We planned everything so carefully, and cut corners at every turn just to fit the trip into our limited budget. We read every blog, compared every ticket sales agency, and read reviews on every topic along the way. We bought our train tickets far in advance for extra savings, booked our tours in bulk for the discount, and stayed in AirBnBs to avoid high hotel costs. Even after all the booking, we religiously watched the travel sites for better deals and price match opportunities. And then it was time to go.
While the trip we so meticulously planned was exactly as we'd laid out, it was not at all what we expected. We learned so many lessons about the world, and about ourselves, as we visited civilizations developed so long ago and met people from all around the world and every walk of life.
Here are just a few lessons we will take with us as we continue to travel, all thanks to our experiences over the last 42 days all across Europe!
- Democracy does not mean free. We see and hear this so much in the states as we travel from campground to campground, but we also heard (and saw) so many examples of this in Europe, bringing it to mind as something I want to always remember. So, what does it mean? Democracy does not guarantee opportunities for every citizen based on sheer existence. We have to work for those opportunities; earn them. And some opportunities that come to me may not come to you. That's life! More importantly, expecting to be treated equally without putting forth any effort does not entitle anyone to anything, especially in a democracy. Democracy is actually expensive. It takes service, sweat, tears, and lives to preserve. Those who think otherwise are sadly misinformed.
- There is a cost for everything. Nothing is FREE! If you remember back to your freshman Economic class, you learned about opportunity costs. It you want something, you have to give up something else. We give up our time and energy for the material things we want. We give up our comfort and security for the sake of relationships. And we give up freedoms and irresponsibility for stability and safety. At no point does life hand us everything we want for nothing.
- Cultures are different, but humans are the same. And this lesson was learned over and over. Each time we arrived in a new city, we experienced new cultures and new ways of living day to day. What is priority in one place is not at all a concern in another. This often makes us uncomfortable, and sometimes self-righteous. We each think that our way is the only way, but in reality, that is not always true. And in the end, we all just want what is best: Best for ourselves, our friends, our families, our neighbors, our nations... Best for those we know, and all others come after the fact. We are human.
- Personal space is a gift. Living in my 400 sq. ft. motorhome, I often consider myself a minimalist, living with just what I need and nothing more. Oh, how that is so untrue! Personal space and property is such a gift. And while we often take this for granted, it is vitally fought for in many other parts of the world, even those just as civilized and developed as our own. Along the same lines, how we behave in our space is the product of what space we have, or do not have, to begin. Understanding that as you travel is an invaluable lesson.
- Traveling is personal. It is an individual action and is never the same for everyone. I want to see what is important to me, and you may want to see things entirely different. To take that a step further, what we see is relevant to our lives in individual ways. Respecting that difference is very important when you are traveling with others, and especially when you hope to see the same places, but each for different reasons!
- What we learn, believe, and even see is not always the truth! We have to learn to look closely for the facts. And we must learn to listen carefully to understand the reality of what we want to believe, think or feel. History, and definitely life, are not always what they seem.
- Sometimes, we all break the rules. Even for those of us who are diehard rules-followers and enforcers, occasionally there is a rule or circumstance that pushes us over the edge and into the realm of defiance. Biggest lesson learned... no one is perfect!