An Online Primer for Budget Exploration
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I. THE PLAN
WHO should be your travel companion?
Should you travel alone, with a romantic interest, with friends?
Traveling is the most stressful experience a relationship can be subjected to, whether it is with friends or lovers. If you want to put a relationship to the test, get on the plane and go. Keep your expectations minimal, and try to be open, honest and patient.
I find that siblings travel well together, because they have grown up together, generally are aware of each other's idiosyncrasies, and usually are not afraid to blow off steam at each other when the need arises.
Most people who travel alone do so by preference. If you want variable companions, it is quite easy to team up with people from your accommodation or the train, at the sights, etc., who are going your way. It might be easier to travel with a fellow countryperson, but it is also interesting to travel with someone from somewhere else. I have rarely met anyone traveling alone unwillingly (personal hygiene or personality notwithstanding). Small, temporary groups often form spontaneously for a day or week together.
It is fairly easy to get to know the Europeans and to travel with them. For example, do you want to make quick friends with a Brit? Start complaining about the weather, no matter where you are. Complaining about the weather is sort of a British national hobby. International politics? Seek out the Germans. The point is that you don't have to travel with your country folk to have fun.
If you are a woman wishing to travel alone, you may be getting an earful from well-meaning friends about how dangerous Europe is and how sex-crazed the men are, especially as you move south. But here is an anecdote: I met an attractive blonde woman traveling alone across Turkey who said she never had problems. She wore very baggy, conservative clothing, and pulled a big scarf over her head and put on sunglasses when her bus pulled up. No one looked twice at her as she got on. I saw other female tourists in Turkey and elsewhere wearing shorts and going braless, and they got lots of unwanted attention. It's a no brainer: in general, if you respect the local habits and dress code, you won't get hassled. Some folks, like Americans, will find that European cities, block for block, are much safer than their own.
In general, women have more travel troubles than men, but the local people also look out for women more than for men. It all sort of works out in the end, most of the time. Keep your ears tuned to the travelers grapevine for the latest hotspots.
In the end, groups of more than two will have trouble keeping together. You should also factor in some down time wherein you spend a few days on your own, or with a flash group, and then reassemble with your party down the road.
Now that we have some context, it is time for the real nuts and bolts in Chapter Two.
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