside on a bike. I understand that travel decisions very much depend on individual preferences but I enjoy getting the feedback.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 10:29 AM
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I think it sounds like a delightful idea, especially at your age. When I was in my mid-20s, I did a 7 week trip all around and it was wonderful. Not a biking trip, though. I would visit, as suggested, London, Paris, Prague or Vienna, spending about 5 days in each with a cycling break in the countryside between each.
For example: arrive in London, 5 days London, 5 days cycling in the countryside, back to London to take the train to Paris, 5 days Paris, then cycling in either the Loire Valley, south of France, or in Belgium/Holland, then off to Prague or Vienna, 5 days cycling in the countryside, etc.

IMHO, the worst part of any trip is the flight itself--so I'd much rather do one two month trip.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 01:30 PM
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I agree with BTilke. The plane ride and cost (even if in FF miles) is the worst part. If I'm going, I want to stay as long as possible. Since retiring and going to Europe for 5 months in the summer of 1995, I've gone every summer but one for a minimum of two months, and as much as the 5 months twice more. This year it will be for two months.

I like mixing some one week stays (this year my London stay will extend to fifteen days) with a number of weeks of three to five night stays. Each year planning a combination of favorites to return to for longer stays mixed with new places we've missed is the most fun part of the planning. I think I'd only spend the full two months in one country if I were sure that each year I could do it again with another country. Actually I prefer going to a variety of countries for the contrasts that you experience in the customs, the food, and the general atmosphere. Just as going to Europe itself is so exciting because you experience a certain level of "culture shock", I love spending a few weeks in maybe Holland, then spending a few weeks in totally different Italy. It's like several vacations in one, and I guess I feel like I'm getting "more for my money".

But two months is far too short to try to experience the whole continent. My first five month trip concentrated on Scandanavia and northern Europe. We never touched Italy, Spain, and Portugal for example, and only did London in the UK. This year other than London and Paris (every trip includes those two) the rest of the two months will be spent strictly in Germany and Switzerland, even though we've been to both a number of times. We're returning to a few favorite places, but mainly going to "new" ones in those countries.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 02:03 PM
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Hi quebec!
I have not read your other posts but I can offer the following feedback. I did a 4 (almost 5) month trip after graduating university that encompassed mediterranean europe - I spent time in Spain, France, Italy and Greece - with side trips to Morocco and Prague (my relatives are Czech). I had a minimum of three weeks in each country.

I did this trip solo (24 yr old female) and it was a very rewarding experience. I met many interesting people along the way and learned alot about myself.

What I liked best about the trip was the ability I had to be flexible - if I liked a certain town or met a group of people I could alter my plans, stay a few extra nights or decide to go to Morocco (that was a last minute decision and my favourite part of the trip)! In addition, I became familiar with the language and some of the customs of each country - it was nice to learn some phrases and have some time to interact with the locals. I knew that I had really "been" somewhere when the cafe staff new my name and greeted me every morning.

If I tried to do the whole continent it would have been too much, I needed time to relax even though I was on a vacation. I didn't spend every moment visiting museums or studying architecture. I took time to sit and read books in the outdoor cafes and gardens, shopped for clothes (I was sick of my own by then!), and sit on the beach.

I think that two months is an ideal length of time to really see part of Europe. It entirely depends on the purpose of your trip and your personality. You can be sure that at the end of the 2 months you will have completely forgotton about your life back home. In fact, I would not be surprised if you go into withdrawal upon your return.

You are young and free to travel, my advice is take the opportunity now since you may never have the chance again to take such a long trip. I look fondly back onto my experiences in 96 and I can tell you, nothing has compared to that time I spent in Europe. Since then I have travelled and taken vacations but none have been quite so carefree or relaxed.

Bonne chance!
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 02:07 PM
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I am really feeling old when I make this post. 30 years ago when I was in my early 20's I had the opportunity to spend 3 months in the Mediterranean area of Europe. We left with no plan in mind. This allowed me the luxury of actually spending 2 different 10 day hunks of time in Florence because I found I loved it so much. We also rented a flat in Malta for a couple of weeks. Had a chance to take a 3 day cruise from Venice to Dubrovnik.

All of these things call for the one thing you never have as you get older--TIME. Go for it now! When will you ever have this kind of time again? All too soon it's going to be the family and mortgage and no time trap. It took us nearly 30 years to be able to really start to travel again.

Europe is so much more than the big towns and sights that everyone needs to visit. You will get churched and museumed out. Plan to just do some low key hanging out as you bike from place to place. To me, that is the real magic of visiting a different country. All those churches and museums I've seen tend to run together in my mind, but all the little things in out of the way places are the special things I still remember.

One more note, if you intend to bike. A friend of my daughter's spent 3 months biking through Europe a coupe of years ago. His tent was stolen on the train at the beginning of his trip, so watch your belongings carefully. He said that biking (as a means of transportation) in the Czech Republic was the pits because of the diesel fumes from the trucks along the roads. he ended up doing more train travel than he'd planned.
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Old Mar 20th, 2003, 04:25 PM
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If I had that much time, I would find a good immersion program and either improve my French (which I haven't studied except for Pimsleur tapes, since 1965) or start learning Italian or Spanish or whatever. I'd live in an apartment in a non tourist area and really test my ability to learn and adapt. Of course, being from Quebec you may already be bilingual. Not that you couldn't become "trilingual?!"
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Old Mar 22nd, 2003, 07:58 AM
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Quebec is actually an American from Boston who really enjoys Canada! I literally change my mind on a daily basis. Yesterday, I was thinking of leasing a car and concentrating on Germany, Aus, Swiss and Italy. Today I am thinking of just getting a Eurail or Eurorail and traveling a bit here and there. Either way it will be great. No worries!! Thanks again for all the advice. I love that so many people travel!!
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