The Girlfriends: Kim, Kristi and Katy (affectionately named "The Special K's" by our tour group) on the Marienbruke overlooking King Ludwig's mad fantasy, Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany.
Girlfriends! They are truly unique and special relationships. Girlfriends are the trustworthy people outside your immediate family who cheer you on, celebrate your triumphs and cry with you during the downtimes. The best girlfriends help you grow, and will tell you the truth (even when you'd rather not hear it). My girlfriends are wise, talented, interesting, flawed-but-strong women who bring out the best in me, and believe the best for me, even when I don't see it myself. I had the incredible opportunity to travel for 2 1/2 weeks with two terrific girlfriends - delving into Germany, Austria & Switzerland in 14 Days with Rick Steves.
This was a chance for all of us to step out of our daily lives, and the roles we inhabit as wives, mothers and professionals; to expand ourselves as women in a way we haven't done since we were (much) younger; to test ourselves, our relationships, to explore what delights us and ignites our passions. An opportunity to grow and widen our horizons by experiencing this beautiful wide-world that we live in.
We'll be honest, it took a bit of coaxing to feel comfortable leaving our dear ones at home while we set off to gallivant all over Europe by ourselves. However, with the blessing of our families, we embarked: excited to stand in our own shoes, and do this journey on our own terms. These 17 days are a gift; a time to embrace self-discovery (and re-discovery) as only traveling can do.
You will become a graveyard
A few notes to help you navigate these pages:
So! Whether you're a girlfriend, (or guyfriend as the case may be), I invite you to come along as we share our Rick Steves Travel Scrapbook with you. May it inspire your own travels, laced with laughter, discovery, growth and yes, even Joy!
Meet the Girlfriends
A beautiful soul - that's Kim. She's an artist, poet, creator of beauty, and a gardener with two green thumbs. Kim is gifted in hospitality - welcoming people as they are into her home and into her life. A pastor, Kim is also incredibly wise and insightful - perhaps that has something to do with her contemplative nature and her proclivity to read voraciously (she usually has 4 or 5 books in progress at any given time). Kim's a story teller and story hearer. She'll sit and deeply listen without judgement, and then offer wisdom and truth.
Married to CC, Kim's the mother of Kelsey (24), Cameron (18) and Colby (16).
This is Kim's first Rick Steves Tour.
"Verve" is one word that describes Katy! Katy is our sparkle girl, the barrier-breaker and a marvelous hostess. She just might have Champagne running in her veins because wherever Katy goes, it's gonna be fun! And, it doesn't matter where we are, she usually knows someone. True Story: Katy knew 4 (yes 4!) people on the plane to Keflavik!
A University of Washington and Le Cordon Bleu graduate, she derives great joy from feeding people she loves with wonderful food. Katy is all about the "delight of the bite". (Check out her "Delight of the Bite" YouTube Channel!) She gets positively giddy whenever there's a new culinary experience to be had. Other things to know about Katy - she loves beaches, sunshine and movies and she's insanely nerdy about maps and knowing the lay of the land. As a friend, she is intuitive and brave, willing to say the uncomfortable things that really do need to be said. Katy's a feeler - she'll enter into right into your "stuff" with you.
Married to Scott, Katy's the mother of Tobey (19) and Tyler (17).
This is Katy's first Rick Steves Tour.
MEET KRISTI (Me!)
Kristi's a planner, organizer and list-maker par excellence. She'll color-code anything from her trip itinerary to her grocery list. Besides her family, Kristi loves delicious food, wine and the joy of shared community around the table - which is great, because she works for a non-profit in Seattle called Big Table, that cares for people in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Kristi loves every aspect of travel - from the thrill of researching, planning and anticipating a trip; to diving into other cultures whether it's Guatemala, Cambodia or Europe. Taking pictures with her little point-n-shoot is her way of helping her 40-something brain relive, remember and relish the joy of the journey. If money were no object, she'd have no problem quitting her day job and traveling to all of the wine regions of the world! Hello Piedmont, Bordeaux, Spain, Chile, New Zealand, Australia!
Married to Neil, Kristi's the mother of Meg (19) and Micah (16).
