When I take a vacation, I do so because I want to enjoy myself. In order to make this happen, I need to be eating food that I like, staying in lodging where I feel comfortable, seeing sights that interest me, and deciding when I need or want to rest.
It is often fun traveling with friends and family and that is a special kind of trip. On those trips, I enjoy the company of my fellow travelers and enjoy sharing treasures I have found in the past and discovering new treasures with my traveling companions. However, sometimes, I enjoy getting away and doing some exploring by myself or taking a very long trip. On these particular solo trips, it is especially important for me that I don’t have the stress of negotiations about every little decision on the trip.
I have often thought about taking part in a group tour like a Rick Steves tour. I thought it would be interesting to visit with others on the trip and not have to worry about languages I don’t know how to speak. However, for me, a big part of the fun of taking a trip is the planning and scheduling where I will stay, eat, and sight see. I don’t think I would enjoy being in a box and told each day how early I will rise and what I will do that day. Also, those trips usually involve A LOT of bus travel every day. I am not the best person when it comes to riding in a bus all day.
I really enjoy making my decisions, before and during the trip. If you want to travel without a lot of stress, there are many decisions that must be made ahead of time. I do extensive research about anywhere I am traveling. You can check out some of my ideas on what you need to plan ahead on my other blog posts linked here.
I try to research various sites for things to see and do. If you read just one person’s travel book or website about an area, you are limited to seeing and doing what that person finds interesting. However, if you search several sources, you can discover some unusual sites that many people miss when visiting that location.
When I went to Paris for the first time, I was told that “no one goes to Paris without seeing the Louvre and Versailles.” I didn’t see Versailles until my second trip and the Louvre on my third trip.
However, on my first trip, I did visit Arenes de Lutece, an ancient Roman arena in Paris, and Giverny, Monet’s home. Giverny was somewhere I had longed to see for years and Arenes de Lutece was something I discovered through my research.
By the way, if going to Paris, be sure and read “Tom’s Guide to Paris” website. He has directions for several “interesting walks” that take you down small streets with lots of history and through areas that many tourists probably don’t find.
If you want to travel without a lot of stress, it is also important to not tie yourself down to a tight schedule. When planning my first trip to Paris, I had made a strict schedule to try to get as much in during my six days there as possible. The first full day there I started out at 7:15 and got home at 9:30 that evening. The only time I sat for any extended period was during a dinner cruise. I found myself rushing from one place to another to make sure I made the most of my time. Needless to say, that was quite an exhausting day for an old lady. I didn’t realize how exhausting until I tried to rise the next morning. I went down to the hotel breakfast room and soon realized I had drastically overdone it the previous day.
This was when I woke up to the fact that I was a solo traveler and I was in charge of making the decisions. I returned to bed for a nap. While lying in bed, I realized that this was a holiday (Bastille Day, now called Fete Nationale) for the Parisians and it should be for me too.
I scrapped my schedule and decided to go wandering and enjoy being in Paris and seeing where the sidewalks led. I discovered the parade, the air show, and the wonderful holiday street food.
As I walked back toward my neighborhood, I found myself close to a restaurant that was on my list for the trip and decided to check it out. My research had advised to make reservations ahead of time, but I decided to take a chance since it was lunchtime. I walked in and was given a seat for the most wonderful two-hour meal. If you find yourself in Paris, don’t miss Chez L’ami Jean (another Tom’s Guide find).
After lunch, I returned to the hotel and took a long nap. I had planned on attending the fireworks that evening and, since it doesn’t get dark until after about 11:00 in Paris in the summer, that would be quite a late evening. I actually woke up about 9:30 and took off to find the spot I had scouted out earlier as where to sit to see the fireworks and the Eiffel Tower at the same time.
Needless to say, the items on my “to do list” for that holiday were pushed back. However, because I could just change my mind when I chose, I ended up having a more meaningful trip and enjoyed really being part of the local scene. I could tell by this time that I would be coming back and that I had the rest of my life to see all the things on my list.
On the following trips to Europe, I made a list of things I thought interesting to see and do and restaurants I might like to try or return to. I starred a few things that were most important. However, I made many decisions a day at a time.
There were some evenings where I would think “I’ll do … tomorrow,” but when I woke in the morning I decided to do something different. This, I decided, was really “making the most of my time in Paris.” I allowed time for myself to just walk to the Seine and sit and read and watch people and boats go by. I packed lunches and sat in parks and watches how families function in Paris.
Because I was open to last minute decisions, I discovered restaurants and sites I had not found in research that turned out to be wonderful experiences. As I walked, I discovered many of Paris’ hidden parks which are gems of peace and quiet and solitude.
I’m sure many of the places I discovered and enjoyed would not bring that much joy to every traveler. That is why it is important to sometimes give yourself a trip where you are in charge and can make all of your decisions.
Allow yourself the opportunity to really MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME.