Outside of the USA and Asia, Europe is where Aussies go for holidays. And good on us, I say. If we can suck up a 30-hour flight to Athens/Rome/Heathrow, we deserve it.
Depending on our age or life stage, these holidays will vary tremendously. But they’re all significant, whether they’re building resilience, or inspiring us creatively, or just giving us some unrivaled memories. After all, having your handbag stolen in Berlin when you’re 25 means you’re a smarter traveller when you’re in Venice at 35. Missing your flight to your cousin’s wedding in Sardinia at 22 and having to spend a night in Naples and $1,000 Euro on a new flight ensures you’ll never miss another flight again. And taking a two-month trip around Tuscany at 48 because you’ve earned it, well, that’s just bloody golden.
But before we get to the elegant-strolling-through-vineyards bit, there are a few European-holiday rites of passage…
*These may or may not be based on personal experience. You’ll never know and I’ll never admit it.
The Total Blur Trip
When you’re 18 and fresh out of high school, a party trip through Europe is a fantastic idea. (Do NOT tell my children this, please.) Mostly because organised tours, backpacking, compulsory socialising with strangers, and being broke doesn’t yet faze you. You must capitalise on this. Within a few years the idea of sharing a Spartan room with three snoring, deeply-boozed mates (and 1-2 non-English speaking but quite handsome holiday flings) in Mykonos will not seem fun, nor will having no money when you lose your credit card on a nightclub floor. Also, your body won’t be resilient to a daily diet of gyros and red bull vodkas forever. You’re here because the tour was cheap, because everyone else was going, and because FOMO in the age of social media is torture.
The Fun Seeking Adventure
In your early twenties the thrill of being overseas far outweighs the expensive and largely prohibitive experience of visiting places like Paris and London. But you’re 23! You don’t care that your bedroom is the size of a mandarin! That you’re sleeping next to a train line and a nightclub! That the low cost airline lost your suitcase and you’ve been wearing the same jeans for 10 days! You’re as robust as McDonalds lard, which, funnily enough, is probably your major food group, along with street crepes and pots of cider. You walk or catch trains everywhere; you actively and happily meet new people (a trend that will fade with each subsequent trip), and the idea of your accommodation being anything more than a place to store your suitcase, and occasionally, your head, is truly foreign. You’re here for adventure, for excitement, and for experiences: good, bad, uncomfortable, ecstatic: all of it. Your energy, resilience and enthusiasm is disgustingly buoyant. Embrace it.
The Grown-Up Euro Holiday
By thirty, many of us have set off on the classic sightseeing adventure of, say, Venice, Rome and Florence. This is when travel finally starts to look a bit more like Real Life, as opposed to making you feel and live one notch up from a backpacker. Your hotel offers more for breakfast than boxed cereal and cordial, decent dining kicks in, and souvenirs extend beyond ashtrays and shot glasses. Since you saved up so much money for so long to take this trip, you chew the bone and suck the marrow: no landmark is left unphotographed, no three hour queue for David unjoined, no signature aperitif undrunk. You give every day 120% and your sore feet, depleted bank account and sky-high calorie count are proof. You’re here to see and appreciate other cultures, collect memories, and amass a nuclear social media feed. GOOD!
The most expensive trip you will ever take, featuring ridiculous hotels, an insane sheet thread count, and 9€ cappuccinos. Places like Santorini, Positano, Capri, Sicily and Spain are ideal… anywhere with unbelievable views, overpriced everything, and a high brag-factor.
Some might say, ‘Why fly to the other side of the world to laze on a sun bed? Can do that anywhere.’ And to them I say: ‘Alas, my fictional opponent, we shall agree to disagree.’ I’d strenuously argue that laying by the pool as adorable, smug newlyweds in Oia, looking down at cruise ships gliding around over the Aegean is pretty much the definition of something you can’t do anywhere.
A honeymoon is meant to be obnoxious – it’s coated in judgment-free Teflon: the location, the cost, and the amount of time taken off work (suck it, boss!) are at your full discretion. So BLOODY GO FOR IT. Cement a life-long memory of joy, relaxation, love, and excitement for the future, already! And pool burgers. Lots of pool burgers.
The High-Effort, High-Return Family Trip
Everyone told you not to travel with humans aged between 10 months and three, yet you boarded with two of them. But who cares! Once you arrive in Charles de Gaulle, it’ll all be worth it!! … Right?
Yes. No, this won’t be the sexy, carefree Euro trip of your youth, with table-dancing and wine-guzzling and noon sleep-ins, but there WILL be plenty of 6am wake-ups, and naps cutting into your day, and 7pm lights out in the hotel room, so: phew!
But seriously: a trip to Europe with the family is worth it. Because even if you’re following the exact same routine as back home, you’re not back home, you’re on a glorious beach in the Mediterranean, watching your kids eat sand, and splash around, and letting them go to bed late and have gelato twice a day. And even though you will run out of nappies, and get no sleep, and the sunscreen costs three times as much, it’s worth it. You’ll always remember when little Darryl was 3 and Dwayne was 1, and you all went to Greece and ate pita and dips at sunset on the beach that time. Always.
The On-Your-Own-Terms Trip
When you’re confident, both financially and personally, your choice to travel tends to be based on experience, wisdom and whimsy, rather than a tiny window of annual leave, or hotels with kid’s clubs. It might be a bucket list trip to the Pyrenees, a cruise around the Dalmatian coast, a foodie trip to San Sebastian, or it could be that your daughter has shacked up with a chap in Dublin and it’s time to meet the cute little heart thief.
But wherever you go, you’re going it because it interests you, not because it’s all can afford, or where your friends want to go, or a Travel Check-Lister (Paris, London, Rome etc.) This trip lacks the frenzy, pace and drama of the aforementioned trips, (not that those elements can’t make travel great in their own way), and may even feature solo restaurant dining at night (gasp!). This is travel for the unadulterated enjoyment of travel. It’s something to look forward to and relish. (And saturate your social media. Duh. No trip is immune to that.)
There are of course several million other reasons/ways to experience Europe. My advice is find one and book it today. After all, Venice is sinking! Germany is starting to re-think lederhosen! France is low on croissants! It’s actually a bit of an emergency when you think about it.
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