December 7th, 2015. That’s when I got hit with news that I really wasn’t expecting (or maybe I was). My wife decided that she wanted to leave me. Hit me like a hammer across the mouth.
I was upset/mad/disappointed, use whatever adjective you want. I was a mess. Work sucked, life sucked, Christmas sucked. Life was a complete mess. Nothing was cheering me up and then I remembered that some payments were coming up for what was supposed to be our 10 year anniversary trip to Europe. That made me even more mad. I had just put down a deposit on a villa in Tuscany. Now I would have to cancel. Luckily the lady who owned the villa was very understanding. Got most of my money back. Next I had to cancel a cruise. That’s when it hit me. Why do I have to give up this trip? Not this exact trip, but going to Europe.
I had an epiphany. Go, travel. On your own! So I changed it up. Hunkered down and started researching. I googled a map of Europe and started planning a route. I realized though that I didn’t want to keep packing and unpacking, so going on a cruise as part of the trip made sense. No extra packing and unpacking. A bunch of places to visit, and all I had to do was make sure I got back to the ship in time.
So I started looking for a cruise that would leave from a decent port that would end up somewhere for a lack of a better word, cool. Celebrity Cruises is my cruise line of choice. So I started with them. After looking through some itineraries I found the perfect one. It started in Venice and ended in Istanbul(cool, right?) I sent an email to my travel agent and told her to move my booking from the itinerary I was booked on to the one I had just found. It leaves October 10th and ends October 21st.
So know where to start my European sojourn from? Back to the map of Europe. I needed a place to start that was historic but also a little inexpensive. The cruise was pricey(going as a single isn’t cheap), so being frugal was more of a necessity. Austria? No. Switzerland? Not cheap. Prague? Hmmmm. Maybe? So I started snooping around on websites like Tripadvisor, airbnb, and a cost of living website and realized that it was the perfect price point. I decided Prague was a great place to start.
I figured that I would get there on October 1st and give myself 10 days of travelling around 2 or 3 cities before I needed to be in Venice.
Now the most important part. Can I get there using just miles and without crazy connection times. I use two mileage programs for flying. Alaska Airlines for travel within North America and Aeroplan for further destinations. Luckily for me I have accumulated a fair bit of miles through credit card programs by paying for purchases for the family business. I checked Aeroplan first and wasn’t too happy with the selection. 5-6 hour connection times and poor flying times. Luckily for me I can use my Alaska miles for partner travel, so I checked on there, and B-I-N-G-O. The jackpot. British Airways. The new A380-800. And first class was available. I don’t think it took me more than 30 seconds to book the flight to Prague and back from Istanbul.
So, I knew where I was starting and I knew where was finishing up. Now all I needed was to figure out where else I was going to go. Going back to the map I found Budapest. Perfect. Once again, it played to my frugal side. And It looked beautiful. Sold! Next up was a tough choice because it only left me a couple of days to visit. I ended up choosing Vienna. It was close to Budapest by train and I could easily fly to Venice from there. 2 days was all I figured I needed.
So I started looking for apartments to rent and it everything just fell into place. I was booking so far out in advance that the places I wanted weren’t even booked yet so I got all my first choice places in Prague, Budapest and Vienna. A couple of them even asked me if I was sure. Yup. Book me in please. Total cost for 8 nights of accommodation…….$650. Canadian! I decided that I would use a hotel in Venice. That was my splurge. A Best Western hotel. Pricier than what an apartment would cost but close to the cruise ship terminal and I could iron my clothes before I got on the ship.
So there it was. The itinerary was set. In 5 days, I figured out a trip to Europe. A solo adventure through some of the most beautiful places there. A funny thing happened though over those 5 days. I started to heal. I was happier and more involved again. I still hurt but there was a smile on my face from time to time. That’s when I realized I had the Wanderlust again. I knew it was there but I hadn’t had that feeling you get from the joys of travelling for a while, but it was back. There was only one problem……270 days of waiting…….sigh!