Jafarian Adventure: Europe (2023)
What’s up, folks! I’ve got a new solo episode for you today around a recent family adventure to Europe. We visited 4 countries over a 23 day span including Norway, Germany, Italy and Greece. It was a full adventure with beauty, chaos, fun, stress, sprinkles of peace, and a lot of quality family time.
“The point of an adventure [for me] is to disconnect from normal life, change my environment, experience new things and feel alive.”
What is up folks? Welcome back to the Power of Space. I have a special treat for you today, a solo episode about my recent family adventure to Europe.
You may have noticed I took a break from podcasting in June. No production, no publishing, no episodes. I just took a break. Gabrielle and I took the family to Europe. It was an amazing experience. And so today I'm going to give you the recap, all of it. What adventure means to us, what we did there, key takeaways, and then any other things that sort of surface as I'm describing this experience for you. So let's dig in.
For starters, I call this type of trip an "adventure" because that word is very important to our family. It was actually our focus word last year in 2022, and we're still living it as a core Family value. Experiences, travel and adventure are all extremely valuable to us. Way more than material things in contrast. So this was an investment in us. It was an exercise to live in alignment with our values. It was also a challenging experience, which I'll give a lot more context to shortly. And it was awesome.
I also wanna talk about kind of why we did this. So the core impetus is that my great childhood friend Ryan invited us to his wedding. Um, we'll talk about that in a bit, but the invitation to come there was a quick yes for me and Ryan was getting married in Orvieto, a nice beautiful town in Italy. So he invited a bunch of friends and family to join him and his new wife, Sarah, and their daughter Aya, to celebrate them.
The other opportunity that presented itself was being able to visit my dad, who's been living in Germany since 2019. Since the pandemic, we have not been able to visit him, so this is three, four years overdue. We wanted to see him in his new home. Visit his apartment, his city. We had a ton of fun there, which I'll also talk about in a bit. So this was a great opportunity to blend that with Ryan's wedding.
And also finally, we were just overdue for some time away to explore. I was overdue personally for some time away from business and normal work, and so I even intended to take a sabbatical last year, but the timing didn't feel right, so this was an awesome way to honor that intention.
And this has basically become three weeks away from the business completely disconnected, which I'll talk about at the end in the takeaways.
So now that it's outta the way, let's get into the trip highlights. Here is the overview.
We started our experience in Norway. And to do this, I actually used my miles and we had a bit of an adventure in itself just to get to Norway. So we had to go to Seattle, then Frankfurt, then to Bergen. So it was three flights, there's some layovers. So we started with some hurdles and then also some jet lag when we got there. But we arrived in Bergen right around midnight. It was so light outside.
So Norway has this interesting summer light schedule where it's very light, especially in the northern part of the country. We were in sort of the southwestern part. So to give you an example, it's only dark from about midnight to two or 3:00 AM. So they only get a few hours of darkness during this time. And so we arrived there, it was basically getting dark.
We found our way to our hotel, which is in the, the, uh, historic area of Bryggen. And we passed out. The next day we woke up and we basically started our venture. We went to a beautiful place called Fløyen, where we took this nice tram up and it's kind of on a peak or a small mountain.
Great views of the city, playgrounds, these beautiful woods to explore. It's called a troll forest and these awesome statues of trolls. It was a lot of fun. So the kids had a blast. Gabrielle and I had a lot of nice time just being in nature and observing the news scenery. And then after that, spending a few hours up there, we had a nice little hike down, and then enjoyed some fish and chips, exploring the Bryggen area, taking in the sunlight being with some of the people.
So it's a really good start to our adventure. Something else we noticed two days in is that European breakfasts are the real deal. So this is not like your United States Continental Breakfast. We're talking about hot food, cold food, cereal, fruit, meats, cheese, yogurts, you name it, they have it.
So that was really cool. We found ourselves towards the end of the experience rating different breakfasts in different cities, in different countries. It was a lot of fun. And also we picked up quickly that we could have a nice big breakfast, which is kind of unusual for our family routine back at home.
But in Europe, we'd fill up with that. Then it would sustain us basically to dinner. Like we'd have a few snacks, some fruits during the day, but we would essentially skip lunch and then wait to have another meal at dinner. So that was really cool.
The next stop after a couple days in Bergen was an area called Gudvangen. And Gudvangen is a beautiful area. It's about two, three hours northeast of Bergen. It gets you into the Naerfjord region, which is a World Heritage National Park. It's gorgeous.
