Preparing for an European Odyssey: The Journey Begins

Embarking on my first European escapade has been a dream I’ve nurtured for years, and as the days draw nearer to the departure date, the excitement, mixed with a touch of apprehension, has reached its peak. Learning how to prepare for this grand adventure has been an eye-opening journey in itself. From mastering the art of itinerary planning to packing efficiently for diverse climates, I’ve come to realize that the path to an unforgettable European experience is paved with meticulous preparation. Join me as I unravel the lessons I’ve learned, the challenges I’ve faced, and the anticipation that fuels my quest to make this maiden journey through Europe an unforgettable chapter in my travelogue.

In just one week, my husband Mr. P, and I are embarking on an exhilarating journey across five enchanting European countries in 30 days. This adventure promises to be an unforgettable experience, especially because it’s my very first-time exploring Europe alongside the love of my life. As the departure date approaches, my excitement is growing exponentially, even though it’s accompanied by a touch of apprehension. Preparing for this grand European adventure has been an enlightening voyage in itself. I quickly discovered that there were many unknowns and intricacies involved in making this maiden journey through Europe a memorable chapter in my travelogue.

The perfectionist in me is in a frenzy, striving to ensure that every detail is meticulously planned. However, one of Mr. P’s nieces recently reminded me of something important: “I’m confident that everything will fall into place, and sometimes, missing a bus or train can unexpectedly lead to a new and exciting adventure.”

I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list 🤩

Crafting the Itinerary

“The thing that first knocked me out about Amsterdam, even on the coldest, greyest February day, was its beauty. The houses rise, red and grey, and seem to float swanlike above the canals. The sheen on the water is olive-green, and mallards with their brilliant emerald heads slide gravely under the bridges. if you close your eyes you can see the city peopled again by those who built it - seventeenth century burghers in their black coats, rich from trading with the Indies.” ~JILLY COOPER

Our itinerary started taking shape when we learned that Mr. P’s son was planning a master’s degree celebration in Leuven, Belgium, in September. As we eagerly anticipated the festivities in Leuven, we couldn’t help but wonder, “While we’re here, what else can we explore?” It was during this

contemplative phase that Mr. P expressed a long-held desire to visit Dunkirk, a place deeply connected to his family’s history. His father’s experiences during WWII had left an indelible mark, and Mr. P wanted to pay homage to that legacy by standing on the same ground where his father had once stood. This heartfelt journey to Dunkirk became a poignant addition to our European adventure, turning it into a meaningful exploration of both celebration and remembrance.

Adding to the allure of our European adventure, Mr. P’s nephew had recently tied the knot and was now residing just a short journey away from Belgium. The prospect of visiting him and getting acquainted with Noortje, our new family member, filled our hearts with excitement. Our journey wasn’t limited to a single destination; it was a tapestry of meaningful connections and exploration.

Amsterdam, with its picturesque canals and enchanting bridges, looks like a chapter straight out of a fairytale. To fully immerse ourselves in the Dutch experience, we decided to rent a charming houseboat studio of 16m2, hopefully, making our stay in this magical city even more unique and memorable. Sunday, Sept 10th -Sept 13am.


Our September adventure continues on the 13th in the enchanting city of Leuven, Belgium. This picturesque old Burgundian university town is not just any stop; it’s a celebration in the making. We’re here to meet with Mr. P’s son, who has just accomplished a remarkable feat by completing his Masters degree in Philosophy. As if that weren’t exciting enough, Mr. P’s daughter, who resides near London, will be joining us in Leuven for some quality family time.

After bidding farewell to Leuven on the 16th, we’ll enjoy a cozy night’s stay in Dunkirk, France, before continuing our journey to the captivating city of Paris, often lovingly referred to as “Gay Paris.” Here, we’ll immerse ourselves in the city’s rich culture and vibrant atmosphere.

But that’s not all – on the 20th, we’ll be embarking on yet another adventure, this time to the idyllic countryside of Paris, Auxerre. And here’s where it gets even more exciting – there we’ll have the pleasure of meeting Mr. P’s cousin and his wife. It’s yet another opportunity to connect with family and create cherished memories together. Auxerre with its iconic landmarks and romantic ambiance, will undoubtedly provide the perfect backdrop for this reunion. This charming town is celebrated for its role in producing Burgundy wine, with a particular focus on the renowned Chablis variety.  Our upcoming travels promise an array of experiences, from academic achievements to cultural immersions and indulgent wine-tasting.🍷

Photo By Michael Guibert

The Grand Finale - Lisbon, Portugal, and Madrid, Spain

Photo by Hugo Sousa on Unsplash

September 26th, our journey will take us to the picturesque coastal capital city of Lisbon, Portugal. This leg of our adventure promises a unique twist as we’ll be staying with Mr. P’s niece and her family, offering us a local’s perspective on this enchanting city.

