A prime benefit of this whole experience teaching overseas is the ability to travel. Being in Hungary offers the opportunity to travel within this foreign county, even on a regular two-day weekend. Even better, it offers the opportunity to see a seemingly unlimited variety of places throughout this part of the world. Because of airline deregulation, the existence of the EU/ Schengen agreement, and Hungary’s geographic position, any holiday weekend offers the possibility of visiting any of five or six other countries. And when we are blessed with a longer break, such as Christmastime or Easter, the possibilities expand.
The significant downside of Kaposvár’s location is that it is 3.5 hours from Budapest airport. But from there, a flight of just 3 hours can land you in Russia, Africa, the Middle East, or almost anywhere in Europe. For such diversity of locations, airfare is surprisingly low-priced. Well, it is low-priced compared to what US air travel might cost…it is certainly not low-priced for the typical Hungarian income.
I am a planner and I love dealing with finances, so this experience has never been about splurging and saying, “we have money saved from our American jobs, so money is no object.” In fact, we try to optimize. We know that our location presents an incredible opportunity for travel that should be taken advantage of. But we still plan our adventures cost-efficiently, affordably, in a budget-minded way, however you choose to describe it. For example, we don’t typically pay for tours groups and we searching for high-value, lower-cost lodging. We have certainly both had our views shaped by Rick Steves and the Lonely Planet Team (and I rely heavily on Wikitravel and Tripadvisor.) We would never risk our future financial security for a temporary experience but we are both acutely aware that the experiences and memories that are available for Americans living in Europe are ripe for the taking.
With that in mind, much of my current energy is in planning several trips that are coming up. Six, in fact. It has been a couple months since our last school break and now several school breaks, following by summertime approach. We will return for the 2012-2013 school year in late August, and from June-August we will continue to receive our salaries while we travel. Our home will also be waiting for us when we return. Without further ado, here is a rough idea of the travels we have been planning:
Mid-March (4-day weekend) – With 3 friends, train to Eger, Hungary (famous wine area) then to Kosice, Slovakia. Then a long train ride back. Hotels are reserved.
Early April ( 11 days for Easter) – My parents and brother are visiting! A few days showing them Budapest, then a train to Munich, Germany (with a day trip to Salzburg, Austria). Train to Vienna, Austria, then to Bratislava, Slovakia (with a day trip to Brno, Czech Republic). Then down here to Kaposvár, and they will probably go to Pécs while I go back to work. (I wonder if I can ask for a fourth extra day off, to go with them). Hotels reserved, the long train ride is reserved, and I am compiled some to-do lists.
End of April (4-day weekend) – Train to Budapest, then a short flight to Sofia, Bulgaria. We will immediately take a bus to Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria. Flight purchased, hotel reserved.
End of May (3-day weekend) – Somewhere in Croatia (the closest bordering country to us).
Mid-June (heading to the USA) – Bus to Krakow, Poland for 4 days. Then fly to Berlin, Germany for 3 days.
Late-June to early August (USA) – Two weeks visiting my family and two weeks visiting Kellie’s family.
August (return to Europe) – Flight from Seattle to Glasgow, Scotland with a four-day layover in Iceland. The rest is not decided yet, but we must fly back to Budapest around August 25th.
As you can see there are lots of adventures heading our way, and I am excited about all of the photo opportunities I will have. … Of course, we will keep you updated!