It’s official!  Tim and I both had our time off approved this week, so I can finally say it:
We’re going to Europe!  For three whole weeks!  In September!
eiffel tower

Eiffel Tower by Kimberly Vardeman on Flickr. CC

Can you tell I’m excited?  This is the perfect opportunity for me to start scratching some countries off my list.  We’ll see at least three – Germany, France, and Italy – but we’re considering visiting Switzerland, Brussels, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and maaaaybe scheduling a stopover trip in Iceland.
We’ll be travelling with my mom and my aunt, whose husband is currently stationed in Germany.  Auntie’s done a lot of travelling, so she’ll be acting as our guide most of the time, though Tim and I may set off on our own to explore his family’s ancestral homeland in the Netherlands.  We’ll have fewer logistics to plan as we travel as a group, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to research the hell out of everything.  That’s the fun part!
So I’ll be looking at blogs, reading up on TripAdvisor, and picking the brains of traveler friends like Jill from St. Germainia.  I’m hoping to pick 3 or 4 things in each country that I absolutely have to see/do/experience, then go with the flow on everything else.
But there’s more to prep than research!  I need to get into shape.  Great shape.  Walk-several-miles-every-day kind of shape.  The fact is, I really let things go after we got back from Hawaii.  I’m just not great at staying motivated without a clearly defined goal and end date.  I’ve tried the general goal of ‘building healthy habits’ but it just doesn’t work for me.  I need a timeframe, a task, a finish line, and achievements along the way.
Now I have one!  Introducing my new fitness mini-goal: Operation Eurobody.  I want to slim down, tone up, and build enough endurance that I could reasonably walk with a backpack on every day for three weeks (which is really just a warm up to the Camino, when I will travel with a huge pack and walk for 30+ days).  I’ll have a little more than 6 months to get there, which seems like plenty of time if I stay focused.
I’m going to kick it off with a shopping spree – I need new gym clothes!  All the ones I have are from a time when I was either much, much larger or a size or two smaller.  I feel crappy when I go to the gym in ill-fitting workout gear – it’s just plain uncomfortable.  I rarely buy clothes, so this a real treat for me.  Next, I’m going to start a couch-to-5k program to increase my endurance.  If I can run three miles in one stretch, I can walk at least that far.  If I manage to conquer that goal in 9 weeks (as the C25K promises), then I might push it to the next level and go for a 10k. We’ll see!  I used to really enjoy running, so I’m hoping it comes back naturally.
The third step is the “diet” piece.  This is, by far, the hardest part for me.  I have to balance what I know about nutrition (whole grains, lean meats, lots of veggies and fruits) with what I know about myself (I’m not good at sticking with meals that need a lot of prep, I need dairy to be happy, and veggies/fruits upset my stomach since I had my gallbladder removed).  I think most people are caught in the same trap.  Considering my current schedule, the only thing I can commit to now is bringing lunch instead of eating out and using a calorie counting app to track what I eat.  Later, I’ll try to tackle eating smaller meals more often and making healthier versions of the foods I just can’t bear to give up.  I will not stop eating any category of food – I feel like cutting out dairy or carbs or meat or even sweets is just a recipe for deprivation and eventual failure – but I will try to widen my food ‘comfort zone’ by learning how to cook things like quinoa.
It makes me feel kind of ridiculous setting these kinds of goals just to be healthier, but it does help me in the long run.  I hope that it will one day be my default setting, but for now, I have to be really conscious of it.  My last fitness mini-goal was pretty successful, so I’m looking forward to sharing my strategies and results for this one, as well as all the research/fun stuff I’ll be doing as a lead up to Europe 2014.  To be continued!