David – 20 Years Later – Two Years of Family Travel

It was more than 20 years ago when my parents called my brother and I into the living room. At the time I was 10 or 11 and I vaguely remember being more than a little confused. We were going to go on an adventure. In my previous post, Reflecting On Two Years of Travelschooling – 20 Years Later, I shared my reflections on the trip.  But, part of what I think makes this story special is the opportunity to also contrast those recollections with those of my parents, Ed and Jo, alongside my brother, David.

As part of the prep for my post, I asked each of them to write down their own recollections and reflections on our trips. Focusing on the 1995 trip to Europe, but also elaborating where inclined about our 97 trip through the US. I asked them to write down their musings independently, without talking to each other and without reading my more in-depth piece. In this two-part post, I compile their thoughts and share them with you un-edited and in their own voice. Due to the extended nature of David’s response, I’ve made the decision to post it as a stand alone. View my mother and father’s responses here. You can also view David’s fantastic blog here.

 

David Berger

BROTHER – David Berger

I wasn’t sure what was happening. I didn’t quite understand. We’d been talking as a family about a great adventure, about exploring the world and seeing new countries, but I wasn’t sure what it meant. I knew I’d need my favorite toys. We talked a lot about what to pack, what to do. I remember having to pack up my room, we were renting out the house… someone else was going to come and live in our house in Sedona. Someone else would stay in my room. I understood that I would not see my friends for a while, but I didn’t think about it much. It was all too exciting.

I was excited, new clothes, new backpacks, thinking about what I needed to take with me. We got our packs, and I remember watching Jo and Ed packing their big Osprey Packs, Dad’s highlander carrying the most important gear, the kitchen, and the necessities for travel. Mom’s strategically stuffed with the extra toys I knew I’d need. We started walking around the block, getting used to the heft of our packs. I remember thinking mine was big, but I was strong, I could carry it. There was a lot of encouragement from my brother and parents. We were going to do great, it was heavy, but we’d get used to it! We only walked around the block a couple of times. We’d learn the error of our ways later on.

We talked about Europe, we talked about our first destination. I remember talking about the trip, about what it would be like, as we walked around our neighborhood. The smell of the red earth, the dry Sedona air, and juniper pinions. I wanted to go and play, the pack was heavy, but it wasn’t too bad. Ma and Pa took a lot of our weight in their own bags, so we weren’t overburdened… Then it was time. We packed up and we headed out to Denver and then to Europe!

In Their Words – 20 Years Later – Two Years of Family Travel

It was more than 20 years ago when my parents called my brother and I into the living room. At the time I was 10 or 11 and I vaguely remember being more than a little confused. We were going to go on an adventure. In my previous post, Reflecting On Two Years of Travelschooling – 20 Years Later, I shared my reflections on the trip.  But, part of what I think makes this story special is the opportunity to also contrast those recollections with those of my parents, Ed and Jo, alongside my brother, David.

As part of the prep for my post, I asked each of them to write down their own recollections and reflections on our trips. Focusing on the 1995 trip to Europe, but also elaborating where inclined about our 97 trip through the US. I asked them to write down their musings independently, without talking to each other and without reading my more in-depth piece. In this post, I compile their thoughts and share them with you un-edited and in their own voice. Due to the extended nature of David’s response, I’ve made the decision to post it as a stand alone. Jump to it here.

Jo Berger

MOM – Jo Berger

As I think back to the time 20 years ago when Ed and I were contemplating a year of travel schooling abroad with our two sons, I find I don’t have a lot of planning memories. One thing I know for certain is that it was absolutely the best child-rearing, family-bonding, life-altering decision we ever made.

I had the good fortune to be raised in a family that valued education, history, literature, art, music and travel. As Ed and I raised our own family, we continued to instill those values in our own children. I had traveled to Italy in college twice to study Italian and art history. Ed and I had traveled there together before having a family. Ed had also traveled extensively on a year-long, around the world adventure. Both of us were teachers. As a result, we didn’t have a lot of fear about traveling abroad in Europe without a fixed itinerary and teaching the boys from experiences in the real world. We were pretty confident we could handle most anything that came our way.

Once we knew we wanted to do it, we had to figure out how we could afford it. We planned for a year-long break from working. We had some small savings to cover our airfare, our 3-month Eurail passes, and our travel gear. We were able to find renters for our house and we used that income to help defray our travel costs. Food was basically food no matter where we were. Ed managed most of those details as he is the one in our relationship who keeps track of the finances.

