Stories from teen son’s solo European adventure

RAZZLE-DAZA - Pat-P Daza - The Philippine Star
Stories from teen son�s solo European adventure
My teen son Paolo with his best cousin Moses Aviles in Amsterdam.

What do teens spend their money on these days? The latest gadget? Rubber shoes? My son Paolo, who turned 18 last November, surprised all of us when he told the family recently that he would like to travel to Europe alone right after the holidays.

Paolo is a very strong-willed and persistent boy who will not stop until he gets what he wants. And so, when he told us about his travel plans, I replied that he would have to pay for the trip since I had just taken him and his sister Gabbie to Europe last summer.

Paolo agreed, saying that he had saved enough money and had received lots of cash last Christmas. His only request was that I give him some additional pocket money to augment his savings.

For several days he was on his laptop searching for the cheapest flights available. Lo and behold, he found a ticket for a flight to Amsterdam via Xiamen Airways for P40,000! Passengers also got a free transit visa and a free overnight stay at an airport hotel with complimentary breakfast.

Home cooked fondue dinner prepared by my cousin Milen Aviles for her husband Medel, kids Martin and Moses, and house guest Paolo.

The Xiamen Airways flight left Manila at 9 p.m. on Jan. 13 and arrived in Xiamen at 11:15 p.m. The free overnight stay is due to the fact that the layover is 13 hours. Best of all, Paolo had the hotel room all to himself!

The only downside to this leg of the trip was that Paolo didn’t have the local currency (yuan) on hand since the currency exchange service at the airport was closed by the time the plane landed. When he got to the hotel, they asked for a 50-yuan deposit and wouldn’t accept a credit card… only cash in local currency.

Paolo enjoying the night life in Amsterdam.

Fortunately, Paolo had made friends earlier with a Pinoy guy who works in the IT field and was en route to Sweden. This gentleman was kind and generous enough to lend Paolo the deposit and even gave him some loose change. It’s when you hear stories like this that you truly appreciate the kindness and bayanihan spirit of Pinoys.

The next morning, Paolo and the other passengers had breakfast together and then headed off to the airport for their 12:35 p.m. flight to Amsterdam. Paolo gushed as he described how new and clean the plane was, with its extensive entertainment selection and delicious food.

When he got to Amsterdam, my cousin Milen Aviles (who is based in Amsterdam) was waiting for him together with her son Moses, whom Paolo considers his best/favorite cousin. The two boys are just a few months apart in age and are kindred spirits. Milen and I call them the “dynamic duo” because since they were kids, they’d always have something up their sleeves when they were together, finding ways to entertain themselves and enjoy each other’s company.

As soon as they got home, Moses helped Paolo bundle up (the temperature was a chilly -1 degrees) before they went out and had a nice steak dinner care of Milen. After dinner, they walked the streets of Amsterdam. Not surprisingly, Paolo and Moses particularly “enjoyed” the red-light district!

The following morning, Paolo woke up and it was snowing. Milen had to take him to the airport at 7 a.m. for his 8 a.m. flight to Oslo, Norway. According to Paolo, this is considered a local flight, so they only require travelers to be at the airport one hour before departure. (But the flight to Oslo had a 90-minute stopover in Hamburg.) When he got to Oslo, Paolo immediately looked for a restaurant that served fresh grilled Norwegian salmon. He was surprised at how much his meal cost: 40 euros for the salmon, three euros for a bottle of water and seven euros for a magnet!

According to him, Oslo is the second most expensive city in the world next to Geneva. But he said the trip was worth it because he enjoyed walking around the city and taking in the sights. He only had a few hours to explore the city before heading back to the airport to catch his 5 p.m. flight to Amsterdam. When he got back from his day trip to Oslo, he enjoyed the fondue dinner Milen had prepared.

What an action-packed two-day adventure (so far) for an 18-year-old! Paolo has 16 more days to go, during which he will visit 12 more cities, including Zagreb, Budapest and some Baltic countries. Just hearing his itinerary is making me dizzy. Whew! 

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