Thanks to everyone who helped make this trip possible. It was, without a doubt, the best Europe trip I’ve taken. A special thanks to my leaders Doug Williams, Jesse Jorgensen, and Stephen Mack for their incredible stamina and unending willingness to help. Also thanks to my wife, Bobbie, for letting me go and to the families of the leaders who also let their husbands and fathers go. Eighteen days is a long time to leave family behind. I hope those at home will come to understand just what this trip meant to the boys and leaders experiencing it. And of course, thanks to all you parents for letting your sons go on this adventure.
Now, don’t get me wrong. All of my previous four trips have been wonderful…and they each have remained in my mind. The first one, several decades ago, was particularly crazy because we had no itinerary or reservations for five weeks (except for the first two and last two nights.) I learned a lot on that trip and used that knowledge to make the three subsequent trips better (2004, 2009, 2013). The one thing those other three trips kept from the first was the “no itinerary-no reservations” theme.
So our 2015 trip departed from that scheme. First, we went in June and that kept temperatures lower and crowds thinner. I think our highest temperature of the trip was yesterday’s (Tuesday) 82 degrees in Munich. I’m pretty sure the temperatures hovered in the 70s the rest of the days with lows in the 50s. I would consider that nearly perfect. We also had virtually no rain. I think the raincoats came out briefly on just a couple of short occasions (20 minutes or less).
The biggest change from prior trips and this one was having hotel reservations and train reservations and some activity reservations all made in advance. It was so nice getting on and off a train with guaranteed seats and making our way to hotels with guaranteed beds. We used all the time constructively that would have been wasted looking for places we could get train reservations to and then finding hotel beds in those places.
Everything worked pretty much flawlessly. We made all our trains (save one) and all the hotels were waiting for us. It was a nice feeling.
I hope you’ll sit down with the Flickr photos and check them out with your son. I’m sure the photos will get stories flowing and will bring back plenty of wonderful memories. The photos on Flickr are high resolution so you can print them out or order prints if you wish. The Flickr photos (as opposed to the photos on Facebook) have captions that will at least give you a hint of where we were or what we were doing. I will eventually email you to offer to burn a DVD of all the trip photos on them for you. You can go ahead and request this now but it's likely going to be August before I get this done. (I still have two trips ahead in July.)
The Flickr website is: www.Flickr.com/photos/mindstretch
And of course, what would this trip be without the kids? Boring, very boring. They were, hands down, a fun group. They were also a noisy group. They got along well with each other, which is key to everything else. They learned to keep feet off of furniture, to attempt to hold volume down on trains and in restaurants, and to try to stay out of the bike lanes adjacent to sidewalks. They used their manners “most” of the time, didn’t hog the sidewalks all the time, and were in general…a wonderful group to be with.
They also never ate in an American chain restaurant once, save perhaps the Cinnabon at the Vienna train station. I should also point out that in some of our restaurants, the waiter/waitress spoke virtually no English. That was a lesson in itself.
They did use their electronics way too much. I’m rethinking my electronics policy for future MTA trips. I’m afraid the boys missed out on some important social interactions by immersing themselves in their iPhones, iPads, etc. I know it’s important for boys to have these things handy, but they used them way too much. I’m not saying they missed out on anything because of the use of electronics, but I think they could have gotten even more out of the experience without them.
Just the same, they got tons out of this experience. There will be few peers who can say they’ve done what these kids have done. Hiking in the Alps in Austria and Switzerland, taking gondolas up mountains, bobsledding on an Olympic track, enjoying a gondola ride on a canal in Venice, a canal tour in a motorized boat in Bruges, zip lining and scooter-biking down a mountain. They’ve explored some of Europe’s grandest cities, visited museums, castles, had guided tours, and interacted with people from around the world. Boys learned to navigate a vast array of train, subway, and tram schedules and stations. They learned how to pack their luggage and move it from place to place. Some learned how to wash out clothes in a hotel sink. The list of growth experiences goes on and on.
But, this blog is already too long. Thanks again for a wonderful experience. Thanks again to leaders Doug, Jesse, and Stephen. And a big, heartfelt thanks to Neil, Beattie, Reed, Nick, Wills, Austin, Ryan, Cullen, Thomas Mack, Gabriel, Thomas May, Brooks O., Will, Brooks S., Derek, Alex, and Peter. Even though I might not have expressed it…you guys were the best. I miss you already. Of course, I hope there will be another MTA adventure in your future.
Mach’s gut und bis bald. (take care & see you soon)