That's me (pictured above) in Majorca, Spain (Palma de Mallorca) on November 1, 2011. We've long wanted to visit Europe, and more recently, we'd become intrigued with the Mediterranean region for some reason to the point that we really wanted to see these destinations before visiting some of the more popular European hotspots, but this trip always seemed like this "far into the future type trip." Like a bucket list "before we die" type trip. But to quote another travel writer's article I read online, "don't sideline passion and fulfillment in lieu of the daily grind." And if travel is a passion, then why not just go?
This was our first EVER trip to Europe and we wanted it to count. We'd been tossing around the idea of visiting the Mediterranean going back a couple years, but this year I celebrated a milestone birthday, I was recovering from a recent surgery, my husband Ron celebrated his birthday two weeks after mine, and to top things off, we'd landed on our feet after a disastrous 2010 to a completely turned around successful 2011. We definitely had reasons to celebrate, so why not right now? We literally booked this trip two weeks before we went (you can get some sweet last minute deals on cruises when you look) and every step of making it happen felt like a milestone.
Naples, Italy (above). Before we booked the trip, I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel a bit out of reach. I mean, who does this? Parts of the Mediterranean region has long been the playground for the wealthiest 1%, so what made us think we could go? I don't know, but although it gave us real pause at times, we didn't let it stop us. There are ways to see the world without spending thousands and thousands of dollars, and if there's ever a way to save some coin, trust me, I can usually find it. I knew we wanted to see Spain, Italy and France all in the same trip which is why cruising the Mediterranean fit the bill perfectly. It was like a delicious appetizer sampler you get before dinner, you can sample different dishes, then you'll know what's good and what you want to go back for. That's the same way we approached this cruise. We got to see three countries and nine cities(Rome, Civitavecchia, Naples, Capri and Savona Italy, Majorca and Valencia Spain, Marseille France and Monte Carlo, Monaco) with a memorable two-hour ride along the Italian/French countryside that ended up along the Côte d'Azur and the French Riviera. That ride was gorgeous. All of that wrapped into one trip. It was a dream.
We rode bikes through the resort city of Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
Some of the things we recognized on our trip:
Knowing a second language (and even a third and a fourth) is definitely invaluable when traveling abroad. Google Translate and other foreign language travel apps can help, but it's nothing like actually knowing how to communicate with someone in their language when you're traveling. It's just sexier. If you're bilingual, then you're already ahead of the curve. Becoming proficient in French and starting Italian are both on my agenda, especially after this trip. Ron says he'll take on Spanish. Two good places to start your language learning? Live Mocha which is a social community of worldwide language learners and Mango Languages which in some cases you can learn a language for free online with a valid library card.
It wasn't just rich, older people traveling. Wait. Was I the only one who thought that? Well anyhoo, we spotted young couples, younger than us even, girlfriends, families with teenagers, families with small children, young mothers and daughters, young mothers and sons, adult families traveling together, all nationalities and everything in between. It was really a diverse mix of travelers.
Me in front of the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco. We logged A LOT of foot traffic miles. It was to the point that I wish I wore a pedometer to know exactly how many miles we logged on this trip because we walked and walked and walked some more, so comfortable shoes are a MUST. I came back weighing less than when we left... I'm not kidding.
A good camera is money on this type of trip but not necessary. If you know how I roll, then you already know that my iPhone is my main camera and I got some pretty good shots. Ron brought along his little camera and he got some good shots too. Would we have gotten some GREAT shots with better cameras with zoom lenses? Absolutely. I'm just saying all of this to say, don't let the fact that you don't have the best camera in the world stop you from booking your next great trip, iPhones can take some great pics.
We researched before leaving. We read about everything including whether or not we needed to exchange money for euros before we left, to reviews of our cruise, to using our cell phones overseas (international roaming and cell phone data can be crazy high without an international or world cell phone plan, so check with your carrier), to if we would be ok only speaking English on an Italian cruise.
Pizza tastes better in Italy and France. It just does. We enjoyed this pizza (pictured) in Capri, Italy and we came back to the states seriously side-eyeing Pizza Hut.
All of that to say this, life is meant to live, the world is meant to be seen. Is world travel on your bucket list? Then I say plan a trip and just go!