The drive there is awesome and you're just surrounded by waterfalls. And nice mountainous landscape. Very green, very sunny. And then when we get to Gudvangen, it's like being in a movie. I mean, just getting out the car and seeing these fjords was mesmerizing. The water is beautiful and it just instantly brought us this sort of magical aura of being in, this is exactly why I wanted to go to Norway.
I knew that it would have this type of landscape. And then three days into our adventure, we already started to feel that, which was awesome.
So in this area, we found some hikes. We saw a lot of waterfalls, ran into some goats, some cows. We jumped on a train, which was really cool. And we also even tried some Norwegian beers.
So we went to this cool microbrewery and it was nice to kind of sample that and compare it to all the other beers that I've tried in the world. I had an IPA and I wrote this up in the blog post that I will reference for this podcast, that I've yet to find IPAs that are as good and as strong as they are in Colorado. And so Norway did not win. They had a couple that were nice, but I'm very biased that Colorado still has the best IPAs for the record.
So Gudvangen treated us really well. We even found a beach there, which is worth noting. The kids and I did a cold plunge, which is mandatory for Jafarian adventures. Gabrielle watched and laughed as I froze diving into this very cold water. Kids enjoyed time in the sand, and that really lit us up in a, in a fun way.
We had one final stop in Norway and that was the town of Voss. It felt a lot like kind of a Vail in Colorado. It was very green, mountainous, peaceful. A lot of people out there just getting active. Walking, running, biking, kayaking. So just a very active place and it was a really perfect space to kind of end our time in Norway.
A few quick notes that I had in Norway is that the landscape is unbelievable. It's extremely scenic. So if you're contemplating going to Bergen, I strongly suggest it. There's a lot to explore within two, three hours of that city.
The people are very friendly and they all speak English, so it's very easy culturally to get by there. And then the highways are very fascinating. There are a lot of tunnels. These are clean highways. Clearly Norway has invested in their infrastructure there. The only downside is you can't go very fast. It makes up for though, with all the scenery as you're driving.
And then finally the lodging, food, general activities are quite expensive there in comparison to the rest of the world. So I've traveled most of the world. And I will tell you that Norway is on the higher end, if not one of the highest places, in terms of spending money, lodging, renting cars.
So just be prepared for that. It is not the most budget friendly place to visit. But again, the views, the scenery, the people, makes up for it in the end.
Let's get into chapter two. This is Germany. So after that, we took a flight from Bergen to Frankfurt and in a quick train over to Dusseldorf where my dad lives.
Like I said earlier, he's been living there since 2019. This is where he's found a lot more peace and he's able to do business there. So Europe just really aligns with his phase of life. So we had fun in his apartment, kids took over. He's got a cool rug showroom just below his apartment where he does business. So it was fun to run around there. The kids had a lot of fun jumping around on the rugs, playing with balls, getting into all his antique furniture.
And it's amazing. It really brought me back to this powerful nostalgia of when I was growing up. So when I was growing up 30 years ago, I was literally doing the same thing. I would go with my dad to the rug store. Amir would usually come, we'd even run into some of our best friends Hemad and Hesam. And we just had this amazing time jumping on rugs, doing flips, somersaults, taking naps, acting like Ninja Turtles. These are such fond memories I had as a childhood. So just watching Everest and Sepia I could do that was really special.
And my dad also enjoyed it. He couldn't believe how much the kids just loved being in the showroom. So we had fun there. Of course, we had a lot of great food, pastries, ice cream. My dad sprang a double ice cream, I think the first day we were there. So he was in full spoil mode with his grandkids. And then we also made sure his plants got watered.
So had a lot of fun in his city. Then we spent a day in Cologne. This is just 30 minutes away from Dusseldorf. Jump on a train to get there. It's a cool city. A little bit larger. I'd say it's a little bit cleaner. Um, same amount of diversity. So both Dusseldorf and Cologne are very diverse cities, and we had a great day there.
We visited a famous cathedral, which is amazing to just walk through. We went to the Lint Chocolate Museum, which is a lot of fun. I actually learned quite a bit about chocolate and its origins. And then we hit up a nice little beer garden just to do it German style with Bavarian style beer, a bratwurst, some of these flatbread pizzas that they make. So that was a nice and simple meal.
A couple quick notes In Germany, like I said earlier, German cities are very diverse. You get a lot of cultures, you get a lot of ethnicities. You get a lot of flavor of people, which is so cool. And what I didn't realize, my dad educated me that Germany hosts 70 million people, which is a lot of people compared to Norway, which hosts 7 million.
And with that many people, Germany's really just a bit bigger than the state of Montana. So it's very dense in terms of all these cities. And being able to, to accommodate a lot of civilians.
Germans are also very precise, so I appreciate the clear rules they have there, the advanced trains, the straightforward culture. I like to say you don't get much fluff in Germany. They're just to the point. They're direct and you can count on things to be on time and and to work as expected. So that's something that I always note when I spend some time in Germany. This is probably my fifth or sixth time there. And it was really cool to show the kids where grandpa lives and, and let them experience some German culture.
They also picked up more German in terms of language and basic vocabulary than they did in some of the other countries. So that was a lot of fun.
Next chapter three, Italy. So this is the third and longest leg of our trip. Like I said earlier, it was also the impetus for going there to see my great childhood friend Ryan get married.
Ryan and I grew up in St. Louis. Just to give some context, we went to elementary school together, then we attended all primary schools. We had middle school, high school together. We went to college together. After college, Ryan pursued a more international lifestyle. So he started traveling, working for the Peace Corps, and then jumped at different cities and then started working for the World Food Programme, the W F P, which is part of the United Nations.
And now that's still where he is. He's employed with them and he's was stationed in Rome, which is where he met his fiance, Sarah. And now he's actually going to be heading to Munich shortly. So it's very cool to watch his journey as he's bounced around.
So, knowing that we'd be going to Italy, I had a decision to kind of decide what we would do before, during, and after our time with Ryan and everyone in the wedding.
And so I chose to seek out some sort of a new area of Italy that we hadn't seen, cuz Gabrielle and I had visited Italy extensively years before. We saw Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, and Cinque Terre. So we had a good feel of Italy as a country, but what we hadn't seen was an area called the Dolomites, and this is essentially the mountains of Italy.
It is gorgeous. The blog post I wrote up will do more justice in terms of showing you pictures and explaining some things. But in general, this was a highlight of the trip. We spent four days there. We had a lot of time outside, hiking, spending time in the pool, walking around the town.
And then this sort of cornerstone for me was an epic hike called Mount Seceda with Gabrielle. This was a 10 plus mile hike, six or seven hours, 3000 feet in elevation gain. I mean, this was the real deal. On AllTrails it's a very challenging hike. Everyone that we experienced during the hike seemed fit relatively young.
So we headed out at seven in the morning. Gabrielle kept up like a champ. We did the loop. We're back around two o'clock with rests and picture taking in between, and it was epic. This is easily one of my top five hikes that I've done in my life. Again, if you look at the blog post I publish, you'll see why just these views are breathtaking. They're stunning.
And so that really lit me up, filled up my nature tank, and then we just had some nice downtime. So I strongly recommend the Dolomites. If you enjoy nature, if you enjoy hiking around climbing, it is definitely a place that offers world class experience in all those realms.
After four days there, we ready to head to the wedding. So we took a train all the way from Dolomites down to Rome and then Orvieto. But we started early, which is great. So we got there late afternoon. And instantly we found this bus that took us to the venue and just connecting with friends, connecting with some Orion's family members.
It was really cool and just instantly thrown into nostalgia of being with these people. You know, Ryan is an old childhood friend. I have a lot of core memories with him. And so seeing him, his parents, his brother, his new wife, his daughter Aya, who's two and a half, was just beautiful. It was so nice to hang out with them.
And then we also had some of my older buddies that we grew up with, Jessie, Jeff, Ari, Nathan. These guys, same thing. I grew up with these buddies. Very close. And so being able to spend time with them was pretty special since now that I live in Colorado, I don't see them a lot.
And in that light we were named the Willowbrook crew during the wedding experience because that is the elementary school we went too. And it was fun to just be with them. You know, we had great conversation, great time, hanging out, fun, laughter, even a little bit of this cool, like whiffle ball baseball, so some activity, but just being with them was really special for me.
And then Ryan's wedding day, he and Sarah chose an amazing venue. The pictures I've posted will help you experience some of it. I mean, I feel like things like weddings, you really have to be there. It was a very serene environment though.
Just imagine walking up these nice stone steps that feel like they could be ancient. And then you have this cute little courtyard that's has a canopy of trees protecting it with just enough light to get in where it's like, holy cow. I am in a magical moment with, with very special people. And it was a, a nice ceremony. It was very emotional for me.
You know, I'm in a kind of phase of really honoring my emotions and I could have easily just let the floodgates go, but I, I shed a few tears and reserved some of it to stay, I suppose, keep myself together. Uh, but that's how much being around these people meant to me. Just in that experience and seeing Ryan and Sarah and, and just the way that they designed this, it was really, really special.
So the wedding was beautiful. Then we had awesome dinner, full course meal, which I talk about in the blog post. And then we had drinks, dancing, all the good stuff. So I really enjoyed that experience and appreciate Ryan and Sarah for all their effort. Not only did they create an extraordinary experience, but they were so helpful helping us and everyone else get to Italy and giving tips and having shuttles.
