Tell me if any of these sound familiar…
One day, I’m for sure going to Italy! And once there, I want to be able to eat a slice of pizza like THAT! You know the one… in Eat, Pray, Love when Julia Roberts decides to say to hell with good fitting jeans… I want THAT slice of pizza. I want that life where I feel free enough and confident enough that I can experience Italy, or travel with that sense of ‘experiencing life’ in a way that’s powerful from the inside out. And how my jeans fit won’t have any say in the matter!
One day, I’ll go to Europe…
I have this long list of all the amazing sights I, one day, absolutely must see! The Eiffel Tower’s on it, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Big Ben, the Colosseum, all the amazing European castles, Venice, the Cliffs of Moher, la Sagrada Familia, Notre Dame was on it too 🙁 … I imagine how amazing it’s going to be seeing all those sights with my own eyes, being there, breathing in the history. I’ve been dreaming about this for so long, it’s going to be like living my personal fairytale…
One day, I’ll go to Europe…
I had French at school and I loved it. It’s such a romantic language to learn, pity I’ve never had a chance to practice it outside the classroom. I know it would have made such a difference for me. For anyone, really. And so now that my daughter Jessica is learning French as well, I want her to have what I’ve never had. The opportunity to go to France and practice her French there! What I’d actually want is for all of my family to have that life-changing experience of spending some time in different surroundings, with different foods, different ways of living and getting around, and different expectations. And while we are at it, Jessica will also get a chance to visit a boulangerie every day and buy a fresh baguette or croissants on her own in a language she’s been learning for just a few months!
One day, I’ll go to Europe…
For me, it’s going to be all about the food. And wine. And beer 😉 Well, what I’m trying to say is I’m going to travel around Europe and savour my way through it. I’ll eat the best pizza in the world in Naples, taste the best gelato ever in Sicily…did you know Sicilians serve it in a brioche and you can have it for breakfast?! For sure, I’m going to do that. And I’ll drink the best wine in France. Of course, I’ll need to taste the Italian wine to compare those two as well. And then I want to see how Guinness tastes in its home country too… Oh my, I can’t wait now.
One day, I’ll go to Europe…
I’ve spent years trying to find the birth records of my paternal great grandfather. Now I know my family’s odyssey started a long time ago in county Tyrone, Ireland. Before emigrating to the US, in his search for a better life, my great grandfather lived on the Emerald Island. And now that I know, I can’t wait to, one day, visit that place myself. To understand my roots better and experience the places where my family comes from. And I know I should do it before Ireland changes too much. I’ve waited long enough. It’s time to do it now!
One day, I’ll go to Europe…
If that’s how your story about going to Europe always starts, then it’s time to turn that dream of yours into a reality.
The time is NOW!
So let’s help you tackle every obstacle you THINK is in your way…
#1: PLANNING THE TRIP TO EUROPE SEEMS SO OVERWHELMING!
Yes, there are many things to consider when planning a trip overseas. Things like long haul flights, visas, vaccines, accommodation, insurance, local transportation, dealing with an unfamiliar culture and language different from your mother tongue all come to mind. And there are many other details to take care of. I get that looking at it as a whole, it can feel very overwhelming.
But just remember that:
“By failing to plan your are preparing to fail”~ Benjamin Franklin
And that if you don’t prioritise planning for your dream trip:
“Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.”~ John Lennon
“Success is not accidental, it is intentional. Do something intentional everyday to create the success you want and deserve.” In other words, take action every day, and you will make this dream of yours happen. That’s a promise!
Your mission for today, should you choose to accept it:
Decide on one country in Europe you want to visit.
Let me rephrase: If you were to visit Europe next year and you could only do ONE country, which one would it be and why?
(Tell me in the comments, I’d love to know what your dream country is and what’s your ‘why’ behind that dream!)
And if you are curious about why deciding that one country to focus on is crucial to the success of your trip, check my free guide on How To Make The Most Of Your European Experience for more details.
Have you decided on that one country yet?
Did it feel like a Mission Impossible or was it an easy call for you?
What’s important is that you took an action and by taking that action, you are already one step closer to your ‘dream come true’ story.
