Life lessons that can be learned on a road trip — a true personal story
It is a warm autumn evening and only a few hours until the next flight. I am sitting next to the window in the waiting lounge of Billund airport and enjoying the sunrise over the landing planes. I am in the environment, which breath the travel. It is a perfect place to tell you about my adventures on my first long road trip through Europe and what lessons I have learned along the way.
On the road, I decided that I should always carry a notebook with me as you never know where and when the great idea or lesson will appear from nowhere. And I had few of them on the road. I used my iPhone to note it all down, but I prefer pen and paper. It just has some magic in it. So while writing this blog post I will be scrolling my phone for already in a way distant memories, events, messages, as well as my pictures library, to be sure I remember what I wanted to share with you the most.
If you are interested in personal development, traveling, or looking for inspiration for your own Eurotrip, then this peace of my life might be something worth reading.
Where do I start? Hmmm… Oh, maybe how and why I planned the road trip? Well, I am very bad at using the vacation I earn at my job. In Denmark, we have five-plus weeks in a year to do whatever we want to, and usually I never take a vacation during summer, because the weather is great in Denmark (depends how you look at it), the prices are skyrocketing during the holiday season, and plus I am not the crowd person, so off-season travel is something I adore. Furthermore, I have complete freedom to travel during the school year, as I have no kids. Then the time passes and suddenly I realize I have about six vacation weeks to plan. I know… the 21st-century problems
So here I am, checking my vision board and all the places I have on it, that I want to visit. Surprise surprise — the Maldives is on it. Then I ask myself — why not? Let me tell you why not — I am in no way spending this amount of money for one week. It is crazy expensive!!! Let me tell you a secret. If you don’t know me, you probably won’t guess it, so here it comes. I am very bad at spending money. But about it in the next post. Let´s go back to the travels.
After spending more than a week trying to figure out how to get a cheaper vacation in the Maldives, I decided that we will do a road trip through Europe instead. We won’t need to spend a fortune and I will be able to thick a lot of places, that I wanted to see, and that is also on my vision board. Thankfully, my boyfriend is a person, who does not care where as long as it is with me. He is adorable and he completely trusts my planning skills, which I think are incredibly great. So if you want your private travel planner, reach out!
Anyways, it took me a few hours and I had a preliminary plan of where we will go when we will leave, where we will stay and how many days we will spend on the road. The plan was approved by my boy and off we went.
I just love autumn, and one of my dreams was to travel to Prague and Vienna during autumn. So we left our home at the end of September to embark on the journey of getting to know Europe better. I did not even imagine how much better I´ll get to know myself and the world around us all.
So where did we go? What did we see? Who did we meet? How many obstacles, surprises, conflicts have we experienced? Keep on reading.
As I mentioned, I made a preliminary plan but left a lot of space for the unexpected, so we could be flexible on the road and spontaneous. Our first stop was Check Republic — Prague. The trip to reach it was very easy and nice. It took us around 9 hours from Denmark. Thanks to German motorways without a speed limit. I packed a huge can of coffee, few snacks, so we did not need to stop anywhere to eat. We reached Prague around six in the evening, just for the time for dinner. I have booked a cozy local hotel in the middle of the city, so it was very easy to find the old town, the main square, and enjoy the evening stroll through the streets of a romantic Prague. The city really positively surprised me. I loved the evening atmosphere, with small lights everywhere, small streets, not so many people and the interesting choices of the shops. Some of the buildings made me feel like I am in the Harry Potter movie. They had these tall black towers and the darkness of the night made it a very special place. I need to check, maybe it has something to do with the story of Harry Potter. The next morning we woke up early and visited a few of the spots that I had on my list, that I really wanted to see. The weather was so perfect, sunny, fresh, and just a joy to explore the city. We enjoyed the boat trip, tasted the local bakery, and were ready to head to our next stop….
But wait, what about the lesson? Any lessons in Prague? Yes!
