Travelling: Kids, Budget and the Happiness of Southern Countries

Far away shores are alway’s the most appealing one’s, aren’t they? (Ultra long time exposure – 2 minutes – of waves)

4 weeks after Woodpecker’s are back from their fantastic Italy journey (see here and following posts), I would like to wrap-up some general findings from this trip:

1)      Where to go

2)      Travelling with small children

3)      Keeping Budget

4)     A southern lesson in Happiness / What we can learn from our friends in southern Europe

1 Where to go

Europe is fantastic – no matter where you go.

The lovely thing about Italy was that wherever you go, there is so much around to see. I would bet that you can put up your base virtually everywhere in this country, and within 1 hour drive there will be more than 20 sights/cities/historical villages/castles/landscape/beaches and so on to see.

And from my experience this holds true for most parts of Europe.

The good thing in this is that you actually can avoid too crowded or too expensive places and stay a bit outside or even in a less famous area. And still there will be more than enough to see and to do.
Example was our stay at La Spezia (see here), not a particularly famous town, but a great spot due to the surrounding.

If you are not from Europe:

I am sure the same holds true for other parts of the world as well as our whole planet is a really stunning apparition. So why not stay in your region if you find flights to expensive and too complicated?

Many great things are right in front of our doors!

Public transport is a great thing in holidays

Even if you hate the public transport system in your town – as you have to use it daily for commuting – using public transport in holidays is a totally different story.

Often public transport is very cheap, it is convenient as you will use it outside the rush hour, it connects you with nice spots that locals also like to visit and it is fun:
Because instead of seeing the same route like at home, here you will get a city tour for free, see locals and are able to relax.

2 Travelling with (small) children

We found that travelling with two young kids is a totally different league than alone or with one kid:

  • Yes, you still can do almost everything with children. The limiting factor is not the kids but the parents.
    The kids will find their rest and their sleep, they will ask you to carry them if they get tired, they will ask you to play with them if they are bored. The question is: Are you up to all of this? Do you get enough sleep after pampering the kids? Are you ready to carry the tons of stuff you require through the jungle or city chaos? Do you get enough relaxation to stay calm in the more complicated situations?
    That leads straight to the most important point:
  • You need time, time, time.
    I’d say plan at most half of what you would do if you would travel without kids. Plan double the time for every activity, including the ride to your destination. Then you will have a safety margin and will probably never get stressed – very important!
  • You can do everything, even museums, ruins and city tours, but you have to offer something to the kids in return: A cable-car ride or boar trip during the city tour, visiting the submarine next to the museum, go to the city beach, play roman shop-owners in the ruins and so on. And remember: Double time for everything.
  • Beach/bathing is always cool for kids, and camping is great fun for them.
    Great luck! Because both beach and camping come for a relatively low price!

3 Keeping budget

Actually, as so often in life, the good news is: Best things out there usually come for free.

  • You can walk nice cities, hike lovely landscapes, see beautiful plazas bustling with life, swim in the sea, dwell in the sunshine, inhale the good air and watch the stars:
    All for free.
  • You can enter thousands of churches and admire their atmosphere (those that cost entrance fee are likely to be overcrowded and thus lose their charm anyway).
  • You can go to small and less known villages, sparing out the tourist traps, get the atmosphere, and you should include at least one stop per holiday in a place not mentioned at all in your guidebook. Because there you will be able to pick up the original local flair of your destination.
  • Obviously you should travel as anti-cyclical as possible, avoiding the masses and profit from off-season prices.
  • Dining out and snacks on the way are the major budget killer next to hotels.
  • Thus: If you travel off-season, camp and get the dining and snacks under control you can live on more or less the same costs than at home, meaning that once you are there budget-wise it doesn’t matter anymore if you stay a week longer or not:
    Door is open for looong holidays.

4 A southern lesson in happiness

Travelling is not only about lying in the sun, it is about broadening your mind; see new things and take a step back from daily life to reflect.

Woodpecker’s takeaway from Southern Italy is the totally different attitude towards time, life and towards what we call “efficiency”.

Sure, many of these guys are way from efficiency, economy in southern Europe is far from healthy and the general level of wealth may be lower.

But then if you once had three days of hot and hammering desert winds blowing from the Sahara (see here), then you start to understand that you cannot expect this people to work as “efficient” as Germans do in their freezing country, where work might be the only possibility to keep you warm and distract you from the bad weather.

Clearly, southern folks could improve a bit in work ethics, but then there is the other side of the medal:
Maybe we “efficient” northern Europeans could improve a bit regarding relaxation, taking life easy and not fearing so much?

And maybe we should stop a moment in our ever-increasing efforts to be more efficient and more efficient and more efficient and more competitive and more competitive and more competitive.

Maybe we should ask the southern guys why they still look so relaxed and enjoy life so much while earning and owning half of what average Germans have.

Why are people laughing so much and kids run happily in the streets while unemployment is high and the future is unclear?

Why don’t they constantly fear the “Chinese”, or that their kids will not be able to “compete” or if the next round of “super-disease” will kill them all – like we strange Germans do?
How can they just sit there and enjoy the sun go down, while the world is getting worse and worse and their “competitiveness” declines?

Well, a good question, isn’t it?

Maybe in the end nothing gets worse and nothing is to fear, not even the Chinese?!

I don’t know…just an idea…Think about it.

Cheers,

Woodpecker

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2 comments on “Travelling: Kids, Budget and the Happiness of Southern Countries

  1. zanzanaglob says:

    I like your blog very much. I tell you something about my experiences with the nordic countries. I go there often for the job, while I am a ‘friend from Southern Europe’, Italy in fact. When I come to Sweden for example, I feel relaxed, because at home we miss a lot this efficiency that we can’t realize, and we have to fight for everything. But when I am here people ask me: “Don’t you think that Swedish people are stressed?” And I don’t really understand what they mean, as everything here seems perfect to me, and I don’t see how and why people should get stressed. The point is that the reason of the stress, or of the fears, as you suggest, are not outside ouselves, but depend on our attitude towards life, the future, the problems, the nice things, and may be the attitude we have in Southern Europe makes us stronger in these strange times in Europe. In any case, thank you again for all your words and suggestions, I am glad that I can read your posts.

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Thank you, and very interesting observation.

      Actually I am a great fan of the “European Union” idea. As you pointed out, despite the current economic problems, there are so many things that we can learn from each other as each region has it specific abilities and strengths.

      E.g. I for my part would love to still better understand the admireable southern ability to take and enjoy life as it comes without too much thinking about what still could be improved (at least this is my impression). In turn I’d be happy to share the northern findings on efficiency and better ressource use to whom ever is interested.

      I think the unique thing about this continent in the end is that it offers such a great range of variety so close to each other – let’t profit from that and see the European potential not only in economic terms!

      European greetings,
      Woodpecker

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