This is my second Rick Steves Tour. (The first was documented in Trainer's Travels Rick Steves Venice, Florence, Rome & Beyond: A Summer Sabbatical with Rick Steves).
An Adventure in the Making
Our journey begins on a sunny day at a coffee shop in Edmonds, Washington, where Kim, Kristi (and Katy on speaker phone) poured (and drooled) our way through the Rick Steves Tour Catalogue for 2017. Where did we want to go? How long did we want to be footloose and fancy free in Europe? We began by eliminating places we'd visited before (rule out Spain, Greece, England, Paris, Rome, and Northern Italy). With much deliberation and some squeals of excitement between sips of coffee, we finally narrowed it down to Ireland or Germany, Austria & Switzerland. In the end, the lure of the Mosel and Rhine wine regions and the beckoning call of the Swiss Alps tipped the scale. We'd sandwich a late-May early-June tour between College graduations and the end of the academic school year. 14 Days in Germany, Austria & Switzerland (known in Rick Steves parlance as the "GAS" Tour), would give us a great taste of all three countries, and we'd tack on a few days in Bacharach on the Rhine River to kick the jet lag and get the party started!
Make the Best Laid Plans
Regarding the Rick Steves approach, I can definitely say that I'm SOLD! The attention to detail, the thoughtfulness of the tour from start to finish. . . it was just top-notch. If I had to pick one thing that I loved, my word would be "BALANCE" - as in the pacing of the tour, the balance of guided tours combined with free-time, the balance of planned meals mixed with meals on our own, the balance of big sights combined with quaint and quiet little villages . . . it's just so well done!" -Katy
Get Ready. Get Set. Go!
So what the heck does a diverse group like this all have in common?
We love to travel! We love to learn! We love to meet new and interesting people. We love to have our horizons expanded! And, we love the Rick Steves style of doing all of that! And, we really enjoyed each other!
"Liebe Familie, Wie geht's??"
Holger's post-tour email began: "Dear family, How are you?"
Truly a group of wonderful people! We're from the Pacific Northwest, the South, the East, the West and the North! Our youngest (sweet, smart Maddie) is 12, and the oldest among us are grandparents. [Note, Maddie isn't even standing with her parents! She basically got adopted by all of us - in every group picture, she's standing with someone new!] Some of us are married and some are single. Some of us have children, others don't. There are quite a few teachers, a handful of engineers, stay-at-home moms, a pastor, business owners, one free spirit who quit a career to spend a few years traveling, and quite a few retired folks enjoying the hard-earned fruits of their labors. We are all kinds of wonderful stories! We've got our honeymooners, and two couples who went to college together, now retired, but still travel together. For another couple, this is the first vacation they've had away from their special-needs son in 18 years. We are marking anniversaries and birthdays. Some of us have taken Rick Steves Tours every year for the last decade, and others are Tour newbies.
Girlfriend Go-To | Our best advice for traveling with girlfriends?
KATY "My best advice for traveling with girlfriends? Communicate and talk through things BEFORE you go! Expectations, fears (this one is really key), what you’re excited about, and things you really want to do. Then as you go, continue communication with check-ins and touch base with where everyone is at. This made a huge difference in our travels and it was honestly the best trip with friends I’ve ever had!"
KIM "Traveling with girlfriends? Have conversations upfront before the trip. Take time to share about hopes for the trip, expectations, as well as potential concerns ahead of time. That way, when they do pop up while you're on the road (and they will), you've already laid the groundwork to deal with potential snags. Plus, pre-trip planning is FUN!"
KRISTI "My best advice? 17 days with anyone is a long time! Pick people you really enjoy, know well, and want to know better (you're going to be spending a lot of time together doing really life-chaning things)! It's important to know you can be honest without having to be defensive. It's nice to have friends who know you well enough to "read the subtext". Truthfully? We're human, and travel can be stressful - we did have a few moments of tension, miscommunication and inevitable personality clashes. Fortunately, we are close enough and strong enough to take a few deep breaths, name things upfront and talk (and hug) it out, not letting any resentment or misunderstandings build. Not always comfortable, but truly worth it!"