Adventure of a Lifetime
A solo 15-day European Christmas adventure including a bucket list opportunity: my first Rick Steves' tour.
I'm a 39-year old single lady (put your hands up!) living in Wisconsin. Originally from California, I spent nearly 20 years traveling around the country on political campaigns and in state/federal government. I'm now settled into the corporate world, though I've never lost my semi-wild, rebellious streak (much to the chagrin of my bosses). I am obsessed with my mini Schnauzer who didn't miss me at all during my trip.
WHY THIS TRIP
The basic answer is, why NOT this trip? I've followed Rick Steves since 2008. After moving back to Washington, DC without a job after a campaign win in California (a common occurrence for campaign staff), I couldn't afford cable and happily kept my local PBS station on constantly.
An overview of my European travel - 5 days in Prague, 3 days in Budapest, 5 days in Vienna
His Iran special the next year provided me so many insights into my own unknown ancestry (I'm a Persian girl adopted into a Caucasian family...in 1980) that I knew I'd be a lifelong supporter of his.
So why THIS this trip? I'd been to both Prague and Budapest before (as well as Vienna, where I headed after the tour), 20+ years ago as part of the San Francisco Youth Choir. I was young then; I didn't appreciate the amazing opportunity I had to visit and tour across Eastern Europe, and I have precious few memories of that trip (old and very bad photos don't help the matter). I've wanted to go back for so long and re-experience everything.
This trip was affordable (AND on sale!), the flights were surprisingly cheap, it took me to Christmas Markets and I had the vacation time that I was determined to use (like so many Americans, especially those in lower-level positions, I don't take vacations). Everything for this trip seemed like a perfect fit.
That, combined with a desire to not let my alone-ness in this world continue to stop me from experiencing life, led me to book my last-minute flights, hotels and tour (I booked on the US Thanksgiving holiday, the tour left 2 weeks later) and start packing (after using Black Friday + Rakuten to my advantage for basically everything I would need for the trip).
My travels included five days in Prague (two days pre-tour), three days in Budapest (Rick: we decided we need at LEAST another full day in stunning Budapest!) and five days in Vienna (post-tour). Armed with my travel backpack, a new camera (that I didn't/don't know how to use, as you'll see here), and a wild spirit I set off from Chicago's O'Hare Airport having never done anything like this, no idea what to expect and no idea how much this trip would change me.
Europe - here I come!