One would not expect getting temporarily laid off from work would kick off a surprise European adventure, but that is exactly where the story starts. I got laid off for three weeks and with the free time we decided to pack up the kids and head to Europe for a much needed, long term vacation.
Dominica and I have been to Europe before. In 2007 we spent some time in England and Northern Ireland. We loved our time there. I returned again, on my own, in 2009 to Germany. We had just had our first child and it seemed like dragging her, only eleven months old, on a short trip to Germany would be problematic.
This time we were going to go for much longer and with me having been to the continent and dealing with being in a country where we did not speak the language made Dominica much more comfortable about doing it with kids this time. This time, though, there are two kids: Liesl who is three and Luciana who is one.
In preparation for our trip we did a lot of research. And I do mean a lot. We acquired and read many travel guides, we watched every episode of Rick Steve’s Europe multiple times, we watched House Hunters International, we read blogs, talked to friends in Europe and joined online forums. We weren’t just setting out to explore Europe, we were going to do it with kids.
Our trip to Europe was bounded by two very solid events – the wedding of my one cousin in New York in May and the wedding of my other cousin in June, also in New York. We were traveling from Texas to New York for the weddings and the European vacation had to fit in between them to justify the time away from the office. The juxtaposition of events made it make sense to actually extend the time in Europe and to work from there, rather than from New York, for several weeks. So we made our plan to be in Europe for five weeks.
Five weeks, in Europe, with kids. Other than my honeymoon, this would be my first honest to goodness vacation for twenty years. Needless to say, I was a little excited.
Given the amount of time that we were going to be overseas the range of possibilities for us was nearly endless and we found the planning process to be, to say the least, overwhelming. We started planning the trip in September but were not traveling until May. That is a long time during which to make and change plans, which we did.
Europe is a big place full of endless options. We decided that we had to limit our travels or we would easily talk ourselves into attempting to see absolutely everything and would exhaust ourselves and ruin the opportunity. But on the other hand with Dominica having never seen mainland Europe and I having only seen a small corner of Germany and a bit of The Netherlands by train we really wanted to take the chance to do a “survey of Europe” and get an overall view and feel of the place. This might be our one big chance.
Decisions, decisions. At the beginning we thought that we were going to be starting in Warsaw and heading south spending most of our time in Switzerland and France. It seemed like every few days we would come up with a completely different plan that involved different routes, different modes of travel and, most dramatic, different countries. The trip was so open ended that we were having a really hard time gaining perspective.