In a move of unprecedented uniqueness, I am going to Europe this August. (Just like, well, everyone else on your Facebook feed. Sorry.)
Deciding to go take an overseas holiday was the easy part. Plotting and planning and booking that holiday, on the other hand, has been a rather… emotionally taxing experience.
Here are the stages every traveller may well go through.
1. The wildly (and naively) ambitious stage
At this point your international adventure is still purely theoretical, and your mind is running amok. You’ll convince yourself of any number of the following wildly ambitious (and not at all realistic) ideas:
‘I’m going to visit four countries in the first week. That’ll definitely be enough time.’
‘I’ll wear nothing but immaculate white shirts and A-line skirts. Just like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.’
'All up, the whole month will probably cost me a couple grand. Eh, no need to cut back on brunches before I go.'
'I'll just book my flight there and back, and then wing it after I land. Be all spontaneous and stuff. What do you mean August is peak time in the Northern Hemisphere and affordable accommodation books out? Pshhht!'
2. The Inst-spiration stage
Your annual leave's locked and loaded, and now you're choosing your destinations... based purely on photos you've seen on Instagram/Google/travel inspo websites.
You know, the usual suspects: Iceland's blue lagoon, the shipwreck beach in Greece, the Sleeping Beauty castle in the forest in Germany.
Logistics? What logistics?
3. The 'Huh, this is slightly more complex than I expected' stage
So you've drawn up your wishlist, and you're coming around to the idea that it might be wise to have some internal logistics locked down.
As you scan flight, train and bus options, you come to the rather rude realisation that the remote Greek island you've got your heart set on isn't quite as accessible as you thought it was, and that there's only one flight to that obscure town in Germany on the day you want to go (and it's at 6am - ugh).
Those ~wanderlust~ Instagram accounts did not prepare you for these not-so-pretty realities.
Listen: Ever dreamed of living in Paris? This mum packed up her life and did it. (Post continues.)
4. The 'My brain is officially broken' stage
So you need to get from X to Y on Saturday morning, and you want to be in Z on Tuesday so you can have at least two full days there before you fly to Z(a). But there are no flights from Y to Z on the day you need to fly, unless you have a six-hour stop over in A, which you really would rather not do.
However, there's a flight from B to Z, but you'll need to catch a train there first, which takes five hours and only runs on seven hour intervals...
5. The 'I deeply resent budget airlines' stage
Your initial elation at finding a flight for 50 bucks quickly starts to dissipate as you realise that $50 price point is A BIG FAT LIE. I imagine the overlords at these airlines sit on their golden thrones cackling away.
'Planning to bring more than 1.5 days worth of clothes and a single toothbrush with you? That'll be $40, sucker! Want to pay by credit card? We'll slog you yet another fee - but here, you can choose your seat ahead of time. Isn't that generous of us? It'll cost you, but we'll put that in super fine print so you don't realise until your email invoice comes through. Oh, and if your hand luggage is half a gram over the weight restriction, we'll extort another $60 out of you. Enjoy your flight!'
6. The 'hooooly guacamole, this is getting expensive' stage
You know how mums always say they 'don't really remember' the pain of childbirth because all the happy baby hormones wiped their memories of it? It's exactly the same with travel. You just forget how goddamn quickly it all adds up, even when you're trying to operate on a shoestring.
Oh, and then there's the very fun moment you get your cash exchanged, or your destination's currency added to your travel card, and realise your spending budget will need a serious adjustment.
7. The 'ugh, I totally should have done a tour' stage
Many jetsetters have their moment of 'Puhhhlease - I don't do tours, I'm an explorer' piousness. (Even though your 'exploring' is guided by a shiny new copy of Lonely Planet.)
But after three sleepless nights of plotting routes and booking transport and trying to find a hostel where you might be able to sleep without breaking your savings account or being located a million miles away from public transport, having all of this arranged for you starts to sound very appealing indeed.
8. The 'I am a MASTERMIND' stage
You did it. Now go enjoy your holiday.