Meet Martha Merrill, from New Hampshire, USA, who has with a severe case of GTD (Gotta Travel Disease). Martha booked her first tour with Expat Explore in 2015. Since then she has joined us for five more, and already has two 2018 tours booked! We chatted to Martha about her travels and why she’s so passionate about exploring.
I had always wanted to see England, Scotland and Wales. When my brother suggested that we take a week-long vacation together somewhere, I immediately did an Internet search. This is when I found that Expat Explore offered just what I wanted at a very affordable price. So good, in fact, I was afraid that it was too good to be true! Because I like to be thorough, I went back to my friend Google and looked for reviews on Expat Explore. I could only find positive things. I took the plunge and I’ve never looked back. There is an expression that travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. It’s so true. Every experience, destination and person that I meet changes me… and before I knew it, travel taught me a few things about myself.
Travel taught me that I like to travel solo
My second trip with Expat was my first time going solo. I met several people on my first trip who were traveling without a companion and, after talking with a few of them, I decided to give it a try. Turns out, I love travelling by myself! I have company when I want it and independence to do what I want to do. When I landed in London by myself the first time I was petrified and wondered why in the world I thought this was a good idea. The next morning when I met up with the group my fears went away and I had a blast.
I’ve travelled all over Paris, Barcelona, Nice and Italy on their metro systems. It was amazing to have so much fun seeing everything I wanted to see! I am at a point in my life where I have the time and financial ability to travel if I stick to a budget. My friends and family who I have always travelled with are at different points in their lives, with family or financial obligations that prevent them from joining me. They are my best cheerleaders and follow my Facebook photos religiously.
If there are potential travellers out there who are scared to set out on their own, here’s a bit of advice. Remember, the other passengers are only strangers until the first day. Friends from home are often amazed when I remark that I travel alone. I normally tell them that I’m travelling with 50 friends I just haven’t met yet. I love that the people on tour are from different countries all over the world. There are a few people from each trip that I stay in touch with. We follow each other’s lives and travels mostly through Facebook. I also feel like most of my tour leaders have become friends for life!
Travel taught me to look beyond my personal horizons
I have lived my entire life in the USA, not far from where the pilgrims landed in 1620. It is so amazing to visit a place like the Colosseum in Rome that was constructed over 1500 years before America was ‘discovered’! And to think the construction of Stonehenge started more than 3000 years before that! What I have always considered historical in the USA is very modern in comparison to so much of Europe. The more of the world I see, the more I want to discover the rest of it. So far, I have visited 19 countries with Expat Explore. My bucket list has been shortened considerably in the past few years but still includes the Scandinavian region, Russia, Poland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Greece and more of Ireland.
I’ve learnt that travel does not have to be expensive
The value of each tour I did with Expat Explore has proven to me that travel can be affordable and comfortable. The tour leaders are truly amazing and the coach drivers safe, friendly and reliable. Best of all, I’ve learned that I can afford to travel! Because Expat includes breakfast every day and dinner almost half of the days, this only leaves a few meals to purchase. Occasionally I will eat in a restaurant but more often I will grab something from a street vendor or a local grocery store. I track airfares waiting to pounce when the fares drop. I also really appreciate the 10% return traveller discount that Expat offers.
Martha’s Top Tips: How to make the most of a free day on tour & eat on the cheap
I want to see as many places in the world that I can, so I don’t mind a fast-paced trip. I can relax and sleep late at home! I like to try local foods and discover as much as I can of local cultures in the places that I visit. This is why I make the best of our free days on tour. I plan my free days through a combination of tour leader suggestions, pre-planning at home and internet searches of “What to do with 24 hours in XYZ?”. It has always worked! Navigating a new city by yourself can be a little daunting, but don’t be intimidated. In each city the tour leaders did a fantastic job of explaining the local metro systems to us. Give me a map and quick tutorial and I’m good to go. I have found that if you do have a question, you can always find someone who speaks English and is willing to help. Personally, I always have the backup plan of the iTranslate and Maps apps on my phone in a pinch.
As for eating on the cheap – street food is the way to go! I think that you can experience local cuisine by trying food from a street vendor. In Nuremberg, I had German sausage from a street vendor. In Budapest, I went for a bread cone full of little sausages covered in cheese – it was amazing! If you are in Rome and see zeppole, don’t keep walking! There is more than gelato in Italy to satisfy your sweet tooth.
In summary, people of the world, if you haven’t travelled yet – what are you waiting for? There is a whole world waiting to be explored, and it’s all within your reach!
If you also want to get out and explore destinations all over Europe with us, the time is perfect! You can get in on the best ever, once-a-year promotion with Expat Explore. Get private access to view our thrilling 2018 tours and save up to 50% when you book on 24 July! Click here to find out more!