Map via Etsy Vendor Vassi Slavova
The last half of 2012 was jam packed for us - we moved from Gabon to Norway, I spent a couple of weeks in Canada, we went to Belgium and then to Houston for 2 weeks before returning and visiting Berlin and Prague and then jumping on a plane home for the holidays. To be completely honest, I hadn't even started to think about trips for the new year until we returned last week and I had a moment to breath. I started to see others mapping out their travel plans and I literally had nothing. I didn't have locations in mind, we hadn't set aside any time off and I hadn't even began to ponder it.
I feel an enormous amount of pressure to see and experience as much as we can while we're living in Europe. I read blogs and travel articles and they give me a million ideas of places to go and then I speak to readers and friends who tell me, 'You absolutely must add ______ to your list" and believe you, me - I want to see EVERYTHING. Before I know it, I've got a massive list of cities and countries and knowing that we are living so close to so many great places, I feel like this is the time to travel.
Unfortunately, it's not quite as easy as it looks.
First of all, Joe works. (And he works A LOT.) It's the entire reason we are here in the first place. He gets 20 holiday days every year - no different than if he was working in Canada. Last year, we had an additional 2 weeks as compensation for living in Gabon. This year we're back down to 20 days. I know that compared to some, 20 days seem reasonable (and it sort of is) but it's quite hard to balance travel time and trips home. We live quite far from our families and we try to make a point of coming home once a year but because it's so far, it has to be at least 2 weeks to be worthwhile. After we factor that out, we're down to 10 days.
Surprisingly enough, Norway does not have many public holidays. (Perhaps this is not an issue to the average Norwegian as they get 5 weeks of paid vacation time every year.) In Canada, we were accustomed to 1 statutory holiday per month (except June and March/April depending on Easter) with a total of 12 per year. Norway has holidays for Easter and 3 in May but then NOTHING until Christmas. This means, we can't rely on public holidays for long weekends and this year, Joe's colleague has taken Easter & Christmas for trips home meaning we have to be in Norway.
Holiday time aside, it's not as convenient to travel from Stavanger as one might expect. Norway isn't part of mainland Europe so we generally have to travel by plane. Hopping on a short, cheap train isn't really a possibility for us and because we're in Stavanger, as opposed to a main centre, it generally means we need to take 2 flights to arrive at any destination aside from London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. This most definitely impacts the cost and time of travel making it more difficult to take off Friday after Joe's done work and return Sunday night so that he's ready first thing Monday morning.
This past weekend, Joe and I pulled up google maps to start making plans. We jotted down the cities we most wanted to visit and which would be feasible for weekend trips. We looked between the calendar, our list and the map of Europe when it became blatantly obvious that we just can't do it all. We want to see as much as possible but we also want quality time in those cities instead of rushing in and out in a blur. This is difficult for me - balancing my wants and all of the possibilities with the time we have available and the enormous amount of pressure I put on myself to take full advantage of our time in Europe.
So now comes the time where we take this massive list and whittle it down to something that is manageable; I try to dismantle the self-imposed expectations; We'll maximize the 10 days we have and I'll remember that the travels that I will get to do this year are valuable, exciting and certainly more than many people get to experience.
How do you manage your travel plans within your constraints?
(Side note: Perhaps I should start a petition within Joe's company - we must all feel this way? Right?)