My first lesson while traveling — you can always order more, no need to buy a lot of first time.
Of course, we were hungry tourists, that wanted to try some local sweets, that looked just awesome. I dreamed about eating strudel for a very long time, so I decided that I will shoot two rabbits at one (Lithuanian saying), and will order the sweet with a mix of an apple pie. Well well, it was nice but huge! And my boyfriend also ordered one for himself. We ended up eating only one of the pieces.. what a waste of food, money, and unnecessary calories. But it was a great lesson. Then from that moment on, we decided we will always share a dessert, and that worked! We were very content with sharing the sweets: fewer calories, less money spent and everyone happy. Well, maybe not a shopkeeper.
Below you can see a few of the moments of our time in Prague. Would I recommend visiting it? Yes, absolutely! We also had only a day there, so we decided if we want some weekend trip, this is one of the places to go, as we enjoyed what we saw, and still visited only a half of the city.
Next stop — Austria, Vienna. It is not a long drive from Prague to Vienna. I think it took us only around fours hours. I have booked a lovely Brasilian hotel close to the city center. Why Brasilian? Because it was nice and something that was within our budget. I remember what surprised me the most in the hotel — The bride, that just walked in as nothing happened. My first thought was, wow, this is exactly what I don’t want to look like during my wedding day. She looked so tired, so exhausted, and not happy at all. The groom walked behind her and did not seem any happier. It felt like a scene from Friends when Rachel showed up in the coffee bar. Just that even Rachel looked happier than this married couple. If this is what marriage is and wedding day looks like, I don’t want it. (I know, life is what you make it. I just thought it was very funny, suddenly the bride appeared from nowhere).
The hotel really impressed me. Everything was so modern. They even had a speaker installed in the bathroom mirror. I could listen to podcasts or music while showering. Pretty cool. The hotel lay 2,5 km from the city center, so we took a walk to find some nice dinner. While I travel, I always want to eat in a place, that has a lovely view over nature, or is located at some nice square with live music, flowers, small cafes. But that did not happen in Vienna, because it was already late when we reached the square, and the number of people was incredible. I don’t remember when the last time I saw so many people were. The streets were crowded, cafes had no free spaces. We tried to explore a few small streets, but for nothing… then we settled at the fully booked outdoor restaurant. The food was great! And after having something to eat we were happy to enjoy the walk back to the hotel. We did not see much of Vienna, as I wanted to leave the big city and explore more of the nature in Austria. I missed visiting the place where the psychologist Freud was living. I am into psychology and really wanted to see his place, but next time. Nature won over Freud. And a very good choice! I loved the greener than green fields in Austria. And one more time I confirmed that I am a nature and a village person. I would trade a big city for a small village and nature any time. I am so grateful for meeting Austrian cows with their bells, even though after reading why they have bells and how it is not good for the cows they don’t look so romantic and appealing. Did you know, that the cows in Austria and Switzerland carry these bells because their owners believe that the sound of the bell protects the cows from evil? That’s okay, but the sound of the bell makes cows deaf. They after some time lose the ability to hear… But guilty as charged, I enjoyed seeing the cows and hearing the bells and even took the picture with them. That was one of my dreams for a long time. I saw these views only in the movies and here I am living it!
There were few lessons in Austria. Lesson number two — I am judgemental. Please don’t put me on the cross, I admit my short back. Like when this bride entered the hotel I had a few thoughts, that I don’t even dare to share with you. So I keep growing, keep learning, and I am happy I can admit to myself when I need still to grow and learn. I am judgemental when I see certain people. I create some stories in my head about how they might feel, how their life looks like, even though I know nothing about them. I keep learning to be more tolerant and just mind my own life.
Lesson number three — which I knew already. I am a nature child, and I shouldn´t try to run from it. I loved Austrian nature.
Lesson number four — it is really not about the destination, but the journey. I felt the rush of always wanting to get to the place that I put on my list. To see the spot that I read about on the internet when planning the trip. So it was very often about getting to some other place, than the one I am in that moment. And it lasted for a few more days, where I found myself always hurrying to the next place. I was in Vienna and thought about the next stop in Italy. I was in Italy and thought about Switzerland. And then I was in Switzerland I thought about what we are going to do in Germany… And I am like that almost all the time. I know the importance of being in here and now, but it is easier said than done. Anyways, it is good to unknowledge our shortcomings, because this is the only way to change. I always strive for a new goal. I reach one thing, and I come up with another. Because of the many courses and personal development hours, I have invested in myself I am perfectly aware of this struggle I have, always thinking about the future. I try to be in here and now, and I succeed sometimes. But I need to put in an effort. And this trip showed me so clearly that I still have a long way to go: to enjoy Rome while I am in Rome. To enjoy the road while I am on it. To enjoy here and now. Not always try to get to some other place, to some other victory. Because this place is already a victory, this place is already a new experience. I could clearly see my rushing personality and stopped myself and really put effort to enjoy the moment, it made the whole trip even more special. I collected memories and felt the presence.
I would say we had too little time in Austria. We had one full day to see Vienna and enjoy nature in Austria. So lesson number five — if you plan the trip, plan at least for one completely full day in one city/place of interest. Especially if the next stop is many miles away.
Lesson number six — do not order pizza in Austria if you are on the way to Italy. Big mistake. One big mistake
Below you can see my top moments in Austria.
After Austria, we were so ready to travel to Italy! Oh, Italy. I have been to Italy before. Rome was the city I visited many years ago, so this time I decided we will visit North Italy. (I decided because as I mentioned before, my boyfriend did not care where we go. He is happy I take care of all the planning and he just comes along ). I have been blessed to have a friend in Italy, who was so welcome and informative. Funny story! We met online. Yes. We both studied the same course at the same coach and became very good online friends. We have spent a year chatting via the internet and finally, the time came to meet. The advantages of the 21st century! My friend found us a lovely B&B place. It was beautiful. From the first moment, we felt like royalty in Italian residency.
My long-awaited dream was to visit Venice. I am a very romantic person so of course, I wanted to visit Venice. My friend suggested staying at Bassano de Grappa and not Venice as it is a nightmare to drive in. Good, we listened to her. We loved Bassano de Grappa. Cute little town. And having to know locals makes the experience so much better. I got a lot of pieces of advice on where to eat, what to see, when to go where, and the history of different buildings. It was lovely to have dinner with two more people and hear their life stories, the stories of the cities we visited and wanted still to visit. Our face-to-face encounter was lovely. I’m sure we will continue to be online friends. I love this world with so many lovely people!
I really wanted to visit Venice so I reserved the whole day for it and just wait… I got my lesson number eight — the power of marketing, branding, and other people´s opinion. I so dreamed of seeing Venice. I imagined I’ll be over the moon: those little streets, narrow water channels, the feeling of romance wherever you put your feet… Well… I was so disappointed. I did not like Venice. Maybe because my expectations were so high… one more lesson — exchange your expectations for appreciation and your whole life will change… Venice was fine. I enjoyed the couple of hours we spent there, but I would not go there again. The reason for that can be that I am so much a nature person and there is no nature in Venice. I missed trees, fields, grass, flowers. It is all smelly channels, concrete, dust… Not my cup of tea. So I really understood what power marketing and branding have. But do not listen to me! If you want to go to Venice — go to Venice. You might like it or even love it. I know people who absolutely adore Venice and are so surprised when I say that I did not like it. I am still happy I visited the city because I wanted to see it and I was so lucky to experience it with my love. After Venice, my plan was to go to Como Lake and stay there, but I am so happy my Italian/Russian friend mentioned Verona. I fell in love with Verona. Thank you my friend for naming Verona. I definitely want to go back there and spend more time in the square, in the small streets, be more present and don’t have to rush just to get a glimpse of the wonderful city.
I am this person that often sees the movie and gets the idea to see countries, places shown in the movie. I did it a few times already and guess my luck! Did you see the movie “Letters to Juliet”? if not, watch it. Of course, if you are a romantic soul. The balcony, that inspired Shakespeare to write his famous Romeo and Juliet is situated in Verona. And a movie scene was also filmed there. I loved it. I loved to see the balcony and feel the spirit of that movie. In the middle of the little backyard, there is a statue of Juliet. And strangely there is a tradition to touch her breast if you want to find your true love. Luckily I found mine and my boyfriend found his, so nobody had to touch the breast. It was not also very much corona friendly . Verona — you are in my heart and I will visit you again.
After Verona, we headed to our planned last destination in Italy — Lake Como. And we were not disappointed. But I would say Garda Lake was as beautiful. Would have loved to spend more time around these lands. Italy is huge, beautiful, and worth visiting multiple times, despite their breakfast. Did you know, that Italians eat cookies for breakfast? Cookies! Only cookies! Good for your sweet cravings, not good for your waste.
We have stayed in a hotel for bike riders overlooking the lake and mountains. Beautiful view, not so easy road to get there, but thanks to Audi and my boyfriend´s driving skills, we arrived successfully. For some strange reason, I am a morning person when we are on vacation. Try to get me out of bed working day… But on vacation, I am the first one up. And because it was off-season, we had most of the places for ourselves. A wonderful fresh morning feeling of Italy… Exploring unknown villages, towns, cities, woods. Bellagio — place to visit. Some of the streets and shops looked unreal. Many times I got the feeling that I am in a movie cast. Because this can’t be real, and this can´t be my life. Or can it? As much as we wanted to stay, a long way waited ahead of us. My plan was, actually, my friend’s plan, as I did not have any plan for Switzerland, I just wanted to see the country. So thanks to my international friends, I got all the plans in one message and said Yes. But it was not so easy to get out of Bellagio, a road sign said something in Italian, which we interpreted that it is closed, even though other cars with foreign number plates chose to proceed. Not to follow the crowd blindly we asked the GPS lady which other road we can take and ended up almost stuck in the small streets in the mountains and I was at the edge of panic. Like, what we will do now! We can´t turn around, the road is too narrow. Again thanks to my boyfriend’s driving skills and his patience with everything, including me, we were back at the starting point, and here comes lesson number nine — ask people for help. And lesson number ten — you can speak to people without understanding each other’s language. Nonverbal communication is powerful. To make sure we interpreted the sign correctly we stopped an Italian man to explain what is happening and where should we go. Despite the fact, that he did not speak any English, and our Italian vocabulary is a maximum of ten words long, we understood each other perfectly. So listen, listen with your eyes, your ears, your whole body and you will understand each other. I am sure we brightened our day as much as we did his. He did a good deed to the lost foreigners and we helped him to do good. And you know the best part? We loved the new route. If the road would not have been closed, we would not have experienced this off-road via mountains, valleys, and a lovely coffee shop overlooking it all. My eyes at some point wanted to give up because everywhere I looked, one place looked prettier than the other. It was simply beautiful everywhere my eyes reached. And then blinded by the beauty, my boyfriend said: “Imagine how lucky we are. If we would be blind, the traveling would lose so much.” And that is one of the reasons why I love him so much. He makes me appreciate life, all that I have. He makes me a better person.
And do you know, that where the focus goes energy flows? That you see the signs, the things, which you would not notice, if you did not focus on your goal? So everywhere I went I saw something related to biking as I am a huge fan of race bikes now. We were taking a break from driving and wanted to stretch our legs while enjoying coffee on the mountain top and here they come — a bunch of bicyclists! Respect!
It makes my heart sing seeing people achieving their goals, striving for more, working hard for it. And what’s even more impressive (well I would not do it because I would be terrified) is that while driving through mountains in Switzerland to reach Interlaken, peace of paradise on Earth, we saw bicyclists in 2230 meters heights cycling during the night. That’s crazy! And okay, I would not do that. I was already afraid in the car to look down. But to cycle around the two lakes surrounding Interlaken, that’s going on my to-do list. And reaching Interlaken was the highlight of the trip. This place was absolutely perfect for me. I can’t begin to describe the beauty of lakes, their color, the freshness of the air, the taste of mountain water. I would not mind living there for a few months. Anyone has a job opportunity there? Remember it is Switzerland, so I need a good salary! Crazy expensive there, even for me coming from not the cheapest place on earth — Denmark. (Oh, I would love to take a bicycle for a ride, perfect day and weather. Had to continue writing this on the train on my way to Siauliai from Vilnius, as I got a very chatty seat neighbor on the plane and felt I have to talk to him… ) And I don’t know what was it, the many steps we took each day, or the freshness of the air, or so many new things, that I would get a hunger attack. So lesson number eleven — don’t wait until you are really really hungry. It is not fun for you, but it is also even more not pleasant to someone next to you. I have never had this feeling before, that I have to get something to eat here and now! I always had slow metabolism because of my thyroid condition, but lately, something changed, and I would get this hunger feeling that I have to get something to eat now or better 5 min ago. And believe me, it feels like I could eat a dead horse! And I even don’t eat meat. So my boyfriend had a few moments where his girlfriend turned into fire breathing dragon! So please have some snacks in your travel bag — for everybody’s safety Switzerland´s trip ended with visiting waterfalls and my friend in Zurich.
The last stop was completely random. We had to find someplace in Germany, as Germany is too large to be driven in one go, at least for us. So my friend Google helped me to find a perfect spot — a fairytale city. Before that, we visited the Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria that I always wanted to see, and then headed to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the small town of middle ages atmosphere and buildings. I imagine it looks amazing during Christmas time. It already looked amazing just on casual Saturday.
The whole trip could not have been more perfect. Okay, I would not mind not experiencing my hunger attacks… But it was perfect. And the best places, the most exclusive memories are from the places we did not plan to visit. So a little bit of planning is good, otherwise, we would not have started the trip, but leaving a place for flexibility, errors, unexpected turns, made it so special. Ten days on the road taught me patience, to learn to be here and now, appreciate the journey and not to be fixated on always arriving at the place, because then I never arrive, as I always have the next stop in mind. It showed me how great our relationship is with my boyfriend, and how much I appreciate having him in my life. It confirmed my belief in vision boards, goals, dreams. That if you can dream it you can achieve it. I appreciate my personal development journey even if it takes me through the mountains or hunger attacks. It all contributes to becoming the best version of myself…
I hope you traveled a little bit through Europe with me here and now while reading my memories. You can read about many things, but getting out there and experiencing it for yourself is something magical. Don’t take everything I write as 100% truth, because we all have our own truth and experiences. The places I loved, you might not like, and the places that I was disappointed about, you might fall in love with. Like with everything else in life… Let´s celebrate our difference in tastes, goals, aims, desires, fashion. Then there is enough of everything for us all on our beautiful Earth.
Lesson number twelve — go out there and live to the fullest. You will regret the things you did not do and celebrate the ones you did.
Top 3 lessons:
- Flexibility is the key to enjoyment
- Appreciation above expectations
- The quality of relationships is so important
Top 3 places visited:
- Venice (in a negative way)
- 10 days 1200 euros for 2 persons
What I would do differently:
- Have more time in each country/city.
If you want help with your Eurotrip or have any questions, reach out. Happy to help and share my experiences.
What is your biggest takeaway? Have you had any similar experiences? Would love to hear from you.
For more real-life stories, life coaching topics, and great vibes follow me on social media platforms and browse my website: https://irmavalantinaite.com/