You know, the area that we stayed at was quite remote and that's what made part of the experience. Is that you could just see the Italian countryside and feel like you were in a unique environment. So really grateful for what they did and how they created that experience for us.
The last day, we would spend some time in Orvieto. So Orvieto is a cool historic town. It's up on a hill, which is really nice and unique. And it's got this awesome cathedral that was built for a pope hundreds of years ago. It's also got these underground caves that were so interesting to explore. Just some of the stuff when you're sitting in a cave that's hundreds of years old, I feel so grounded and curious, like, how did humans do this with primitive tools?
And it, you know, just seeing that stuff in person is so exciting in terms of like honoring and absorbing the history. So it was a really nice day in Orvieto.
Some quick notes on Italy. First off, Italians take their time. Everything is later, more spread out, and there is no rush whatsoever to do anything.
Italians also love food. They can spend hours eating. It's actually quite fascinating that they can maintain decent health with how much time they spend taxing their digestive system.
And finally, Italians also love children. They were so welcoming to our kids, especially Sepia, who's five now. One of the pilots on Italian plane literally invited her into the cockpit and picked her up and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. There's playgrounds everywhere. You know, children are prioritized in Italy and we really appreciated that.
And then we packed up next day, it was time to head for our last chapter, Greece.
So we would say goodbye to my dad, which is emotional for me and the kids. We had a wonderful almost 10 days with him, but he needed to get back to normal life in Germany and we needed to have our final five days in Greece before heading home.
So we flew into Athens from Rome and then lodged a night in Piraeus, which is a port city. And that was so we could be close to the port for a ferry in the morning. We would go to an island called Agistri for the next three days. Agistri is in the Saronic Islands. So these are some of the closest islands to Athens.
When you look at Greece, there are a lot of different options for islands and so many that just look beautiful, have, you know, unique differences and, and offerings. A lot of 'em have amazing beaches and we chose Agistri because it was only an hour ferry ride from Athens, so it was easy to get there.
I knew at that point in the venture, I didn't wanna spend too much time traveling long distance cuz otherwise these other ferries or planes would take hours and eat up a whole day. So we got to an island quickly and it was well worth it. As you know, my family and I found a beach after a nice little sweaty walk to our hotel.
We spent some pool time, then we got into the water and the beach had some margaritas and some juices. We transitioned into beach life like this. I mean, it was fast and we're good at that. That's one of the things I noticed is that Gabrielle brings a really strong beach culture to our family. I bring the mountain culture.
So we can shift back and forth. And the second day we were in that sun and we felt a little hot and we saw the water. It was like beach time. So really cool to be there. We stayed in a really nice hotel with some awesome hosts. The Greek people were very warm and inviting.
And the second day we went to this really magical place called Aponisos. We took this crammed little bus there. It was so cool to kind of just, you know, embrace a little bit of that discomfort. Squished into this bus. Everyone else had the same idea. They wanted to get to this pristine beach. After 30 minute bus ride, we're sweating, we're hot. You know, everyone piles out of the the bus and we get to this like untapped beach.
Not on untapped and meaning that it, like no one knows about it, but untapped that we were some of the first people there. The water's so clear and blue. We're just surrounded by these nice low Greek cliffs. I mean, it was magical. And so we were quick also to get into that water. We had these nice goggles to spot fish. There was some tropical fish, could almost touch 'em.
A couple of 'em were nibbling on my feet. So we had this fantastic day in this beautiful beach swimming, getting some sun, having some snacks. It was fantastic. And then later that day we had it back to our hotel, cleaned up, had a beautiful dinner.
I think this might have been the day yeah, that we had a dinner where there was this like dessert style restaurant. And so got some pictures of this where the kids ordered this wafflakia, which is basically the Greek version of waffles, chocolate, ice cream. I mean the real deal dessert for dinner.
And so one of the reasons I mentioned that is that something I've learned and picked up on family vacations or trips is that it's okay to let go of your normal routine and rules, at least for us. So everyone makes their own way and has their own parenting style, but I've learned to really let go of that stuff.
I remember years ago on a big family trip to Guatemala. I. My kids were younger at the time and they were asking for soda, and I was like, no, no, no, no way. And my dad kind of shared with me his interpretation of having family trips and the few times that his dad let go was when they would go places together.
And so I've been honoring that since. I think that when we take vacations, or adventures, trips, whatever the experience is away from our normal home. That is a time when we can let go of normal rules and just allow ourselves to do things we wouldn't normally do in moderation, of course. But it's this unique thing that I think we'll all remember, especially the kids when they get older.