Just like in this story of mine – a story of how I got my MSc in Tourism Management degree. A story of how I turned something that felt really overwhelming at the beginning, into a reality.
The story starts with me going back to university to finish my degree. I knew I had to do it. It was then or never sort of a decision for me. And oh boy, it felt like an impossible quest to start with. All of it felt very overwhelming. Bachelors was nothing compared to this! I was facing completely unfamiliar (international) waters and felt like I have no idea how to navigate in them. To tell you the truth, I was really tempted to give in to the overwhelm, I was almost ready to give up before I even started. I almost gave up on my dream because it felt too big to conquer. But, I am not a quitter (and neither are you) and so, step by step, I kept going. Until one day, (many many evenings with teary eyes later), I realised that by taking those small steps every day, I turned my dream into a Masters degree reality. I had to battle my dragons, but in the end, I made my fairytale come true.
And I believe the same will happen for you. Even if right now, you might feel overwhelmed by the enormous quest of planning your own trip to Europe, not knowing where to even start.
Start by making that simple decision of turning your dream into a reality. Make that “mission (im)possible” decision I asked you to above. Then take a structured approach to your travel planning. Follow a simple step-by-step process that will reassure you of crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s so you know your next travel is not going to be a disaster of things you forgot to plan for, but an amazing experience you’ll cherish for a long time, an experience that will become part of your life story.
Let me share with you the step-by-step process I follow:
Step 1: Establish a Budget
Since some countries are cheaper than others, setting your budget early on may help you choose your actual destination. If your destination is non-negotiable aka your dream country, then knowing your budget will guide you through the process of deciding what to put on your travel itinerary instead.
Step 2: Pick a Destination
If this hasn’t been an easy one for you, try coming at it from a different angle. Is there a particular site that’s on your must-see travel list? Then plan your vacation around that. E.g. If you are a big fan of Star Wars movies, you could plan your vacation around visiting the Irish Skellig Michael island where a lot of the action of the Last Jedi’s episode took place. And once in Ireland, why not add all the Game of Thrones locations to your itinerary as well. Awesome, right?
Step 3: Get Your Documents Ready
Make sure you have a valid passport and find out whether your dream destination requires you to have a visa to enter. If so, check what you need to get the visa and how long it’s going to take.
Step 4: Create a Rough Itinerary
Now that you are really excited about your travel destination and clear on your ‘why’ behind it, create a rough itinerary that will help you achieve your goals: history, culture, adventure, events, language, art, you name it. Even though this might seem a little tedious at first, having a draft of your day-by-day itinerary written down before you book a thing is going to save you a lot of trouble (and money) in the long run.
Step 5: Prepare for the Culture Shock
Whilst researching things to put on your perfect-trip-to-Europe-itinerary, pay close attention to all the cultural differences that come up. Things like the unofficial dress code in your dream destination, local language, eating habits, shop/restaurant/cafe opening hours, moving around etc. Being aware of what to expect will help you deal with it much better and you’ll enjoy your trip a lot more as a result.
Step 6: Book Your Flights
The airfare is usually the single biggest expense of your entire trip and so it’s a good idea to book your flights before anything else. This will give you an extra flexibility around dates too. Compare offers on multiple booking sites like Momondo, Google Flights or Skyscanner, shop around a little to find the best deal out there. You could also set up fare alerts for your dream destination and watch those prices for a short while before you grab the best offer. Consider indirect flights as well. They might not only be cheaper, taking a couple of days stopover in another city of interest could also be an opportunity to spice up your itinerary a bit.
Step 7: Book Your Accommodation
Now that your flights are booked and you know the exact dates you’ll be in your destination, it’s time to go back to your rough itinerary and fill in where you’re going to sleep. Shop around and read the reviews before you book anything. Sites like Tripadvisor and Booking.com should be a good place to start. To make things more interesting, keep an eye out for gems like historic castles, organic farms, houseboats and stays in private houses. If you are budget conscious, you should also consider vacation rentals, homestays, farmstays, and house-swapping as these can be shockingly affordable… or even free.
