Before bidding adieu to the USA, let me take you through our exhilarating journey.

Embarking on a quest to make the year 2023 an extraordinary one, we set our sights on traversing the world, or at the very least, delving into the depths of Europe. With the gradual easing of COVID lockdowns and travel constraints, we made a bold decision: bid farewell to our conventional jobs, part ways with the majority of our possessions, and embrace a nomadic lifestyle across most of Western Europe. And thus, our odyssey commenced, with nothing more than a general itinerary, a 46L backpack and day pack each, and a quest for adventure. We started our half year tour in the UK, figuring that was a good way to ease into the European lifestyles and cultures. We knew we’d need a structured plan eventually so a 9-day escapade through the enchanting Basque Country courtesy of a Rick Steves Tour fit the bill for our halfway point.

But Why the Basque Country?

Well, it all started with a simple encounter. At a HIMSS conference, a chance conversation led a lady to inquire about my surname, Navarro, and whether it hailed from the Basque region. Intrigued, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. While I knew my lineage traced back to Spain, the specifics remained shrouded in mystery. The Navarra province of Northern Spain seemed a plausible origin, and so, with curiosity ablaze, we embarked on a plan to collect and cultivate our travel adventures.

As we delved deeper into our research via the Rick Steves tour platform, we were drawn to Basque Country of Spain & France in 9 Days Tour and its promise of minimal “bus trips,” ensuring more time immersed in the captivating cities. Among them, Pamplona beckoned with its storied streets, infamous for the exhilarating running of the bulls. The stars aligned—the tour dates harmonized with our European itinerary, the price was right, and without hesitation, we seized the opportunity.

Preparing for our European Tour

Initially, the details of our European sojourn loomed uncertain. The intricacies of the Schengen Visa, the logistics of travel, and accommodation arrangements all posed formidable challenges. Yet, with Rick Steves as our guide, we gleaned invaluable insights from his guidebooks and website, unraveling the secrets to exploring Europe “through the back door,” a mantra echoed throughout his work—savvy strategies to maximize time, minimize costs, and savor authentic experiences.

We settled on a six-month expedition, departing in June and returning by the year’s end, punctuated by our Basque Country adventure in early September. But before taking off, there were loose ends to tie up at home—resigning from our jobs, bidding farewell to friends and family, entrusting our cat to capable hands, and selling and storing our items that we wouldn’t take with us (read about putting our stuff in a 3x6x8 locker here).

And then came the daunting task of packing. In the words of Rick Steves himself, “You can’t travel heavy, happy, and cheap. Pick two.” Armed with this wisdom, we heeded his advice, investing in a compact carry-on backpack and meticulously curating our essentials—a testament to our commitment to travel light, travel joyfully, and embrace the boundless adventures awaiting us.

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