Intrepid Travels With The Samuels Family
We are in the final leg of week-long trip to Bosnia, Croatia and Montenegro. We decided on these countries after meeting a backpacker at a coffee shop in Turkey last year. When he realized we were also Jewish travelers he “bageled” us and we schmoozed. He had been on a 2 year travel and he said the Balkans were his highlight – cheap, friendly, beautiful, historically rich and relatively easy to travel.
I immediately started researching and I could tick off my criteria: Inexpensive, safe to self guide and drive, interesting history and culture and serviced by discount airlines. We love traveling and travel a lot but with 3 kids and the cost of Jewish education, we can only travel budget style.
Our trip started with flying on Pegasus airlines a discount Turkish company. Yes tickets were amazingly inexpensive and incredibly inconvenient. Our return flight stops on Istanbul with a 5 hour layover. But 5 budget flights we can do so we booked it. Cars are pretty expensive so we hire a small car. With strollers and our kosher food bag stuffed with noodles, crackers and cheese the kids have NO leg room. While I travel budget style my one princess requirement is my pillow which has seen over 70 countries!!!
There are no hotels with bell hops to take the luggage. We stay in private apartments registered with tourist offices. Most are very nice and a few have been a little scary. The last one was so small, so old and poor Gavin schlepped bags up four flights of stairs and that was after parking in an alley way far away. I have done my share lugging huge bags all over. Given some of the “interesting” places we stayed in I have not felt comfortable leaving valuables so every day we have schlepped laptops, iPads and more with us all day. Sometimes, at the end of a long day, even I am not sure I can do this style of travel anymore.
On Shabbat we walked past gorgeous beach front hotels. Temira quipped “when I am older I want to be rich and stay here instead” The other challenge is the food. By day five it’s hard not having hot meals, sorely lacking protein and cannot eat more tuna. So we eat lots of junk food and dream about the first meal when we get home. The kids always remember they are Orthodox Jews no matter how far we have traveled
Yesterday I had a very painful infection in the nail bed of my finger. As we were off the beaten track Gavin tried to use his emergency room experience to open it with a sterilized safety pin and he could not do it – it needed a scalpel. The pain was incredible so we found a “Medical Center” at Tourist info. This rural medical clinic looked like a communist relic. The “Doctor” (I did not see any Harvard MD diploma on the wall) cut, squeezed and dressed my finger with NO gloves, no local anesthetic. She called Caily with a good old fashioned term for Down syndrome – “Mongol”, she then gave her a half eaten roll of candy and we were out of there – 4 minutes and $30 all told. It was a little rough, no bed side manner and I was glad I was on antibiotics given the hygiene level but what a story.
Someone asked if my kids enjoy this kind of travel or do if they get schlepped along unwillingly. I can only assume that they do as my son wants to do Vietnam next and my daughter India. The eagerly google places on our itinerary to find the history and identify the most interesting places to see – and not mini-golf and water parks – forts, citadels and other historical locations. They are already enthusiastically discussing the next trip. Even with my complaining about some of the accommodation, I know that the great travel memories I have are about wonderful places and family time and I cannot remember where I slept in Panama 8 years ago. I guess it’s a little like child birth – who thinks about the labor pain when they are hanging out with the kids?
Originally published: August 20, 2013
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