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An amazing family trip + European Observations

I have just recently (very recent as of a few days) gotten back from a trip with my family through Europe. We visited the following places:

  • Amsterdam
  • Antwerp
  • Brugge
  • Brussels
  • Dubrovnik 
  • Couple outlying towns in Croatia including the plitvice lakes
  • Zagreb
Most people vacation maybe one or two places but since we ventured to quite a few you realize that when people ask the same questions, specifically, “how was your trip” and “where did you go” that you really wish there was a super short reply that you could offer. Perhaps a piece of paper with all of the locations and an emotional statement “it was an amazing time” versus repeating yourself and sounding a bit like the rain man. Nevertheless, I was all about Dustin Hoffman today and I embraced it.
Obligatory (and let’s be honest, amazing) photo shots of the trip:

https://picasaweb.google.com/s/c/bin/slideshow.swf

Favorite experiences from the two weeks away:
  • Playing cards with my family 
  • Drinking Tinto De Verano (Spanish spritzer) while playing cards
  • Amazing views
  • Being outdoors
  • Laughing for two weeks straight
  • Feeling completely at-home many miles away from any of my true “homes” with the family
  • White Water Rafting + cliff diving (video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGWToInzK-4)
Now for my casual observations based on my travels through Europe. I have been to quite a few places in Europe now and believe I have some key insights

First of all – regardless of what I write below there is one thing you should do. Go to Siena. Go to Cinque Terre. Put these on your bucket list. While you are at it – a white rafting trip with your family will surprise you. It’s honestly more fun than you can handle. Go write it down now. Done? Cool, let’s continue.

Few observations in my travels through Europe:

  • Stairs are frequent; elevators and escalators are not – this is probably obvious
  • A/C is not an absolute – just be prepared to be about “natural air flow.” Maybe a fan or two if possible. Maybe not. Croatia did have an A/C in the house we rented but I have also experienced none at all. In London for example – no A/C on public transportation, etc. It can get hot with too many individuals. Trust me.
  • Tourists are annoying. My family had a saying on the trip “Large groups of people, when given their free-will and not specific guided instructions/left to their own devices and decisionswill be ridiculously annoying. ” These same groups are so easily manipulated. You could see one or two individuals breaking off to go look or do something nearby and then the flood gates of people running to see what these individuals had found. Absolutely crazy, annoying and ridiculous. Sheep.
  • Venturing outside of your comfort zone and language can be rewarding. Seeing the road travelled by the massive tourists mentioned above can be quite magnificent. There is a reason (usually) why the “hot attractions” are popular. Yet, trying something completely new and different outside of the mainstream attraction can be equally if not more rewarding.  We stopped off at a very small beach town in Croatia and were rewarded with an amazing experience. Beautiful, warm water and friendly people. Just a very good feeling all around.
  • Learn some of the language before you go and while you are there. I didn’t read up on the languages before our last trip. Yet, while there I try to learn certain words – ie “voda” = water in serb-croat. Little things make all of the difference and make it easier to get by I think.
  • Understand the currency and the rules of the country. Seems obvious.
  • In Europe there is not an obsession with ensuring that all possible safety precautions are present. Living in the natural world and taking some risks is far more European than American. As a family we commented on the that we really liked that there weren’t gates and fences, etc blocking us from our experiences in the natural environment for fear of being sued or whatever if the situation turns bad. I saw no accidents when in these situations and believe that everyone adheres quite nicely to the most basic of rules.
  • Europe is hands-down WAY better at being eco-friendly. For example, in our hotel room in Croatia we had to ensure the window was shut for the A/C to work. Apparently, per my flatmate, this is quite common. I hadn’t seen this previously but it makes sense and is much better from an energy-saving level.
  • Customer Service is not as strong in Europe though we had a pleasant stay in most places and restaurant service was decent. You always get your food. You don’t always get it with a smile and getting the bill can be a lengthy process. Just relax and enjoy the ambiance!

Any others you can add to this??

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