The Learnings From A Road-Trip Through Europe

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The idea came from when we were clearing out a cupboard and stumbled across an old photo album of my parent’s European road trip from 24 years ago. The thought of a road trip has always intrigued me, from a young age I have been a major fan of the Top Gear specials where they took the cheapest cars they could buy and raced them across deserts, mountains and everything in between. Though I was very fixated on the cars and their top speed, I always envied the amazing fun the presenters had both in and out of the car. This clearly left me with a desire to do something similar one-day.

Fast forward to 2019.

So when I had the opportunity to go on my own road trip I jumped at the chance, this was not something that I was going to miss out on. Through the planning process, I found the internet had plenty of advice on how to plan a road trip. At its core, it’s really simple, choose the car, plan the route, organise the accommodation, drive and be prepared to have a bit of a roller coaster experience.

This article will endeavour to point out how you should view your experience so you can really appreciate the adventure.

I’m not trying to show you how or what you need to enjoy, I’m sure you can figure that out yourself. Whether it be driving through mountain passes in Switzerland, fine dining in Italy, or relaxing on the beach in the south of Spain, ultimately only you know what puts a smile on your face. I do however want to help you with some insight into what I took for granted, and hope that you will benefit.

Zero expectations.

In my previous article, I mentioned that my family and friends referred to the trip as a lifetime experience, and it was. However, constantly receiving advice about the never-ending list of places I must visit set some very high expectations and stress on me. It was continually in the back of my mind that I had to make this trip phenomenal else I would somehow have fallen short. This conformist mindset was a hindrance on the journey, everywhere I went, I wanted it to resemble an Instagram photo or travel vlog. In such situations, you have to remember, everyone is mostly sharing the positives side of their life online. In reality, the locations you end up visiting can look to the contrary. You have to bear in mind that they are all seen through different people’s eyes. So my advice to you is to make sure you are ‘present’ and truly enjoying the moment and mood, with no preconceptions, this way you will create truly timeless memories.

I would say that it’s great to listen to others, but, leaving things to chance can throw some amazing and unexpected experiences your way.

Slow it down & switch it up

Posing for a picture with the owner of an osteria in Venice

Sightseeing can become a bit monotonous after a while, especially for major tourist attractions, you can end up paying a ludicrous amount of money, queue until your feet have blisters, rush through the attraction so you can get onto the next one before the tour groups catch up. By slowing it right down, spending time walking around and immersing yourself as a local, you tend to find the hidden gems of the city. It’s just as impressive to have a quiet coffee in the back street of an off-beat cafe with the locals as it is in the tourist trap that we are all pressured to see. It’s great to just relax over a coffee and watch the world go by observing how other tourists hustle along in their groups to the next time slot that they are allocated and scheduled to see.

Visiting places that the guide books haven’t recommended is ok, no one is going to judge you.

Stumbling on a family cafe can turn into an experience you least expected and it can become a story in years to come, so why not take the risk. I sure did and was fortunate enough to discover an osteria in Venice, where the owner explained all the cicchetti, Italian snacks, he was selling and gave me a couple of glasses of prosecco on the house.

Document, Document, Document.

Looking back I wish I had taken more videos, however, I am able to write this article today as I took just enough to document my experience. A bit of advice, I do recommend backing up the photos while on the journey. I stupidly lost mine in a moment of emotional disorganisation, trust me, the feeling of losing 3000 photos is not one I want to repeat!

Capture the ups, the downs, and everything in between. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you and feed a false reality into your memory. Nothing in this world is perfect, including my trip. When you are in a car for 5–10 hours at a time, with someone else, for over a week you do have arguments. I can look back on it now and laugh with my family about the moments that seemed like a big deal then, but in the grand scheme of things were just a small blip. It’s important to understand how to move on quickly and enjoy the moments that are bound to come.

Bring a camera so that you can take quality Pictures and Videos. Don’t do it for the gram Do it because it’s something that you will show your grandkids one day. Do it because when your mind gives up on you, you can look back and feel the Tuscan countryside, the Swiss mountains, the Spanish Vineyards and remember what a wonderful life you have had.

If there is only one point that you take away from this article, it should be that.

The journey is the most important part of anything, above and beyond the endpoints. Recognising the different cultures and experiences will give you a depth of understanding and help you appreciate life with a contrary outlook to most.

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