Lisbon, with its hilly terrain and winding cobblestone streets, carries the weight of centuries of history. The city’s skyline is punctuated by Medieval castles that seem like something out of a fairy tale. Yet, what makes Lisbon truly special is its seamless blend of the past and the present. The historic sites seamlessly coexist with the city’s modern and vibrant atmosphere, making it an ideal destination for explorers of all kinds.

But the excitement doesn’t stop there. On September 29th, we’ll find ourselves in the vibrant heart of Madrid, Spain, where we’ll immerse ourselves in the world of art. Madrid is renowned for its rich repositories of European art, with the Prado Museum standing as a testament to this artistic heritage. Here, we’ll have the opportunity to admire works by legendary painters like Goya, Velázquez, and other Spanish masters, delving into the depths of Europe’s artistic legacy.

Our journey is taking us to two additional captivating cities, each with its own unique charm and character. From Lisbon’s historic grandeur to Madrid’s artistic brilliance, we’re in for a treat as we explore the wonders of Portugal and Spain

Photo by Quique Olivar on Unsplash

Overwhelmed Choices: Navigating Stressful Preparations for the Journey Ahead😲

Embarking on my first trip to Europe was a dream come true. The mere thought of strolling along cobblestone streets, savouring pastries in Parisian cafes , and gazing at Las Meninas by Velázquez at the Prado heart  makes my heart race with excitement. Little did I know that beneath the enchanting facade of European adventures lay a rollercoaster of stress and preparation.

Photo by Ulysse Pointcheval on Unsplash

When I began planning my European adventure back in April of this year, I embarked on a journey of discovery that went beyond simply booking flights and accommodations. Little did I know at the time just how much there was to navigate and learn. Along the way, I’ve been fortunate to receive valuable guidance from seasoned travellers who have treaded the same path before me. Their insights and advice have been invaluable in shaping my preparations and ensuring a smooth journey ahead.

  • Accommodation dilemmas –

    Accommodation dilemmas turned out to be the least of my worries. Thankfully, we had a fail-safe strategy in place: Airbnb. This trusted platform had been our go-to for lodging during our travels, and it rarely let us down.

    Our primary concern was avoiding a repeat of the Washington DC bus disaster, where getting around became an unexpected challenge. To ensure seamless transitions between our long flights and accommodations, or when navigating public transportation, we relied on the dependable guidance of Google Maps. This trusty app became our travel companion, making sure we could reach our destinations without unnecessary stress.

    Moreover, the hosts we encountered through Airbnb added a reassuring layer to our travel experience. Their local knowledge and willingness to assist always came in handy. Whether it was offering tips on nearby restaurants or helping us decipher public transportation routes, their insights were invaluable.

    In the end, our accommodation choices, guided by Airbnb and aided by modern technology, transformed potential dilemmas into straightforward solutions. It was a reminder that thorough planning and the right tools can go a long way in ensuring a stress-free and enjoyable journey.

  • Transportation trials –

    Transportation trials awaited me as I embarked on the task of figuring out the best ways to move seamlessly from one European city to another. The vast array of options, including trains, buses, and flights, presented a labyrinth of considerations and logistics to untangle.

    Each mode of transportation had its own unique set of advantages and challenges. Trains offered scenic views and a comfortable way to connect cities, while buses often provided budget-friendly options. Flights, on the other hand, saved time but came with airport hassles. Deciding which to choose for each leg of the journey required careful planning and consideration of schedules, costs, and distances. 

    Mr. P’s son proved to be a true lifesaver during our travels. The decision-making process for choosing between buses and trains from Amsterdam to Auxerre had left me in a state of uncertainty for over three days. Despite my best efforts, I found myself wringing my hands, feeling no closer to understanding the best course of action.

    Enter Mr. P’s son, whose guidance and expertise transformed my dilemma into a straightforward choice. His invaluable insights and recommendations not only saved me from further anxiety but also instilled a newfound sense of confidence in navigating the intricate world of European transportation.

    Sometimes, all it takes is a helping hand and the wisdom of a local expert to turn a daunting decision into a simple and well-informed one. In that moment, Mr. P’s son was my guiding light, making our journey that much smoother and enjoyable.

