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where I'd like to travel

the question meme is producing more questions. slemslempike asked, Do you have any plans about where you'd like to travel internationally?

yes, but the plans are still vague. I posted before that I felt bad about never having traveled, like a person needs to get out in the world to gain some perspective. So we are trying to go to europe next year.

Spain is a candidate because marc and I both speak a tiny bit of spanish, not a ton but with some brushing up there's hope. Also since it's on the coast we'll get a much different lifestyle than we get in our landlocked state we live in.

Switzerland is a candidate because marc has a good friend who lives there, and having a local guide can really help out, in any city you go. I'm worried it might be a little weird to get to.

Amsterdam is a candidate because I've always wanted to go there for the museums, I've heard it's friendly and easy to get around.

I'm kinda wondering how the trains work, if we spend a week there would it take way too much time away if we took a train to see a second country? I hear these stories that make it sound like people "do europe", I don't know if that's a better option or if we should stick to a single city and emerge ourselves in one culture.

The following countries have been kicked around, but are not candidates:

England - Sorry people but I really cannot imagine this being that much different from America. I want an eye-opening world travel experience. I don't think I'll get that if I go someplace where they all speak english, that's cheating isn't it? And I work with people from England every day. If I want to talk to someone from England I can go across the aisle, so why fly across the ocean to meet more? Same with Australia.

India - Too different, I'm not ready, people said it'd be daunting. Also I want to go someplace where I can trust the food and water and I'm not so sure I'm ready for that elsewhere. I do want to go to India for sure someday but not next year.

Japan - Sounds so cool I actually don't want to go there for our first trip. We're bound to screw something up in all this, so let's not start with one of our #1 destinations.

So next steps... I might see if there's a local travel agent who could give us advice on this, or just a well-traveled person. I know how to find guidebooks but they're mostly about what to do when you're at a country, not how to plan to get there, right? Also we're getting passports this year, for sure.

I really want this to happen. I feel bad that I'm in my mid-30s and haven't been off the continent yet.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 16th, 2015 06:44 pm (UTC)
I've always wanted to go to Japan too! The problem is that there's never conferences there- I tend to tag along with my husband's work trips, or mine. I did some travelling before I had the 1.5 kids but haven't since having them.

I went to Geneva and it was lovely. Definitely my favourite place that I've been in Europe. If you're a science nerd, you can go visit CERN! We also took a gondola up into the French Alps and saw amazing views of Switzerland and France at the same time. It was very fun, good food, the people were nice. It helps if you know a little bit of French or German.

I haven't been there with kids though, I feel like that changes the calculus of things to see and do in many countries.
Apr. 17th, 2015 12:29 am (UTC)
I think for this first trip we're gonna leave the kids behind. Love them and all but we need some "us" time, plus they add a whole other level of challenge.
Apr. 16th, 2015 07:19 pm (UTC)
Actually the Netherlands would be a great first trip. Easy to get to - Schiphol is one of the busiest airports in Europe (and is a pretty cool airport in its own right). Low language barrier - the national language is Dutch, people conduct their businesses and their lives in Dutch, but in my experience everyone in Amsterdam and most adults in the rest of the country speak fluent English. And since you speak English, if you have any decent ear for languages you'll be able to figure out lots of Dutch words. It looks and feels different than the US, but the differences are much less dramatic than in Asia. There are great museums, like the Rijksmuseum in A'dam or the Mauritshuis in den Haag. (I'm not a huge fan of the van Gogh Museum myself, but many people love it. For modern art I'd prefer the Kroller-Muller collection.) There are things like Madurodam (Holland in miniature, great for the kids) and the Keukenhof (tulip gardens, enormous and amazing, open March-May) that you can't see anywhere else.
Apr. 17th, 2015 08:06 am (UTC)
I second basically everything she said, and would add that Madurodam is not to be missed even if you don't have kids!
Apr. 20th, 2015 08:03 pm (UTC)
I third this! Amsterdam is a lovely city to go travel and feel another culture, though of course the rest of Holland is not as international as Amsterdam, most everyone speaks English.

Also Berlin! And I can be your local guide :)
Apr. 16th, 2015 08:40 pm (UTC)
Spain is wonderful. Most places on the coast get lots of English tourists so there's lots of people who speak english anyway. The trains in Spain are fast and easy to use. We flew into Madrid and took a high-speed to Malaga, and then a regional train to Benalmadena where we stayed in a rental apartment. It was awesome and relaxing and we had a great time despite not speaking great Spanish.

Honestly we've always done more than 1 country in a Europe trip and nearly always by train (we rented a car to drive to Gibraltar while in Spain). The trains are easy as heck. If you can navigate an airport you can do trains in Europe. If you're doing a longer train trip, totally spring for first class too. The extra lounging room is totally sweet. Our trips have been Berlin/Paris, Prague/Vienna/Munich, Madrid/Malaga/Benalmadena/Gibraltar/Morocco, and Zurich/Interlaken/Lucerne/Milan. All were less than 2 weeks and I didn't feel overly rushed, and we saw a lot.

Switzerland is awesome. Expensive, yes, but we had a blast there. Interlaken was gorgeous and there were some really nice old hotels there, but we really want to go back to Lucerne. Zurich was great and we spent 5 days there, which was a good amount. Most people speak English, and Swiss German is weird so even (it's like the swedish chef version of German) with our decent German skills we still got a lot of people switching to English. Popping up to Liechtenstein was fun too. I haven't been to Amsterdam but have heard it's nice and it would be a great first trip- you could do a combo Amsterdam/Paris trip, or pop up to England from Amsterdam too as a day trip, probably, if you wanted to pack in more than just the one place.

Booking travel was easy- we just did it ourselves on Expedia. Flight/hotel, anyway, we booked train fares on the various rail sites. We never stay in anything under 3 star, which is a bit spendier but means we're usually really comfortable in our hotels and they often have bathtubs (great for after a long day of walking)! We mostly stick to cities, as well, which makes things easier as a tourist in terms of accessing things you need.

Anyway, my husband and I love doing this kind of thing, I swear we'll wind up writing travel guides in our retirement or something. If you ever want to talk to someone about it, hit me up. :)
Apr. 16th, 2015 09:49 pm (UTC)
I have a lot of advice I could give, we've been to Europe several times. Totally hit up the guidebooks, I like Rick Steves & Fodor's usually (Frommer's I don't like). Just check some out from the library, skim the "Must Do" lists and pick a country based on that, then you can go deeper.

It sounds like you're more city-visiting-people than we are, we usually do like, a day, in a big city and then get out into the countryside more.

We've used venere.com for booking B&B's in the past, but also specific ones mentioned in certain guidebooks. There can be some weird country-specfic bed things, like make sure that you can get abed for the both of you together even if it's sticking two twins together to make a "king" but just read the reviews & stuff to make sure it's *actually* comfortable and not weird. Flights like mentioned, just book on expedia or kayak or whatever. Trains are pretty easy, especially if you're just doing cities.

Haven't been to your specific top candidates but my folks went to the Netherlands a year or so ago and loved it.
Apr. 18th, 2015 02:40 am (UTC)
Rick Steves 4EVA! It freaked me out the first time we travelled outside of Europe and I was like, "WHERE'S THE RICK STEVES BOOK FOR EGYPT?!"
Apr. 16th, 2015 09:54 pm (UTC)
Japan is wicked $$$$. Which is another thing to consider for a first trip.

Not that I think any of this NEEDS or even should be your first trip, either, but speaking on my limited experience in East Asia:

I think you could get much of the same pan-East Asian ~Japanese-ish~ experience for much cheaper in Korea. (Unless there is anything particular to Japanese culture you'd be interested in, like climbing mt. fuji or buying a kimono or etc.) It has beautiful landscapes and cultural sites, and the Korean government is super amped about making the country a tourist destination so many places have English language signage. Of course, people on the ground are kind of a crap shoot when it comes to actually speaking English, but if you stick to popular destinations it's a non-issue. Also, Incheon airport, while not a staggering work of art, is very open and light and lovely and basically my favorite airport.

China, too, is cheaper than Japan, but travel is more restrictive, especially for us Americans. Taiwan might be another East Asian option. I also knew many American/Canadian teacher friends who vacationed in Cambodia without problem. The Philippines is also pretty cheap, from what I understand, and English is fairly widespread.

I had a fantastic time in Indonesia (Java, only) but I had a friend there who could speak a bit of Bahasa Indonesian and who knew his way around the island. I don't know what I would have done on my own and without a guide.

Edited at 2015-04-16 09:57 pm (UTC)
Apr. 16th, 2015 11:00 pm (UTC)
Based on it being coastal, I'd go to Spain!
Apr. 16th, 2015 11:14 pm (UTC)
Ha on the London thing.. We had gone two years ago and I wasn't really excited because, well, another English speaking country. Same reason as yours! But there's such a big difference! But it's also expensive.

I absolutely fell in love with the Netherlands. It's such a fun country!! Definitely must go! And think it's a great first Europe trip!

I would get the train pass only if you are going to multiple countries and stopping at a lot of places. And you have to get the rail pass when you are outside Europe, so get it before you go. If it's three countries, just going point-to-point, I would probably skip train passes and just book train tickets early. And sometimes the budget airlines will be also cheaper.
Apr. 16th, 2015 11:47 pm (UTC)
You might try looking at airfares to help in the decision. I base a lot of my travels on finding deals.

I think too many Americans try to go to too many places for the time they have.

Also, may I suggest Belgium? Brussels has the Atomiuk and great beer and chocolate.Bruges I bursting with charm. And Antwerp is a lot like Amsterdam with lower prices and the best zoo in Europe.
Apr. 17th, 2015 01:39 am (UTC)
No, no. Do not dis my beloved England. It isn't like America. And they speak English, not American.

We go to Amsterdam about every 12-18 months so if you need travel advice, I got it.

IMHO a travel agent knows what they were taught to sell. Not that there aren't good ones, but... I haven't used one in many years.
Apr. 17th, 2015 08:03 am (UTC)
I can highly recommend Amsterdam. It is easy to get to (train to the center of the city from the airport is 20 minutes, and the station is _in_ the airport), very walkable (no hills! condensed downtown), and kid friendly. If you want to go elsewhere from there, by train, in 6-7 hours you can be in Berlin, and in ~2.5 you can be in Paris. (Heck, another 2.5 from that you could be in London). When I've had friends come visit, they usually come for 10 days instead of 7, and that allows for at least one 1-2 day side trip. (And German trains are amazing if you're traveling with kids: You won't buy tickets for them, but you WILL get a seat reservation, and if it's a long-distance train, that seat reservation will be in the kleinkindraum, a dedicated space for families with children. It is just about the most civilized way to travel with kids.)

Don't sell England short in your mental plans, though -- head up to the north, or even cross the border into Scotland, and you'll find the "speaks English" category doesn't mean what you think it means. (My mom was visiting us in Durham last week, her first time in England. She struggled with the accent quite a bit. It is not your typical posh British accent, nor is it any of the caricature accents you hear on TV/movies.)
Apr. 17th, 2015 08:05 am (UTC)
Another point in favor of England is that virtually all museums are free of entry. When you're going with small children and know that you won't see nearly as much as you'd like, it rather lessens the desirability of going if you have to pay. In England, if we go in, see one or two rooms and I spend all my time telling Gwen not to put her mouth on the glass, I still feel like I got my money's worth.
Apr. 17th, 2015 08:04 am (UTC)
Oh, for the planning side of things: hipmunk.com and google flights are currently the best out there for finding good deals.
Apr. 17th, 2015 10:06 am (UTC)
Amsterdam is lovely. And almost everything is in English as well as Dutch, so whilst of course it is polite to learn some Dutch you won't be totally lost if you don't.

For European trains you could do a lot wronger than consulting seat61.com (where you can find out about routes and timetables and where to buy tickets online). Trains in Europe are generally really good, and a useful way to get around (and as a big bonus over low-cost short-haul flights generally *actually go into cities* not to "some airport 100miles from where its name says it is"). If you are going to be moving around between hotels a lot it is worth thinking about how you will manage your luggage on trains - luggage is certainly allowed, but you need to be able to handle it without help (and that sometimes means "up stairs" because accessibility concerns post-date the building of many train stations, alas; although generally big city-center stations have lifts).
Apr. 17th, 2015 04:34 pm (UTC)
I feel like I took the opposite path here - I travel on average 3 months out of the year and add a country a year, minimum, if I have anything to say about it. (Mostly because I haven't managed to find the partner who wanted kids, don't want to have them by myself, and so why not keep exploring?) I'm *always* happy to talk about travel, options, how to make it easier, etc.

Don't feel bad! Srsly, it happens. Life happens. Get the passports and start exploring - I can see ways in which the travel I did in my early 20's was a lot harder then it needed to be and starting later could end up being more fun. Fewer moments of "ok, I have 15Euro to last me 3 days and...", more awareness of how to handle myself, not traveling alone.

A lot of people do multiple places in a couple weeks. I'm not those people, I find that exhausting. I vastly prefer to spend weeks (or months) in one place and get to really explore it, take downtime (this is vacation, right?), get a feel for the pace of life in this place. Lucky for me, I'm often able to do that by working in those places. Even when I can't, though, I'd do one place and take my time, especially for a first trip. Jetlag is real and pushing through it is possible but not fun.

I've spent over a year in Amsterdam and 6-7 months total in Spain (mostly Madrid and the area around Sevilla) and would be happy to give advice about either of those if you're going those directions. Rural Spain requires more Spanish (and I got teased for my northern Mexican accent a bit), the Netherlands will treat you well if you learn please and thank you in Dutch, because even if you try to speak it, they switch to English because your accent is obvious. It's helpful to learn 'grocery store' Spanish and Dutch to be able to more easily read menus - especially learning words for things you don't like or don't eat!

Of your list, the places I haven't been yet are Switzerland and Japan. I think the UK and Australia are more interesting than most Americans expect, but you're still not wrong - it's more comfortable and less outside the comfort zone. You're right about India, it was *hard* in a way I wouldn't recommend for a first trip, though I'm glad I did it.

My remaining travel plans this year outside the states are to the Philippines (for work) and back to Australia (to see the sweetie who lives there - third time there this year, eep). There's the remote possibility of a trip to Chile. I might add something else, but no plans as yet.
Apr. 17th, 2015 07:19 pm (UTC)
England is really not like the USA. At least, Leeds is really not like San Francisco! That's the mistake I made when I moved here. I didn't think it would be that different. Boy was I wrong.
Apr. 18th, 2015 12:58 am (UTC)
If the idea of flying internationally to a foreign country is daunting, maybe you guys can consider doing a guided tour?


It's not my traveling style, personally, because I like the flexibility to choose what sights I want to see, but maybe you could do a 3-day guided tour, then venture out on your own for the remaining week.

Spain is great. Coastal, warm, great food.
Apr. 18th, 2015 01:00 am (UTC)
As for how to get there, once you've picked a country, figure out what parts you want to visit, find the best airport, look on kayak.com or cheaptickets.com and buy your tickets! :)
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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