Step 8: Consider Travel Insurance
Things like flight delays, flight cancellations and medical emergencies often happen when least expected and when they do, having a good travel insurance can help you solve those situations. Many airlines and travel providers sell trip insurance that you can purchase along with your flight. Make sure you read the fine print on those offers and do your own research before you buy.
Don’t forget to check whether your medical insurance covers you overseas and if not, you may want to buy supplemental medical insurance to cover situations like the cost of transportation back home for emergency care etc. (Unless that’s already covered by the travel insurance you bought and in that case, you don’t need to do a thing.)
Step 9: Research Local Transportation Options
Should you rent a car or use public transport to move around? That depends on where you are going and how remote or serviced that zone is. In cities, you’ll most probably be better off using public transport or local city bike schemes. Rail travel might be the best option when moving from city to city a lot, whereas renting a car might be the only option for exploring rural countryside in many countries.
Step 10: Tackle Last Minute Logistics & Pack For Your Trip
A couple of weeks before your departure, you’ll want to start arranging for things like who’s going to take care of your house, house plants and/or pets.
Also, before you board that plane, make sure your phone plan allows you to call, text and use your data abroad. If that’s not the case, you will want to activate an upgraded plan to cover you for chatting (online and offline) whilst in Europe.
And how about your credit/debit cards? You’d better call your bank to let them know you’ll be making purchases abroad so they don’t block your cards out of precaution. Make sure to ask them what your daily ATM withdrawal limit in Europe is and what will you be charged for cashing out too.
As for packing, don’t ever leave it until the last day or you’ll end up forgetting some must have’s and will bring too many unnecessary things instead. Best to start packing about a week before the trip. First, check the weather forecast for your destination so you know what to pack. And in case you find out you need to buy some essentials you don’t have, you still have a couple of days to make those purchases.
And that’s it. That’s your 10 step plan to follow and a checklist of all the things that you need to do before you close that suitcase and head for the airport. Tick items off that list one by one, day by day. And you’ll be surprised how soon there will be nothing more left on your to-do list. It’ll be time to board that plane instead!
#2: WHERE ON EARTH AM I GOING TO GET MONEY FOR THIS?
If you’ve ever asked yourself that question, then you should know that it’s you who has the power to decide how your fairytale is going to look like.
Whether it’s going to be about sleeping on a luxurious bed in a five star hotel where for sure, you will feel like a princess but where the experience in itself might be very removed from the reality of the place (or the country) you are visiting. Or, you can go for a comfortable bed in a more authentic place run by the locals, where you’ll experience the best of both worlds and get to interact with the locals as a bonus.
Good news is, deciding what you want to spend your money on and what experiences you will create for yourself is totally up to you! Which means, your trip of a lifetime does not need to be crazy expensive! (Unless you want it to be.)
When organising a trip for yourself, you have all the control of how much it’s going to cost! All I am saying is that by focusing on authentic places, interactions with the locals and having real-life experiences, you can make your budget last much longer.
When planning your European dream, be strategic about it. Try to imagine what you want your holiday to look like, what sort of interactions you want to include and what memories you’d like to create. Then decide on activities that will give you just that.
A trip that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, and memories that will last you a lifetime!
Your mission for today (and every day thereafter), if you choose to accept it, is to put €5 a day into your Vacation fund jar. This will do three things for you:
First – By putting a little money aside every day, you are making a commitment to make this trip become a reality.
Second – By saving as little as €5 a day, you’ll have saved €150 by the end of your first month, €300 by the end of the second and so on. So you know exactly when you’ll be able to book your flight ticket. When you’ll be able to take that trip. And I guarantee you, it’s going to be much more specific than just ‘one day’.
Third – By thinking in euro currency, you are already mentally preparing yourself for what you’ll have to deal with when in Europe. (Most of Europe, anyways.) Cultural preparation is not only important, it will also make you enjoy the actual on-the-spot experience much more.
Ready? Steady? Start saving now 🙂
#3: I DON’T HAVE THE TIME FOR IT RIGHT NOW, LET ME LOOK INTO IT NEXT YEAR INSTEAD.