  •  Vissa Hassles –

    Traveling through Europe without the need for visas is a relief, given my USA passport and Mr. P’s EU passport. However, an unexpected twist turned my visa jitters into a full-blown butterfly dance when I realized my South African visa had become invalid. I had diligently applied for its renewal back in May, confident that it would arrive before our departure.

    Days turned into weeks, and with each passing moment, my anxiety grew. Finally, we decided to pay a visit to Home Affairs, seeking answers and reassurance. While they assured me that returning to the country should not be an issue with the specified paperwork, the unknowns still lingered, keeping my mind restless.

    Despite the unease, I took solace in the fact that the appropriate authorities were notified of the situation. Sometimes, in the world of travel, unexpected challenges arise, and all we can do is trust in the process and the measures in place to ensure our safe return. The journey, after all, is often as much about navigating the unforeseen as it is about experiencing the planned adventures.

  •  Health and Safety-Investing in comprehensive travellers’ insurance, which includes coverage for unexpected health issues, trip cancellations, and emergency medical evacuations, offers a significant sense of security, especially for more mature travellers like us. With our daily medication regimen, I’ve learned the importance of ensuring we have an ample supply, keeping them neatly stored in their original containers, and carrying copies of our prescriptions or a letter from our doctor listing the medications. This newfound diligence is vital, as navigating foreign pharmacies can pose challenges. We’ve also added a general antibiotic, medication for travellers’ diarrhea, and remedies for stomach upsets to our travel essentials. These precautions, once overlooked, now play a crucial role in our travel preparations, ensuring we stay healthy and comfortable on our journeys.


  • Currency Conundrums-

    Absolutely, managing money while traveling is crucial, and it’s essential to find a safe and convenient way to do so. Europe’s prevalence of pickpockets adds an extra layer of concern, making it even more important to minimize risks.

    Using credit or debit cards at ATMs or point-of-sale places often comes with hefty fees and less favorable exchange rates. That’s why we decided to obtain a currency cash passport, a savvy choice. With this card, there are no fees when swiping, and it’s pre-loaded with euros, saving us money on transaction costs. Plus, international ATM fees were significantly reduced.

    Traveling indeed introduces a host of considerations that aren’t part of our everyday concerns. From currency management to health precautions, each aspect requires thoughtful planning to ensure a smooth and worry-free journey.

  • Packing Panic-

    Packing for a month-long trip into a single carry-on bag can indeed be a challenging endeavor, especially for a woman. It’s a lesson in prioritizing essentials and realizing that we often don’t wear everything we bring. The goal was clear: to travel as light as possible, allowing us to navigate trains, buses, and connections with ease.

    It’s been quite the learning curve for me, as Mr. P’s knack for packing light inspired a shift in my own packing habits. Selecting versatile clothing items that can be mixed and matched, packing only what’s truly essential, and being mindful of laundry options along the way have become my new packing principles.

    It’s a process of discovery, realizing that we can do more with less and that the freedom of mobility and spontaneity that comes with packing light is well worth the initial challenges. So, here’s to embracing minimalism in our travel wardrobe and savouring the simplicity it brings to our adventures.

Checking the List Twice: The Key to Travel Preparedness

As a wonderful addition to our preparations, I stumbled upon a useful checklist. It served as a valuable guide, reminding me of all the essentials we needed to address before our journey, from currency matters to health concerns. This checklist https://wherewithelle.com/ became my go-to resource, ensuring I covered every aspect of our trip with meticulous detail. It’s incredible how a simple list can make such a significant difference in the ease and success of our travels. 

Despite the dizzying challenges during our preparations, I’ve chosen to welcome the uncertainties of this journey with enthusiasm. Each obstacle, I’ve come to realize, presents an opportunity for personal growth and discovery. As we embark on this European adventure, I carry with me the valuable lessons learned from those who’ve traversed this path before, poised to conquer the unknown and craft indelible memories. With just four days left and not a single item packed, there’s still much to do, and the whirlwind of tasks ahead is both daunting and exhilarating! 😵😂


As we gear up for this incredible adventure, I’d be thrilled to hear any additional tips or insights you may have for us. Your wisdom is invaluable in making this journey even more enriching. And while we’re busy exploring Europe, I’m curious: what trip are you eagerly anticipating planning in the future? Feel free to share your wanderlust dreams with me.

Sending you warm hugs and boundless love as you embark on your next adventure, wherever it may lead you. Until we meet again, may your travels be filled with joy, discovery, and unforgettable moments. 🌍💖🌟

One Response

%d bloggers like this: