I hadn’t been back to Europe since the Seventies. In 2007, I was shocked at the prices of hotels and meals. On my first trip abroad in 1967, Arthur Frommer’s “$5.00 a day in Europe” travel guide was my bible. Now Rick Steves, my new travel guru, in his book “Europe Through the Backdoor” states that you can get away with about $10,000 a month —if you are careful.
Cost isn’t the only thing that has changed. When I first started traveling, I went where the road took me, following suggestions of people along the way, choosing to stay in a town, or moving on when it felt right. Now, if you want to be sure of getting accommodations in the peak season, you’d better have a reservation. Otherwise, you may not get a room, or you’ll have to pay a king’s ransom for one. I realized I had no choice but to plan the serendipity I once cherished right out of our trip.
During our seven-week long sojourn, as we hurried from place to place, always checking the calendar to see where we were scheduled to be next, often eating expensive mediocre meals in tourist traps, never meeting anyone other than hotel employees and shop owners, we concluded that the only way to realistically see the world and to meet real people was to have our home with us, so we could shop where the locals shopped, cook our own meals, always have a place to stay and move on when we were good and ready.
As far as I know, there are only two ways to do that: cruising on a boat or hitting the road with an RV. We had tried the boating approach about ten years ago, when Lin and Larry Pardey were our gurus. We loved their philosophy of “go simple, go small, go now”. So we took their advice and bought a 22-foot Falmouth Cutter, a blue water cruising sailboat, and named her “Churruca”. But the romance of sailing into exotic foreign ports just as the sky was streaked with one unforgettable sunset after another…
…was quickly tempered by the reality of the refrigeration breaking down somewhere off the coast of Panama, snakes creeping up the anchor chain and hiding on our neighbor’s boat, weevils erupting in every possible grain on board, and getting so constipated that I wound up in a Costa Rican hospital giving myself an enema. Instead of spelling romance, sailing the world —for us— spelled disaster.