Preparing and Packing for a Year of Travelschooling

In the late summer of 1995, Jo and Ed Berger commenced their final preparations for an 11 month backpacking trip which would take them and their two sons ages 8 and 11 (hey, that’s me!) through roughly a dozen European countries. Just one short year after returning, they’d once again find themselves packing for a very different type of trip. This time, the trip offered more space: A 32 foot 5th-wheel trailer and crew-cab pickup truck, but came with added challenges such as different academic needs for the boys and a high-energy border collie which shared the back seat with two teenage boys.

In this interview I sit down with Jo and ask her to reflect on what ultimately worked, what didn’t, what she wished she had prepared differently, and gain insights into the thoughts and doubts she had before leaving for the trip with the unusual insight to weigh in on how those panned out now that the boys have grown up and 20+ years have passed.

You can view my interview with Jo and Ed where we discuss the trip and they reflect on their fears learnings and key pieces of advice in the full interview here.

We Discovered The World Together – RTW Family Travel 20 Years Later

I was 11, tall for my age, lanky, a bit shy, and perpetually curious.  I wasn’t a huge fan of school and found the whole thing awkward but, I had my core group of friends and powerful interests.  I was introduced to travel before I could walk – carving long furrows in the golden sands of Puerto Penasco’s pristine beaches while joining Dad in our inflatable Sea Eagles for light boating.  That relationship to travel persisted as I grew up first in Colorado, and then moved at the age of six to Sedona, Arizona. We’d camp, we’d hike, and when not making trips to Puerto Penasco, Mexico we’d spend time in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.

It was a great childhood, and yet, I was far from outdoorsy. My passions and interests were equally dedicated to our computer. I spent as many afternoons and evenings as I could hogging the computer, and later as we got access to the web, the phone line as I battled through the nail- biting sounds of an old dial-up modem.  My folks were concerned that my social growth might be impacted or that I was rotting my brain – luckily, they’ve come around and in the interim made sure there was ample non-digital stimulation to keep things balanced.

So it was with some shock and disbelief that I received the news that we’d be renting our house and leaving everything behind for 11 months.  There wasn’t much warning. I didn’t really know what to expect, and at the age of 11, I’m not sure you even really properly understand what a trip 11 months long could possible entail. I vaguely remember thinking it was the end of the world and a grand new adventure.  At a certain level I think it felt like I was moving, more or less never to see my friends again.

Discover Your True Self – #Studyabroadbecause

From time to time I’m asked to do interviews about my travel or study abroad experiences.  In the past I’ve been bad about sharing those here on VirtualWayfarer.  These interviews surface a different side of my travel experience and offer me a chance to offer advice through a slightly different lens.  As a result, I’ll aim to be better about linking to the most content rich of these interviews when I do them. The latest of which was an invitation to weigh in on why people should study abroad while simultaneously sharing my own study abroad story. I’ve re-produced the first two questions in the Q&A here. Make sure to click over to Wandering Educators for the full interview.

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?

My story is fairly complex. As a kid, my parents homeschooled my brother and I in place of 5th and 7th grade. 5th grade was spent backpacking Europe. 7th grade was spent in a 32-foot 5th-wheel trailer as we took a year and drove across the United States. I did my first study abroad the summer of my Freshman year of College. I was incredibly nervous despite the childhood trips. It was a 6.5 week Honors study abroad program in the British Isles. I debated doing a full semester or year and really wanted to, but could never work up the nerve. The summer program ended up being a great experience. Despite loving it and really flexing my travel muscle, I still never quite worked up the courage over the remaining 3 years of my BA to do a full semester or year abroad.

When I graduated, I turned around and tossed caution to the wind. After 4 years of being worried about doing a solo semester abroad, I closed my eyes and jumped into a 3 month solo trip through Europe. I figured it was now or never. It was amazing. I returned to a full-time job in Mergers and Acquisitions, where I managed two 16-21 day trips a year for the next 3 years. Then, tired of Arizona and eager to return for a Master’s, I applied to a number of schools selected based purely on reputation, the appeal of their location, and if they had a communication program. My methodology? A list of the top 50 Universities in the world and an afternoon of research. I ended up with 8 Universities split between 4 PhD programs (trying to skip the MA) and 4 MA programs. Of these, 3 were in Europe. All of the PhDs rejected me and the MA decision came down to Georgetown in D.C. or the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Georgetown wanted $30k in tuition a year. University of Copenhagen offered me a complete tuition waiver…as well as a 2 year visa to live in and explore Europe. The opportunity to do what I hadn’t had the nerve to do previously was too enticing to resist (and that tuition waiver helped).

