My Opinion: Let’s Slow Down & Develop a Greater Appreciation of Our World!

By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, European Destination & River Cruise Expert

The other day, watching the PBS evening news, they said that the average cell phone owner looks at their device 150 times a day—150!  I guess it is not a surprise–since I have been traveling to Europe, starting in 1971, the 3 biggest changes are—Euros, access to the former Iron Curtain communist countries and cell phones.  So, let’s talk a little about  slowing down and answer the question—”how can Anne & I help you develop a greater appreciation of our world?”  We are going to show how we add value to folks who travel to Europe, to make our point about developing a greater appreciation of our world.


In a world of 24 hour news channels, constant connectivity to the internet, and a work obsessed country, many just have let the daily grind dominate their lives.  Vacations, when correctly planned, can help eliminate that stress.  Most of the time when planning a vacation, many folks, especially if the plan their trip on their own,  just make reservations and do not consider the whole trip.  We always look at the whole trip .  This includes 8 items that we try to include in your trip planning.  Our goal–under promise and over deliver a great vacation.   I’ll bet that if you consider these 8 items and add some or all them to your trip, it will be better experience.  They are:  1) Make sure there is time to share with your travel companions; 2) Remember and celebrate important dates (milestones); 3) Connect with the locals; 4) Put away devices for most of the trip; 5) Laugh and be positive; 6) Make your significant other feel special;  7) Show kindness to others, and 8) Be thankful.

Time to Share

Most first time travelers to Europe, just try to fit too much into a trip.  It is so common—FOMO—fear of missing out.  Trying to do too much just causes too much stress—assume you will travel to Europe more than once—most do.  Treasure the slower meals, and enjoy each others company.  We just returned from Paris in December—maybe our 10th visit?—and there are still things we have yet to see there.  We can help here by using one of our 49 Europe City guides—pick the most important sites and we can tailor your visit so it becomes an experience you will never forget with just the right mix of key sites and free time to wander and explore.

Remember and Celebrate Important Dates



Anne’s 60th Birthday–we made our own dinner at a cooking school in Wales

In an earlier blog, I wrote about celebrating milestones by taking a great vacation.  Life is short, some Americans do not even use all their vacation days—other things are just too important.  Don’t let that become you—as many age, one of their biggest regrets is working too hard and ignoring family and friends.  We will help you remember important dates and milestones and offer suggestions based on us knowing your likes and dislikes.  Here is the link to my milestones blog Milestones, Memories and Celebrations—Why You Should Travel to Mark Those Special Days

Connect with Locals

You would be surprised how easy it is to get to know local folks during your travels.  You do not need great language skills—many, many Europeans speak surprisingly good English.  Consider this—if you are a guest in your friend’s house, do you act with respect?  Be a guest in Europe, avoid rudeness and the trip will be better.    Many who travel with us, always make a great effort to learn local languages and act with respect.  We will help create these opportunities when we plan your trip.


Anne’s latest Facebook friend, Tanja, from Croatia

Put away your Devices for most of the trip.

Recently, when we were in Bruges drinking at a local pub, there was a sign in English—WE DON’T HAVE FREE WI-FI—TALK TO ONE ANOTHER!  Wow, what a great reminder—curb your urge to use your devices 24/7, talk and stop being obsessed with the internet or your texts, or your email.  Use your devices to help you navigate or for reservations but not when you should be talking to your traveling companions.  We can help here by suggesting places to visit that encourage conversation and sharing.

Laugh and be Positive


Danton’s Cafe, our favorite in Paris, where Hank spilled his morning coffee

If you focus on the good things about the places you visit, your trip will be better.  Respect differences.  In Danton’s, our favorite cafe in Paris, with its tiny tables, I managed to spill coffee and juice all over—it was pretty bad and I was feeling pretty clumsy.  All of a sudden, a voice behind us said “How bad can it be?—you’re in Paris!”  We both just started laughing.  Turns out, she was an author and college professor—what started out poor got a whole lot better.  Great lesson—most embarrassing stuff in our lives is really pretty trivial.  Again, we can help here by using our extensive experience to help you become a more relaxed traveler—maybe our travel tips, or these blogs to build your travel skills and confidence.

Make your significant other feel special

It is amazing how positive thoughts, actions and just telling your significant other how important they are to you, will enhance your trip and your life.  We all need to work on this, especially me—it is just too easy to take someone you live with for granted.  While on your trip, complement your significant other, be patient and your trip will be better.  Great planning will help alleviate the stress of the unknown—that’s where we come in.  Tell us how you would like to make that person in your life feel special and we will turn those dreams into reality.

Show kindness to others

Try to learn at least one word in the language of the country you are visiting.  Hello, goodbye, thank you please are generally not hard—make an effort.  Ask a local for help to say it in their language—you’ll be amazed how much it means to them.  If all else fails, smile, say thank you in English—just do what you can to respect others, especially those who are making your vacation better.  I just can’t tell you how many times a complete stranger in Europe has helped us when we were lost or needed help.  Here’s a great example—in Romania, we had learned to avoid being overcharged for a taxi, they have a machine in the rail stations with tickets that insures the driver will not overcharge riders.  Turns out the machine was not working correctly.  A young lady behind us, tried to help but it just wasn’t working.  We were trying to figure out how not to be overcharged and suddenly this young lady brought us a ticket from another machine to help us.  Wow—is that awesome?—please remember to pay it back on your travels.

Be thankful


Flowers sent to Anne From our AmaWaterways by Director of Field Sales, Charles Van Elten, in appreciation of this blog–Thanks Charles!

Please be thankful you get to travel and see the world and different cultures.  I wrote a whole blog about this for the Thanksgiving holiday last year.   One part was about wonderful vendors, who provide great trips to our clients–we couldn’t do it without you!–and see the wonderful gift of flowers from AmaWaterways in the picture above.  Another part was about our wonderful clients who are our trusted friends.  I wrote:  Anne & I work in the best possible business—we make travel dreams a reality!  THANKS ALL YOU WONDERFUL FOLKS WHO TRUSTED US TO PLAN THEIR TRIPS—WE LOVE YOU ALL!  Here is the link to the whole blog  What I am Thankful For

In short, respect our world and the wonderful people in it!

We hope these words inspire you to become one of our clients or continue our travel relationship with us and learn to appreciate our world more.  We want to help you achieve your travel dreams—remember if you want to Visit Dream Destinations—please contact Hank (713-397-0188) or email him at to get started or just tell us about your travel dreams.  We are here to help you:  Savor life . . . make memories . . . Visit Dream Destinations!  Your journey begins here!


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