So a lot of ice cream, a lot of soda things that we do not normally do here in Denver. But, all in all, I think it's worth it. It's part of the experience.
Outside of that, I also, found time to do a nice cliff hike, so some beautiful views on Agistri. I woke up one morning to catch the sunrise, so every time I'm in a new place that's by the ocean or by big bodies of water, I like to intentionally find a sunrise and experience that. So that was really cool and really beautiful.
And it was just a cute little town. We chose it for some of the reasons I mentioned earlier, but it's also less touristy. So some of these other Greek islands get massive traffic during the summer, and so this did not feel crowded. It felt just right. There were people there. We had space. It was peaceful, it was pleasant, and the weather was quite good. Can't complain. I will strongly recommend Agistri as an option for Greece.
The last day we would head back, take a ferry to Athens and spend our time a little over a half day in the city of Athens.
Athens is a really cool city. It's very hilly. It's huge. Not a very, there's no skyscrapers, but the city itself is very broad. And the Acropolis, which is the main thing we wanted to do there sits at the top. So it's kind of central to the city. It's raised hundreds of feet above and we did that tour.
It was amazing. It was also very hot, so we didn't stay too long, but we got some great pictures. Got to kind of be with the ancient architecture, the buildings. I love that stuff. You know, I'm not huge for lots and lots of history tours and museums, but walking around things like that light me up.
I felt the same way when I was in Rome years ago, visiting the Colosseum . So that was really fun for me. I think the kids enjoyed it even though it was very hot, like I said.
And after that, we had a nice final meal. We actually chose the Hard Rock Cafe, believe it or not, good old American cuisine. At the end of our trip, we had so much great food, you know, from Norway to Germany, to Italy, I mean, and then in Greek, tons of amazing food, tons of authentic dishes.
So by that time, I think it was day 22 or 23, we were kind of burnt out, ready for something simple and expected. So we got some nice burgers at the Hard Rock Cafe. They hit the spot, and then we hit the sheets.
I remember laying in bed that night, you know, I was exhausted. I was also a little under the weather, so I caught a slight bug, a little cold, Everest, and I caught this towards the end of the trip.
But I just felt so sort of euphoric, like just knowing that there's a sense of completion. There's also a sense of pride, like, wow, this was an amazing experience. It's coming to an end. So just this flurry of emotions and accomplishment. You know, I, I pay attention to things that light me up and doing this really lit me up. So it was a special feeling.
And then the next day we would embark on our way back to the States.
Some quick notes on Greece. First, greeks are very friendly and family oriented. We felt the same warmth towards children that was present in Italy.
The Greek language is incredibly different than English, Spanish, and German. I attempted to learn a few words, but most Greeks were totally fine just speaking English. It's also a very interesting language.
Also Greek beaches and water are mesmerizing. I talked about this before. I didn't realize how beautiful this part of the world was. I visited pristine beaches in Thailand, Costa Rica, Mexico, Florida. The beaches we experienced in Greece were simply world class.
A few quick fun notes that also happened while we were traveling, which was basically the month of June.
First, Everest lost one of his front teeth. Almost two of them in fact. But one fell out in Norway. That was pretty cool.
Sepia got her first bee sting and this was a nasty one. It left a swelling mark for days and she was not happy when that happened, but I was able to calm her down and comfort her. So it was kind of a focal point after that, just checking her bee sting regularly.
I was actually attacked by a seagull in Norway. So we're walking back to our place in Gudvangen and I see this seagull just sitting on this post. And I was so curious, like why is it sitting there and not really worried about us? Cuz we were getting within 10 feet of seagull. And then I saw the nest, so I already knew that at that point it was a mother protecting its eggs. But of course I was foolish. I got even closer. I think I maybe I was trying to get a picture or something and then outta nowhere this other seagull, likely the father, comes down and pecks my head.
I kid you not. Like flies in, pecks my head, startles me. I'm like, what's just happening? Luckily it didn't pierce skin or, or cut me or anything, but it was definitely a wake up call and definitely a reminder that I had no business messing with that mother seagull.
So, Everyone else in the family got a good laugh at that.
The Denver Nuggets also won the N B A championship. We were following them up until our trip. Everest, myself and Gabrielle's nephew, Chase, even went to a playoff game earlier in the playoffs. So we were pumped to hear that they won. Props to Jokic and the whole team. It was an epic season and really cool to watch the nuggets this year and, and win the championship.