Despite having only spent 2 days in Denmark during a trip the year before, I relocated figuring I’d see what happened and give it a go. It was one of the best and most pivotal decisions of my life.

Major Updates & Announcements: A Trans-Atlantic Move to Denmark, Interviews and Other Exciting Updates

The Old Harbor - Copenhagen, Denmark

So far 2011 has been an incredibly exciting year.  The last several months have set the stage for wonderful new adventures and drastic lifestyle changes. These changes and accomplishments have been both personal and related to VirtualWayfarer and the Travel Resource Network.

Moving to Denmark

As some of you may be aware, I’m currently based out of Scottsdale, Arizona where I have worked as a Corporate 9-5er since January of 2008. When not on the road or blogging about it, I’ve served as Director of Research for a mid-market, boutique business sales, mergers & acquisitions company.  I’ve had a wonderful time working with my current team and have the utmost respect for them.  That said, I’m excited to announce that Tuesday July 12th will be my last day with the Company and July 19th will be my last day as an Arizona resident.

Just under a year ago I made the decision to start exploring a return to higher education in pursuit of a Masters degree.  Eight applications and several letters of acceptance later I found myself considering two choices:  Georgetown University in Washington, DC or the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.  Ultimately the University of Copenhagen offered me a tuition waiver and the opportunity to realize one of my dreams – to live (and study) abroad.

I’ve accepted a position as a two year Masters student in their Communication and Cognition program where I hope to focus on studying the impact of social media, the web, and virtual worlds on education, travel and social interactions. The program is taught in English and will serve as an exciting continuation of my undergraduate studies at Arizona State University in the department of Human Communication and as a graduate of Barrett, the Honors College.

About the University of Copenhagen (from Wikipedia):

The University of Copenhagen (Danish: Københavns Universitet) is the oldest and largest university and research institution in Denmark. Founded in 1479, it has more than 37,000 students, the majority of whom are female (59%), and more than 7,000 employees. The university has several campuses located in and around Copenhagen, with the oldest located in central Copenhagen. Most courses are taught in Danish; however, many courses are also offered in English and a few in German. The university has 2800 foreign students of which about half are from Nordic countries.

The university is a member of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), along with University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Yale University, The Australian National University, and UC Berkeley, amongst others. The Academic Ranking of World Universities, compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, sees Copenhagen as the leading university in Scandinavia and the 40th ranked university in the world in 2010.[1][2][3] Moreover, In 2010, according to University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP),[4] University of Copenhagen is the best university in Denmark and 47th university in the world. The university is generally understood to be one of Europe’s leading research institutions. The university has had 9 alumni become Nobel laureates and 1 Turing award recipient.

As someone who was born in Colorado and has lived most of his life in the United States the opportunity to attend an academic institution which pre-dates Columbus’ re-discovery of the Americas is a pretty exciting prospect.  As an avid traveler, the opportunity to return to student life while re-locating to another country is positively exhilarating. It is my hope that this shift will allow me a significant increase in flexibility and travel opportunities.  Over the past several years I’ve managed to do a lot of traveling.  Still, the lion’s share of that travel was confined to two 18-20 day trips a year where I leveraged weekends, holidays, and unpaid time off to stretch my two weeks of paid vacation to the max. On a student’s schedule and based next to one of Europe’s most modern and central airports, it is my hope that I will have easy (and cheap!) train, plane and ferry access to all of Europe.

What does this mean for VirtualWayfarer? Only good things! It means I’ll be traveling more, writing more, and that in addition to my standard travel advice and travelogue-themed content you can expect additional articles about living, studying, moving, and work internationally!  It also means that I hope to ramp up the time I have available to dedicate to VirtualWayfarer and the Travel Resource Network. That should translate into more posts, more photos, and more advice!  As always, know that I love your questions and am happy to respond to them either by e-mail, twitter, or in a comment here on the blog.  But that’s not the end of the good news!

VirtualWayfarer in the News

The past month has been a very exciting one for VirtualWayfarer and the good news and exciting opportunities are continuing to roll in so expect continued updates and developments.

On the Airwaves

I was recently approached by Portland-based Radio Station KPAM’s Azumano Travel show to do an interview.  The interview was my first radio interview and featured discussion about Iguazu Falls, Argentina and solo travel.  You can listen to the 6 minute interview:  Alex Berger Radio Interview on Solo Travel, Iguazu Falls and Argentina.  The team at the Azumano Travel Show were professional and a pleasure to work with.  I look forward to doing future radio pieces as the opportunity permits.

