Our Tour Group
The thought of touring Europe came to me in the summer of 1980. I was living in scorching, smog-choked Riverside CA, with few fun things to do and less money to do them with. When I brought up the idea to friends, they laughed at me. They believed European tours are only for rich people; how was I ever going to afford something like that?
I went to the library and checked out Arthur Frommer’s book, Europe on Five Dollars a Day, and studied it. Knowing the prices were a lot higher than when the book was published in the early 1970s, I estimated it would probably cost me $30 a day, and figured out ways to earn and save enough money for a 3 week trip (that would add up to less than $1000, plus airfare). I had a full scholarship through college, with a living stipend. I saved money over 2 years by cutting back on my vices of alcohol and indiscriminate shopping. You’d be surprised at how much money you can accumulate that way; vices of any kind are expensive. I traded brief and worthless escapes for an experience I can treasure forever.
While researching options for visiting Europe, I found some pleasant surprises; 1) the new edition of Arthur Frommer’s book said Europe now cost $20 a day, and 2) many companies offered tours to young adults at great prices. I chose the company named International Student Exchange, owned by Roland Stemmler (“Uncle Roland”) and operating out of Switzerland. Here is the brochure:
International Student Exchange Brochure
This 40 day tour cost me $1500, and their airfare was $912. I could have gotten separate airfare for cheaper, but decided to buy the whole package deal and travel with others in the group. After all, it was a really good deal. Sure, it cost more than using Frommer’s and going by myself, ($37.00 per day) but it was a lot less hassle, and more likely to be fun.
Anyone who wants to try out this tour company can visit their website. They now go by the name Club Europa.
On Wednesday, June 23rd, 1982, I rode a Greyhound bus to the Los Angeles airport where I met Margo, Gayla, and a few other travelers. We took a noon flight to JFK Airport in New York City, arriving there at nightfall, where we met the rest of the tour group members who had come from all over the US. From there, we flew to London; by the time we reached there, it was the following morning. I had heard stories of people who could look out the plane window and see darkness, with daylight ahead, and then suddenly emerging into that daylight, but that didn’t happen to us.
From London, we flew a short jaunt to Amsterdam. There we met our tour guide, Johannas from Austria, and our bus driver, Lakis from Greece. We later found out most ISE tour guides and bus drivers are from those countries. While touring Europe, I found German and Austrian men the most charming; I believe Austrians were chosen over Germans because of controversy still brewing from World War II. As for Greek drivers, I definitely found out the reason when we reached Greece! (More on that later).
Our tour group originally consisted of 47 members (we lost 2 of them during the tour). Eight of them were guys, and besides myself, there were 3 other minorities, all of them female and Chinese. Most of the group came from the Chicago area. We were all between the ages of 18 – 35, with the exception of 2 middle-aged women who were allowed on the tour because they were schoolteachers. They were the mother and aunt of one guy named Chris, and his younger brother Joe who, at age 15, was the youngest in the group. Most of the tour members were around my age, which was 21.
Before I go on, I want to clear up one thing. The purpose of my HubPage “Say Yes To Life” is to promote positive alternatives to the debauched culture of drugs, alcohol addiction, and illicit sex. While reading this account, you will no doubt find we all drank quite a bit on this tour, and there was one time when I went over the top. You may even come to the conclusion that Europe can’t be enjoyed without alcohol. However, this is NOT true; you do not need to drink to enjoy Europe. I do include a word of caution; if you are a recovering alcoholic who has not yet reached the state where you can be around drinkers, it’s best to wait until you can do so before going. If you have reached that state, here are three ways you can “get a buzz” without alcohol. 1) Enjoy a contrast shower. Turn on the water as hot as you can stand, then make it cold. It gives you a wonderful glow similar to a couple of drinks, without the fuzzy brain. 2) If you’re in Greece or Italy, where hot showers aren’t available, go for a sweat-producing workout, then take a cold shower. 3) If you’re near a hot spring or spa, take a hot and cold plunge.
So, 47 Americans from all over the country and all walks of life gathered in Amsterdam. Thus our European adventures began…
Table of Contents, for those who wish to focus on any particular country:
Hungary / Yugoslavia
Venice / San Marino
Greece / Meteora Monasteries
Delphi / Athens
Hydra and Corinth
Naples and Sorrento
Pompeii and Tivoli Gardens
Rome, Catacombs, Vatican
Florence, Leaning Tower of Pisa
South of France / Monaco
Switzerland / Heidelberg
England (via Belgium)
The Bus in Which We Toured Europe
To read the next chapter, Holland, please visit this link:
© 2013 Yoleen Lucas
Yoleen Lucas (author) from Big Island of Hawaii on June 07, 2016:
Hi, Greensleeves Hubs!
We made several references to that movie during the tour. Would you believe to this day, I haven't seen it? Shame on me! I'll have to remedy that!
It used to be standard for Americans to tour Europe during their college years. My guess is it's declining because of recent wars and the devaluation of the American dollar. I'm so glad I went when I did!
I visited your wonderful country - be sure to read about it!
Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on June 07, 2016:
That sounds like an amazing tour to take Yoleen, and I'm sure it must have been a great experience, coming from Hawaii, or California. Not so many Americans come to Europe because of the great distances involved (and because there's so much to see in America without ever leaving your own shores) but it must have been a real eyeopener to visit so many countries in such a short space of time.
It reminds me of an old comedy film called 'If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium' about a bunch of Americans touring Europe. I've not seen it in decades, but it sounds pretty much like that's what it was like for you keeping to a schedule! :)
I will dip in from time to time to read about selected destinations in your itinerary. Best wishes, Alun
Yoleen Lucas (author) from Big Island of Hawaii on January 01, 2015:
Thanks, techygran! I'm a strong proponent for positive options, rather than just saying no to vices. That's why I named my HubPages site "Say Yes To Life".
Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on December 31, 2014:
Dear Yoleen... you were a self-confident and wise young woman. I appreciate your details of preparing for the trip with the Frommer's book, and adding on what you thought it would likely cost, upgraded, only to be surprised that it cost less!
And I also appreciate your cautions around drinking, and what to do INSTEAD... I honestly had never heard of the hydrotherapy hot-and-cold until I did a 5-Day Stop Smoking regimen back when I was in my 30s, and I am fairly certain there are people reading this for whom that advice will be just as gob-smacking (that is, important).
I do look forward to continuing on your trips with you over 2015. Keep up the good work! ~Cynthia
Yoleen Lucas (author) from Big Island of Hawaii on August 01, 2013:
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed them, and they were of help to you. I would have benefitted from reading such a diary before I went, as you may have seen in my Epilogue chapter.
Hope you have a fabulous time in Europe!
jamila sahar on July 31, 2013:
Amazing stories and hub! Thanks for sharing your adventures. I am also interested in going to Europe so your hubs are quite interesting to me. Looking forward to reading more of your adventures.