And finally, Gabrielle and I celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary. This happened in transit from Germany to Italy. So we're actually on a train with some fairly cheap Italian wine celebrating our ninth anniversary. And we didn't need to do anything big cuz we were in the midst of a big experience. So she and I were very grateful to just have some time together and celebrate nine wonderful years.
Now, lastly, let's jump into the key takeaways. So I've got some nice juicy notes for you. Okay, and I will start with the planning.
The planning for this three week trip was intense. There's really no simple way to bypass such planning unless you're of the mind to what I call "outsource your experience design" or your trip design. So a lot of people might go buy a package or a tour or whatever, and that's totally fine if that's your jam. But for me, I prefer to do my research and craft a unique experience instead of just googling a bunch of things and then buying some package where you gotta show up and run through an itinerary.
Planning an epic experience like this is hard work. So really digging in and figuring out what you wanna do and why. And to that extent, I love this. I really enjoy designing experiences like this. It gives me a lot of energy and fulfillment to create these experience for my family and myself.
And I've developed sort of a skillset doing this over the years. I've designed family trips, I've designed bachelor parties. I've designed all kinds of things for loved ones that facilitate a memorable experience. And now I'm starting to lean into that work with my coaching business SPACE.
So leading a retreat in July, leading more retreats next year. I've been going to retreats for years now, really absorbing different styles and so this whole crafting experiences for people is a big part of my future and I intend to do a lot more of that work.
And to that point, I was very intentional about the plan of this trip. I carefully chose everything from the countries and cities we visited. The order we did them in. The activities we pursue. And I did this while keeping both my family's needs and values in mind. For example, I knew we needed to find nature quickly, which is why we started in Norway. You know, within 24 hours we were in this beautiful area with trees, with forests, and it just gave us that boost we would need being jet lagged and tired from all that initial travel.
I also knew we have a lot of social interaction with friends and family in Italy. From the time the dolomites of my dad to the wedding, it was a lot of people, which was awesome. But after all that interaction, I need space away from people. I need to find nature or relax and rewind.
And so that's exactly why I chose Greece as the last leg. I knew we'd go there for the beach experience, we'd get to unplug, we get to be in the sun, the water. And it ended up aligning exactly with how I wanted to design it.
So the final note I will say on planning is that it's important to note that I did not plan this alone. Gabrielle was a huge part of this. Her and I have a nice system where I am usually in charge of the initial planning, owning the ideation, the high level, where are we gonna go and why. And then she gets in and reviews and spot checks my work. You know, she's very good at the granular, the organizational things.
So we're a great team in that way. It's also how we execute trips. So when we're traveling, I kind of know where we're gonna go, I lead, and she's the one who kind of makes sure we're checking out on time that we have this thing booked or reserved. So we make a really good team when we plan and execute trips, and I'm really grateful for a life partner that I can just do life with . It's really beautiful.
So, Next, let's talk about the investment. So this adventure was an investment in different ways. First, we'll talk about the moolah, the cash required to go on a big trip like this. The financial investment for this three week Europe trip was significant.
I'm not one to give money a lot of focus or talk a lot about in my life, but this was not a small number. Just to give you a rough ballpark, even after using my miles for the airfare there, lodging with my dad, it was a healthy five figure investment.
Hotels, rental cars, trains, meals, et cetera. This adds up quickly in Europe. You know, it's similar If you were to travel in the United States, these things are not cheap. And we're also going in summer season when sort of prices are at peak.
It's important to note too that we don't travel in luxury. We're not always staying in five star hotels. We're not always eating out at the most expensive restaurants. We do like decent hotels. We do dine well cause food's important to us, but we're also very conscious of what we spend and why.
In short, Western Europe is just simply not a budget friendly place to go with a family of four. That is how I would summarize that. If you want to do this with a family, just be ready to blow some dough.
That said, I would spend twice the amount if I had to. No joke. Like I said the beginning of this episode, we value experiences over material things as part of our family values. And it reflects that, you know, showing my kids Europe and teaching them the art of international travel is well worth every dollar. And if there's anything we love spending money on it's experiences.
Aside from the financial investment, there's also significant time investment to leave our home for 23 days.
I happen to set my businesses up so I have this lifestyle freedom and Gabrielle is off for the summers, so she teaches during the school year and then has two to three months off. So that part was actually pretty easy. However, we also have a dog, Rudy, and an active vegetable garden at home, which does not lend well to being gone that long.
So luckily we had some great family support. We flew in Kiersten, Gabrielle's niece, to watch her house for 10 days, and then my mom filled in the rest by taking Rudy and kind of checking on the house. So we're really grateful for their help. Thank you, mom and Kirsten.