If I got a penny each time I hear this… (then I’d already be back in Italy, enjoying ‘la dolce vita’ with all that money! 🏖).
The sad truth is, this approach will get you NOWHERE. Literally, nowhere. Unless and until you start taking simple steps towards your dream now, it will NEVER become a reality.
You are the one who needs to make the time, the one who needs to make it a priority, the one who needs to make it happen. And so the important question is, do you REALLY want it to happen?
If your answer is yes, then it’s time to stop waiting for the perfect alignment of all things in your life. Perfect alignment is not necessary, all it takes is an imperfect action.
Highlight this as a quote again as well:
“Perfect alignment is not necessary, all it takes is an imperfect action.“
And I’d urge you to take that action sooner rather than later. Because, similarly to how your neighbourhood is changing, Europe is slowly changing too. Don’t wait too long or you might not get to see the same, romantic, beautiful, full of history and culturally-varied Europe as it is today.
What one day used to be admired by thousands of people, might no longer be there tomorrow for you to see. Just like the majestic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, that you’ll never get a chance to see in its former glory again.
On the flip side, there’s literally never been a better time to visit Europe than right now! Because of the European Union and the Schengen Area agreements, once you’ve gotten your single passport stamp on arrival, you can move across Schengen borders freely and experience multiple countries, languages, cultures, diverse history, architecture and cuisine all in one go.
What are you aching to see during your dream trip to Europe? Hurry up, go see it soon!
#4: I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT!
So, by now, you’ve decided on that ONE country you are going to visit. That will be your North Star in preparing for you trip.
Crazy about Italy, eh? Then in preparation for your trip, you might want to do things like:
- Painting your bedroom wall a Tuscan red. Too drastic? Then how about using a picture of a Tuscan countryside as a screensaver on your computer? The trick is to create an everyday reminder of your dream. Something that will permanently insert your dream into your everyday life.
- Watch a movie taking place in Italy. There are so many wander-inspiring movies out there, I almost envy you watching them for the first time.
- Learn Italian – Remember, the aim is not becoming fluent in Italian by the time you get to Italy. The aim, instead, is creating an instant bond with the locals by making an effort to speak their language. And to receive a couple of genuine, heart-warming smiles from them in return. So all you need is learning some basics that will allow you to greet people, thank them or ask for what you need. I bet you already know at least one word in Italian – “gelato”. See? You’ve already started without even noticing, you are good at this! What will your words number two and three be?
- Cook one Italian meal per week. This will get you and your taste buds, ready for the feast they are going to have in Italy! Yum!
These are just a couple of tips to get you ‘in the zone’ and really excited about your upcoming trip. In my experience, keeping that excitement level high is what will help you get through any bumps you might encounter whilst taking care of all the practicalities of planning your trip.
Would you like to know more about how to prepare for your European getaway? My free How To Make The Most Of Your European Experience guide will help you do just that.
#5: I’VE NEVER TRAVELLED INTERNATIONALLY BEFORE!
If you’ve never planned an international trip before, it might, indeed, be hard to know where to start. You probably don’t want to risk forgetting something really important and messing up the overall experience as a result.
And there are many things to plan for. Luckily, there is also plenty of information available out there you can tap into and many people out there who can help you figure out how to go about this, myself included.
People who have travelled extensively and can provide some advice. People who live in your desired destination and can give you some insider tips. There might even be someone in your social circles who’ve been to where you are planning to go. That person will surely love to share their experiences with you. You could also run a Google search (or two) and get additional advice from people looking at this quest from various angles. Then pull all that information together and come up with your own list of things you need to do/take care of before boarding that plane.
Remember, you don’t need to do this in isolation. Nor you need to default to buying a ready-made tour that will force you to compromise on the type of experiences you truly want to have.
As long as you know the ‘why’ behind your dream, it will guide you through every decision you will need to take. And having a clear plan to follow will take away the worry of possibly having forgotten something really important, so you can fully focus on the task at hand instead.
Don’t postpone your dream any longer, start making it a reality today.
Also, feel free to get in touch if you need some help with it 🙂