An Engineer and an Artist Walked into a Bar…

Well, we haven’t walked into the bar yet. Once we get to Europe, on the other hand… here’s another bar joke to hold you over until those tales!

Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender asks, ‘Can I get you a drink?’ Descartes replies, ‘I think not’…and disappears.

One of the biggest challenges in planning our Mother/Daughter trip to Europe has been communication.

  • I am an engineer. I am a practical thinker, a detailed planner, an everything-must-fit-in-the-box type of person.
  • My mom is an artist. She is a free thinker, a big-picture daydreamer, a head-in-the-clouds type of person.

I first noticed the difficulty in communication when I began to plan our trip late last year. After I decided to pursue the idea of a Mother/Daughter trip, we had a lot to decide:

  • when to go (this was the easiest part since my mom is a teacher and has summers off),
  • where to go (this was hard!),
  • where to stay (soooo many options),
  • and how to communicate the plan/itinerary to her so she stays in the loop.

Where to go on a two week trip to Europe:

Paris Sunset from the Louvre window

Paris Sunset (Photo credit: Dimitry B)

The initial step was easy – my mom said she wanted to see Paris again, visit Venice for the first time, and visit Poland again if possible. Great! Those are all easy enough to incorporate into the schedule.

But every time I made a suggestion for an interim location, for example between the airport and Paris, my mom would say “Whatever you want to do!” As a logical thinker, I didn’t like this lack of preference. Eventually, I realized that my mom’s did have preferences – but only those three locations she mentioned previously. She didn’t care about the details of every city we will visit, she cared about the big picture of the trip of Paris, Venice, and Poland.

So to solve this communication issue, I made the plans based on my logical analysis of transportation options. If we fly into Germany, and want to get to Paris, why not make a stop in Amsterdam and Brussels on the way there? If Venice is so far out of the way, why not spend more time in the places that are high on my mom’s preference list (Paris and Poland in particular), and take a 2 hour flight instead of an 8+ hour train ride to/from Venice?

Problem solved: My mom voiced her preferences on the main destinations, and I logically fit in other cities as time allowed.

Where to stay on a two week trip to Europe:



At this part of the planning process, I was actually more apprehensive than I should have been. I was worried that my mom would want to stick with what she knew (hotels) and wouldn’t want to try less well-known options (Airbnb, in this case). So to get her opinion, I sent her long detailed emails with the pros and cons of various lodgings – hotels, airbnb places, hostels, etc. But like my mom tends to do, she looked at the pictures, said “These all look nice!”, and that was the end of it.

It drove me nuts that she would only look at the pictures in the emails I sent! She wouldn’t read most of the text, or click any of the links I provided! How was she supposed to make an informed decision!?!?

Then it hit me – she wasn’t going to make an informed decision. She trusted me and my analysis skills. She trusted that I wouldn’t put us in a sketchy part of town in roach-infested budget lodgings. She didn’t need to make an informed decision because I had already done all the research.

So I changed my tactics. Instead of asking her to pick from a carefully curated list, I picked a place and confirmed its availability, sent her an email filled with pictures, and said “It is $X per night, and here are pictures. Can I book this?”

She looked at the pictures, briefly looked the price, and said “OK!” It certainly saved me a lot of effort once I realized she wasn’t going to sift through a detailed email summarizing the options.

Problem solved: My mom didn’t want detailed comparisons of lodging options. She wanted something affordable, safe, and “nice looking”, and trusted me to find the best option.

How to communicate the itinerary:

When it comes to the basic information (where we will stay, what our flight confirmation numbers are, etc), I wanted to share this information with my mom, and my dad, who will be the emergency contact for this trip. So I went the ‘high-tech’ route and used Google Docs.

Since my mom is a visual person, I decided to make it a little more colorful (her eyes glaze over at the sight of a spreadsheet)….

Problem solved:


Her first observation of the spreadsheet? “Oooh I like the colors!”

Categories: Amsterdam, Engineering, Itinerary, Musings, Paris, Planning, Poland, Venice

Tags: , ,

8 replies

  1. OH and I have some of the same discussions. 😀

    I’m very tempted to stow away on this trip. Lovely itinerary, and some of my favourite places. Although I do have to admit to having been to Amsterdam last month on a work conference and never having left the ship (too busy working!). What a travel fail!

  2. Jen, it sounds like you planned the trip perfectly. For me, travel is all about learning. And who would have thought that the trip hasn’t even started, and already you’ve learned something about decision-making with your Mom. I also like your approach to visiting cities along or close to your route. We do this all the time. When we were in Croatia, I looked at the map and said, “Hey we’re only 75 miles from the border with Bosnia. It was a short bus trip over, and worked out great. ~James

    • Travel is definitely about learning. Whether it is learning about new cultures or new places, or learning about your travel companion or communication methods. There are many reasons travel is awesome 🙂 And I wish we could have fit in more nearby cities on our trip, but then we wouldn’t have had any time to spend in the main cities!

  3. I love your blog and am planning a trip to Amsterdam, Paris, and Italy with my daughter. Now that your trip is finished, would you be willing to send the places you stayed?
    we’re looking at Airbnb for the first time. Interested on where your next journey will take you.


  1. Trip Planning Timeline: Months in Advance « Wander One Day
  2. Trip Summary: Europe 2013 (Tons of Photos!) « Wander One Day

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