I also wanna acknowledge the investment in relationships that we made to spend time with loved ones on this trip. We were able to visit my dad in Germany, which lit him up. We also brought him to Italy with us. Experience some quality time there in the Dolomites and then Orvieto for Ryan's wedding. As I said before, seeing my old childhood friends with such a gift.
You know, it would've been easy to defer this for other life priorities. I think that's the point I wanna make. You know, like it's easy to say, ah, no, three weeks in Europe now, or even two weeks in Europe. You know, it's an effort to fly that far. It's an effort to go there and carve out the time, energy, money to do it. But, again for us the second Ryan asked, it was a quick yes, I knew this was something for us, and I think there's just something special about traveling and experiencing the world with loved ones.
So the relationship investment was totally worth it.
Next, let's discuss what most people would assume is the most obvious challenge, which is traveling with young children. I've got a few big bullet points for you here.
First, most young children, including ours who are five and seven right now, are not conditioned for peace, patience, or quiet.
Stated another way, I believe young children do not want to be still, which is required at times during long distance travel. It's in their nature to be wild and loud and have fun, which usually I'm all about. But when you're traveling and you're in new cultures, these things can create tension.
And Gabrielle and I found ourselves overwhelmed various times with Everest and Sepia just wanting things or not being quiet, not being patient, not having the ability to just be still for a bit. And this kept coming up. It was a recurring pattern.
And let me be crystal clear here. There were definitely times where I questioned why I brought them on this trip, which is not a fun thought to have. But I always came back to center and realized exactly why, which I've mentioned a few times here.
And you know, the other big challenge is that explaining new culture and ways of living was also a learning curve that was extremely stressful at times. So, for example, asking our kids to be alert and mindful in busy European cities like Dusseldorf over and over again, this just weighs on you. You know, they don't realize that this is different than the US suburbs that we live in back home.
And so this was something I noticed that for me it was going to Europe, which I had done before and I was excited for, and I was probably already expecting more of kind of vacation unplug. But for them it was like this whole new world, and they wanted to bring their normal behaviors there. And that was what caused constant conflict.
And that had to just do my work and remind myself and breathe and stay conscious that this was entirely new for them.
So with all that in mind, our kiddos learned so much from this adventure. They experienced new culture, languages, food, scenery, so much more. I know that this will shape their future view of the world in some way. And honestly, I want them to see life outside the US as they grow up. That's important to me.
Gabrielle and I also learned a lot about ourselves and our family dynamic during this experience. You know, getting triggered by things that I've mentioned earlier. This offered me so much insight and awareness. And so next time I know it's gonna be a lot more smooth and fluid because I'll know what to expect.
And that goes back to the last point I wanna make here, is that this was an investment in our children's cultural expansion. This was their second time traveling internationally, which is pretty cool. And like anything else in life, you have to put the reps in, you gotta build the muscle. So world travel is totally a muscle. It's one that we value, and in fact, we're already brainstorming our next international trip.
So even though traveling with children was challenging, I totally do it again. We will be doing it again. And we learned a lot. That is definitely the way I want to complete my thoughts around that.
The last and most important point I wanna reflect on is quality family time. So what does that mean? To me, quality time with family means being present. It means seeing your family, feeling them, and witnessing the world with them. It means facing boredom, frustration, pain, and other challenges.
It also means smiling, laughing, loving, enjoying and celebrating moments that only you can co-create with your family when you're fully present.
Quality time does not mean checking your phone every 10 minutes. It does not mean whipping out the iPad every time you hop on a plane or train. It also does not mean outsourcing your parenting or suppressing your emotions. Things that are really easy to do. It means being with the space and discomfort that travel offers. All of it.
I think this is the most important reflection because I see a lot of disconnected families in the world, including Europe. You know, people everywhere today are glued to their phones and it was the same situation in Europe.
Phones, devices, technology, whatever it is. We just have this habit, this addiction of needing these things. This is not new information, but I just wanna express that it was very present in other parts of the world and my family's kind of a wild sheep. Like sure, every now and then we allow the kids to have some device time, but for the most part, we are off these things.
We're trying to travel, we're trying to experience what adventure, what travel offers. Um, I just think that I wanna acknowledge how real device dependency is in our world as an issue. I. And it honestly just makes me sad when I see other families who look to be on holiday, look to be on vacation. They're eating dinner together, but they're all in their own world cuz their heads are down bowed, they're looking at their phone. It's like I question why they even came.
Now that's my projection, obviously, and bringing it back to us. Quality of time is important. So with that in mind, I made a few commitments before leaving for this trip.
