Travel Together in Europe: An American Serviceman and Wife

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After graduating from college, many of John Carroll’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brothers worked in cubicles. John’s career path was slightly different. He flew F-18s. After 20 years of military service as a Naval Aviator, including flying combat missions in Iraq, John retired from the Marines and secured work in the private sector. But before beginning the next phase of his career, he wanted to travel together with his wife Brooke to Italy and Spain.

Helpful Travel Apps

As a military pilot, Carroll was used to cutting edge technology guiding his travel experiences. While in Europe, he made use of multiple travel apps to get the most from his vacation.

“We used TripAdvisor City Guides with our iPhone. Verizon had a great International Data plan for less than $30. It worked out perfectly for our 9-day trip and we did not go over the data usage allotted.”

TripAdvisor is just as useful offline. Users can download city guides and maps which can be saved to their tablet or phone and used without a data connection.

“That was great because internet data/phone plans can be expensive and is not easily accessed in (some) areas of Italy and Spain. Because we had an international phone plan (VodaPhone) we were able to use the map feature and it always told us our location. We were never lost because the iPhone always showed us where we were and the directions always showed us which way to go.”

When learning to travel together, John and Brooke took advantage of free Wi-Fi offered at most restaurants and hotels to download any information they needed while enjoying a meal or a cup of coffee. They also made good use of other free technologies like Skype, which allowed them to contact hotels to make or change reservations. Viber allowed them to call or text friends for free.

iTranslate helped with our language barriers. Brooke speaks some Spanish, but neither of us speaks Italian. It was also fun learning and trying to speak the local language.”

Experiences Are the Most Memorable

real couple standing before sunset

Technology can provide a boost, but it’s the sights and experiences that really make the trip memorable when you travel together. John and Brooke enjoyed Spain, but their time in Italy was what stuck with them the most.

“In Venice, we attended a Catholic service in Saint Mark’s square performed by the Bishop. It was truly beautiful. The choir was angelic. My wife was overcome with emotion and cried. We (also) took a gondola ride on the Grand Canal at sunset. We fell in love with the people… You can get lost in the streets in Venice, but never really feel lost. A city built on water is magical – it is so different from what we are used too in America, which gave it that unique feeling of being on a Disney movie set.”

“We sat and had a bottle of Italian wine while watching the sunset in Florence. We took a guided tour of the Statue of David. I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much without a tour guide. It took (Michelangelo) three years to hammer and chisel it out (1501-1504) – see…I paid attention. Pretty cool, even for an old Marine…”

real couple in front of leaning tower of piza

“We also loved our short time in Pisa. We had lunch at Ristorante Antonietta while staring at the Leaning Tower. It was breathtaking. It was good food and not expensive – it received a lot of bad reviews on TripAdvisor so we started with just a glass of wine and bread. The wine and service were great so we ordered food and had no issues. ”

Just the Two of Them

When you travel together, the transition to civilian life can be tough for some, but spending nine days in Europe with your wife is a good way to begin that adjustment.

“As a pilot, I was flying my own plane or packed in like sardines on a contract air flight with 200 other Marines. On a commercial airliner, we had free movies, food, and I was sitting with my wife. I was seeing a part of the world I wanted to see rather than being told where I had to go.”

John and Brooke have two young daughters, but chose to make this trip by themselves. It was the celebration of the end of one chapter in their lives and the beginning of another.

“This was our first long trip without our children. They were safe and happy with their grandparents. We would love to bring our children to Europe someday but not on our first trip. We were able to make use of every minute.”

Even though their daughters were at home, they were never out of touch.

“Skype also allowed us to video chat with our kids and they loved talking and seeing us.”

Do you have stories of a favorite trip abroad. Share them in the comments below or on our Facebook Page.


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