Saturday, March 31, 2012

Traveling Europe with Rick Steves - 1986 Style

I ran across a photo of me reading Rick Steve's EUROPE THROUGH THE BACK DOOR before leaving on my big journey in 1986.

After graduation from college, I grabbed an L.L. Bean pack frame, an open ended ticket to Belgium (good for a year - I did manage to stay just short of 2 days on my plane ticket), my two month Eurail Pass and $800 and my best friend.

Really, I had no clue what I was doing. I'd been to Europe with family but had never headed out on my own. Plus, I was the tour guide for my friend!

Europe in 1986 was really different than now. The wall was not down yet. Everyone had their own currencies, meaning you lost money every time you crossed the border. We used Traveler's Checks (I know, what are those, right?), no internet, no cell phones. We actually hand wrote letters and post cards and plugged coins into the strange pay phones with robotic speed so our mom's didn't think we'd been kidnapped.

I think the most important thing I learned from this book (actually an earlier version with the same cover) was about spending the night on the train. There were plenty of times I ran out of money (I think our budget was $30/day) and so Rick taught us to find a train going to a destination far enough away that we could sleep on the train over night. The idea was to get on a train that was starting from your city (so the train wouldn't be full), dash on and find an empty seating compartment (you can't find these any more). Then close the compartment doors, slide the seats into their down position which would make the entire compartment one big bed. You'd throw your sleeping bags out and all the rest of your stuff and "Occupy" the space. If you were lucky, you'd sleep pretty well until early in the morning when the train would be so full that people would need you to convert your bedroom back into seats. My friend never went over her budget, but I often did and so we did this exercise often!

So, just in case you ever see this Rick Steves - Just want you to know I'm your biggest fan and still travel with you as often as possible, only without the backpack now.

His newest version of this book is also available:
Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door 2012: The Travel Skills Handbook.

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