By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert
I have been traveling all my life. My late father was a career Army Officer (thanks for serving our country for 33 years Dad!), so I started at a very young age to travel and learned to love it. My Dad also loved to travel and US National Parks (happy birthday to our National Parks–100 years old & still awesome!) were very special to him, so our family had camped in and visited most of the 59 major parks by my early teen years. I can also say I have spent at least one night in all 50 States in my lifetime and lived in 14 different states. Along with living on Okinawa and in Panama for several years, I have spent about 6 months total in Germany, so I have also experienced several different cultures for extended periods of my life. The breakdown of different countries is something like this– all of North America, all of Central America, all but one of South America, 35 of 50 in Europe, 13 Caribbean Islands, 2 Middle East, 1 Africa and 6 Asia—maybe 81 or so countries in total.
But this is not about where I have been, it is about what I have experienced. Unlike some travelers who want to see every country and brag about how many they have seen and even set criteria to make sure it “qualifies” as a new country or territory, I just want to experience how other folks live, work, play and the culture they have created for their lives, especially in Europe. Here’s what I want from travel and I hope these are what you seek while traveling:
- I want to create memories of a lifetime. When you travel, you become different. You leave your comfortable, known world and venture into the unknown. The best part is that the unknown soon becomes familiar and usually awesome. Good or bad experiences still leave you changed, but I will tell you, most travel is great. You can read about place but until you experience it, you do not really understand it. Here are just a few personal examples of how travel really helps you understand what a place is really like and the events that happen there many years ago. A stone castle looks romantic in a book, but life in the cramped, cold confines sure was different from out fairy tales vision of castle life—visiting them brings it to life. I understood the horrors of the D-Day invasion from reading and my college studies, but not until I walked the open beaches did I realize just how brave and lucky those who survived the 300 yard killing zone on Omaha beach were on that day. Or maybe, you can imagine being someone famous in history–Anne & I walked hand in hand in Ephesus where Anthony & Cleopatra walked almost 2000 years ago—as they say priceless! Sometimes I just close my eyes and dream of where Anne & I have been—these are memories of a lifetime we made together and I hope we get to make more!
- I want to gain knowledge that will stay with me for life. Seeing a rice paddy being worked by hand, or eating mussels & frites in Belgium or standing in the ruins of the Colosseum in Italy taught me more about history and culture than any classroom, travel book or independent study ever could. I confess I am destination driven, I love seeing cool sights, structures, art but that is not all I desire when I travel. I want to communicate in a different language sometimes, try their food, and see how they live — live like a local to a degree. It sure is easier to try to speak German in Germany or Austria than try to talk to my computer on Rosetta Stone and it is a lot more interesting! Anne & I often visit local markets to see what great food is available and we almost always have a picnic style lunch with a bottle of wine or local beers for our train rides—it sure makes the train trip much more fun and it is how locals travel on the train.
- I want to share these experiences with family and friends. Mostly I want share it with Anne but friends and family are also great to travel with, especially the granddaughter. I have traveled solo for work and sightseeing, but it is almost always better to share. The first time I went to the Alhambra in Granada, I was alone and it was great. But the second time, it was with Anne & it was far better to share with someone you love.
- I want to relax and disconnect. Wandering old medieval towns of Europe, sharing an al fresco meal in Rome or Paris—that is my idea of relaxing—a good glass of wine and locally grown, seasonal food! Most of all, I want to slow down a little and savor life and my surroundings. Some of our best memories have come from tours such as an awesome wine tasting in Portofino on our SiverSeas cruise, a taste of Italians wine tour in Rome by one of the top sommeliers in all of Italy or the many food and wine tours on our AMA river cruises—now those experiences are what I call complete relaxation and we can help you create similar experiences during your travels.
My thoughts are that experiences are the reason why you should travel. We hope this will inspire you to give me a call at 713-397-0188 or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) so I can help you visit Europe or go on a cruise and help you:
Savor life . . . make memories . . . visit Dream Destinations! Your journey begins here!