Weare a gen­er­a­tion hooked on ad­ven­ture. Wewent on a Euro­pean tour for 30 days—twice—and we’re still friends

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - LIFESTYLE - @ire­ne­an­dreap By Irene Perez

Trav­el­ing abroad on a Third World pass­port, and on a bud­get, is a chal­lenge, but we do it any­way be­cause we are a gen­er­a­tion hooked on ad­ven­ture.

Peo­ple call it “wan­der­lust,” a play­ful de­sire as­so­ci­ated with jump­ing on any bus to any beach (been there, pre-SCTEx). Back­pack­ing is fun, too, but if you are spend­ing in dol­lars or eu­ros, you need a real plan, be­cause mis­takes mean money.

Thank­fully I have en­abler friends, whom I have ex­plored cities in Europe with.

One is a nat­u­ral plan­ner who is such a bud­get queen, her key­chain is a mini cal­cu­la­tor. One books the best deals on­line, from air­lines to Airbnbs. One has the gift of nav­i­ga­tion (we were too cheap to buy data packs). Me? I cook. I check for coun­try-spe­cific scams, and find the best makeshift tabo (very im­por­tant).

Trav­el­ing light

Our dream was to do a multi-coun­try Euro­pean tour for 30 days and still be friends, and the girls and I did that—twice.

For West­ern Europe, the first chal­lenge was trav­el­ing light. We were told that old train sta­tions and most build­ings don’t have el­e­va­tors so I kept my “hy­brid” back­pack-lug­gage to only 8 kg—4 kg of that was the lug­gage it­self (my Zumba bag is heav­ier).

We didn’t know that shops and fast-food joints are closed on week­ends. A friend liv­ing in Brus­sels said par­ties are usu­ally on Fri­days, and chores and chill are for the rest of the week. Or he trav­els within Europe, since flights are “af­ford­able.”

That week­end, we dis­cov­ered the mall-free life—and

döner ke­bab stands.

Lush parks

Our itin­er­ary in­cluded mu­se­ums, key tourist spots, cas­tles, the­ater and opera houses, and what­ever was free. Lush parks were ev­ery­where!

Spot­light was on the food: le­git Span­ish tapas, Ital­ian gnoc­chi, French crois­sant, Bel­gian waf­fle, Dan­ish cheese, Ger­man bratwurst and beer. Gotta love a re­gion where wine is cheaper than bot­tled wa­ter.

Two years later, we were off to spend spring in North­ern Europe, this time more trav­el­savvy and def­i­nitely more tita.

We still went full-on tourist but the sched­ule was more re­al­is­tic.

The Nordic re­gion has dif­fer­ent cur­ren­cies and is mostly cash-free, so we just with­drew enough tip money for the “free” walk­ing tours. We skipped trains al­to­gether, and flew to save time, and our backs.

But ap­par­ently I am the type that air­port se­cu­rity con­sis­tently stops for “ran­dom” checks.

It started in Ice­land, I was asked to step aside and got swabbed for ex­plo­sives. Vari­a­tions of ex­tra TSA checks hap­pened to us so of­ten that we fac­tored in the de­lays in our travel time. Wen­ever fig­ured out why, not even when I was sin­gled out by a po­lice­woman check­ing for fake pass­ports right by the plane door in Frank­furt. Re­ally, just me?

I fo­cused in­stead on the high­lights of my stay in the hap­pi­est coun­tries on earth: see­ing the bronze Lit­tle Mer­maid and Chris­tia­nia “green-light district” in Den­mark, the gey­sers and la­goons of Ice­land, the fortress is­lands of Fin­land, works by Andy Warhol and Ed­vard Munch in Nor­way, Vik­ing ships in Swe­den, blonde and blue-eyed Scan­di­na­vian guys ev­ery­where.

Booze cruise

We took a boat from Helsinki for a day trip in Tallin, a Me­dieval city in Es­to­nia. It turned out to be a “booze cruise.” Finns buy liquor by the crates in Tallin since the Nordic re­gion has ul­tra-strict al­co­hol laws.

Liquor stores are run by the gov­ern­ment and close up early; su­per­mar­kets can only sell 2.25per­cent drinks. Bars usu­ally have an order limit per per­son, on top of jacked-up prices.

Our guides had the same ex­pla­na­tion: The al­co­hol and tax poli­cies keep their coun­tries pro­gres­sive and or­ga­nized.

Fem­i­nism and in­clu­siv­ity are strong, too, they said. Af­ter high school, one can go to col­lege, get a job, study or raise a fam­ily—and do those in any order. Wed­dings are a “15-minute cer­e­mony” at the city hall.

Other First World perks: Apps for ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing tram tick­ets, self-check­out gro­ceries, self-check-in lug­gage, awe­some trans­port sys­tem and no traf­fic jams.

But like in Ja­pan and Sin­ga­pore, peo­ple seem to be too in­de­pen­dent and dis­tant.

Trav­el­ing as an em­ployee re­quires more than money and en­ergy. It also calls for un­der­stand­ing bosses who ap­prove long breaks, and col­leagues who have to fill in to do the work.

I am also lucky to have a big sis­ter who gifts me lit­tle lux­u­ries so I can save up for trips. Trav­el­ing for work has al­lowed me to stay in fancy places and fly busi­ness—those are cool, and en­cour­aged me to spend on ex­pe­ri­ences that, with the right com­pany, make me happy.

Next stop? Maybe Thai­land. I’ve been to par­adise but I’ve never been to Bangkok.


Bird fly­ing around St. Pe­ter’s Basil­ica, af­ter the pa­pal Mass in Vat­i­can, 2015


Tulip sea­son at Keuken­hof gar­den, South Hol­land


At Blue La­goon, Ice­land

Clock­wise, from top: Tivoli Gar­dens in Copen­hagen in­spired the cre­ation of Dis­ney­land; Eif­fel Tower ex­pe­ri­ence in Paris, France; stag party at Gent, Bel­gium

Ice­landic Skyr, Fin­nish fruits, Span­ish feast in Barcelona

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