First commitment was I was going to disconnect from work, which I did. I told my team members I was using this time to unplug, which means no work. So I did a lot of upfront preparation, which totally helped. Everyone was clear on what we needed to do in my absence, and I also agreed to check a Google Doc once per week for 15 minutes.
This was essentially to field anything that was super critical. And in hindsight, nothing got logged there that was actually critical. They held it down in my absence, which I'm super grateful for.
I also paused all client coaching, podcast production, and other miscellaneous projects. This was my version of a three week sabbatical, and I honored that.
The second thing. I was intentional about only using my phone for GPS navigation, location search, picture taking, and of course mandatory Instagram posting. The last one is a bit of a joke obviously, but I intentionally choose to share my pics on Instagram as we travel, because I truly want to inspire other people to see the world and create similar experiences. You know, of course there's a bit of ego in sharing my things and being proud of them. But I do it because I want to inspire other people. Plain and simple.
I did not view any other social media during this trip. I barely checked my email minus some personal things for, you know, travel and coordination and bookings, all that stuff. And the main purpose of having my phone is to help us navigate and to take pictures. Otherwise, I would honestly consider keeping my phone off.
So the last thing that I chose to do was prioritizing my children's experience. So we talked a little bit about quality time and going into this, I did some early brainstorming on how could I make this an experience that they would remember.
One of the things I did is I created these cute little travel journals for Everest and Sepia. I put in these country cards that I designed . So it had each country's name, picture, flag, a few fun facts. And then I left space in between these four country cards for them to write, draw, and post pictures.
So another thing I did is I brought this small portable pocket size printer that you can just quickly hook up to your phone and print these nice two by three photos. Is totally a hack I got from Front Row Dads. And the idea is that as we're traveling, they're taping these pictures in, they're writing notes about it, and it was cool. You know, it took a second to get them wired into it, but then during the trip, it was a common thing after we'd have a, a great day to get back, print some pictures and reflect on them.
Above all, I was also very receptive to their wants, needs and perspective of the experience. So as I mentioned before, there was some conflicts, some tension, some stress traveling children. But I was also very grounded in this experience. I was very in it with all the emotions and trying to stay very present and conscious. And this wasn't easy at times, but I went into this trip wanting my children to have some choice and voice in the experience.
I didn't want it to just be dad deciding everything. And so we would ask them what they want, we'd ask them what we need. There were times where their emotions flare up and they said, "I don't wanna be here." And there are other times where Everest would say, "I wanna come back to Norway for my birthday." So it was this beautiful mix of emotions.
And I attribute a lot of this sort of intentional parenting and, and being grounded to the Front Row Dads community that I speak of often.
I'm a V I P member in that community. You might as well consider me a lifetime member at this point. You know, that community has changed my life. It's given me so much since becoming a father. And I shared with some of the brothers after I got home and was reflecting on the experience that, this adventure felt like the playoffs of fatherhood.
So like, if every day in normal life is just the regular season, to use this sports analogy, this trip was the playoffs. It was intense, and it was awesome in all the different ways.
What I will leave you with along these lines is that I believe that when you create an experience for your family, small or large, you have a choice on what you want to create and how you wanna show up.
Your intention, your commitments, this is what makes the experience, you know. You can do it the easy way, like I said earlier, or you can really design it, which is the phase of life I'm in, really crafting these experiences with intention to light people up.
The point of an adventure for me is to disconnect from normal life, change my environment, experience new things, and feel alive.
I think that really sums up why I do this. You know, of course I like to mix in some fun, some silliness and some challenges here and there, but I believe you can't fully experience the benefits of adventure unless you commit to being fully present. You commit to being intentional. And it's a practice. It's hard. This is not easy work, you know?
I also think the most valuable benefit of an adventure is the quality time that's created with people and yourself. It's the new stillness. It's the new images, it's the new moments and the new learning created when you commit to being fully present in everything you experience.
I believe these are the memories we'll cherish and share when people ask about what we did in our lifetime. This is why I love adventures, and I hope this one inspires you in some way.
If you'd like to check out any other details, I crafted a mega blog post about this. Has a lot of similar content that I shared on this episode. Also has some awesome pictures.
And please leave some feedback. I'd love to hear your comments, your questions, your stories, anything. This world of adventure and designing experience lights me up, so I appreciate your attention here.
Until the next time.
Ali is a creator and coach who's passionate about guiding people to their truth. That's a fancy way of saying he wants to help people realize their most authentic life. He's a family man, entrepreneur, conscious technologist, explorer, podcast host and many other things that inspire him to stay curious and learn. He's also a huge advocate for nature, hiking, adventure, testing physical limits and experiencing the natural world.