Becoming A Top Travel Influencer

While I’ve been a vocal voice in the travel social media scene for a long time, I’ve only recently broken into the top rankings.  I’m excited to announce that I’m currently fluctuating between #14 and #20 on the Top 50 list of independent travel influencers in social media.  A rank which is connected to a recent increase in my Klout score which is now fluctuating between 69 and 71.   Klout is the leading social media metric company offering insights into social media engagement, activity and influence.

I’ve also taken steps to actively correct the incredibly inaccurate scores for VirtualWayfarer which traffic ranking sites Compete and Alexa had on file for this website.  This should result in increased visibility for the site and provide the opportunity to break into several other top lists.

Q&A’s

I was recently interviewed by CheapFlights as part of their Waiting to Board Q&A.  You can see the interview here.  I’ve also been approached by several other groups interested in Q&As which should be published sometime over the next few weeks.  I’ll let you know as they go live!

Website Changes and Updates

In addition to working on improving the accuracy of my Alexa and Compete scores I’ve also made a number of important changes to the website.  You may have noticed that there is a new link on the website’s main navigation.  I’ve added a “Press, PR & Advertising” page to the site to make it easier for interested parties to contact me.  I’ve also updated and re-worked the “Alex Berger” AKA ‘About Me’ page with more in-depth information about who I am and what I’m up to.

You may also have noticed the addition of a new free resource to the sidebar. In response to some of the travel-centered e-mail slideshows I’ve received over the last few years I decided to make my own and offer it to my readers for free.   If you enjoy my photography I invite you to view, or download and save, the powerpoint-based travel photo slideshow. If you would like to save it for later, just right click over the link and select either save as or save link as. The slideshow is designed for e-mail and I hope you’ll enjoy it and then choose to forward it on to your friends and family.

I’ve also added a social media bar to the right hand screen, and a visually appealing related posts element which now displays 5 similar posts under each blog to make it easier for you to discover old topics.  You’ll  find several new categories on the sidebar which will sort older posts by region (eg: Europe, South America, Scandinavia etc.).

I am also in the midst of populating content for my new Travel Resource Network website: AirfareBasics.com which is coming soon. Keep an eye on it and stay tuned!

Comments? Suggestions? Questions?  I value your feedback! As always, thank you for reading and making this site and the rest of my network of sites what they are.

VirtualWayfarer and Alex Berger In The News

Tobacco Caye, Belize

Howdy all.  Three exciting updates to share with you all.  So far September has been a great month and included several exciting events!

The first of which is that the above photo which I shot in Belize back in December is today’s featured travel photo on BootsnAll Today via WhyGo.com.  The photo is one of several shots I’ve taken that have been featured as the photo of the day over the last 6 months or so.

Second, if you’re a regular reader of MSNBC’s Travel Tips section you may have noted a familiar name. I was quoted in last Friday’s article by Christopher Elliott of Elliott.org, “Falling Into A Vacation Deal: Autumn is a perfect time to get away – and save money in the process“.   The entire article is well worth a read, however, I’ve included the following excerpt for your immediate review:

Speaking of dollars, off-season getaways can be considerably cheaper.

Where to go? For video blogger Alex Berger, it’s Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Two weeks’ vacation costs him between $2,000 and $3,000, including airfare. “Traveling during the off-season can be a huge money-saver,” he said. “Off season offers a significantly cheaper option for the budget-conscious. Less hassle and increased room availability, most of the time. Greater access to locals. Better insights into local culture and increased camaraderie among travelers.”

Lastly, as those of you familiar with Oktoberfest are well aware, it’s not only one heck of a party, but a party which actually starts in September! I had the pleasure of spending several days in Munich back in 2007 as part of my 3 month adventure across Europe and weighed in with advice in a recent Savings.com article, “Oktoberfest 2010: A Holiday Worth Saving For“.  My advice and suggestions are scattered throughout the article so you’ll have to click on over to see what I had to say.

Eager for more original content?  Stay tuned.  I’ve got several great blogs in the works which will cover the Norwegian Fjords outside of Bergen and the ancient port city of Copenhagen.

Interested in picking my brain?  Feel free to reach out to me via twitter or by e-mail alex [@] virtualwayfarer.com.

Autumn is a perfect time to get away – and save money in the process