Discover Europe any way you want

A new Okanagan tour company is offering baby boomers a chance to rediscover Europe in a whole new way.

A new Okanagan tour company is offering baby boomers a chance to rediscover Europe in a whole new way.

The company, called Europe Lives, recognizes that travel is nothing new to an independent generation that came of age roaming Europe as college students, toting backpacks and Eurail passes. Now, with more time on their hands, many have a desire to once again see the continent up close again, but not on a stuffy tour bus.

Europe Lives, a Vernon-based business with an office in The Netherlands. It has  crafting a new series of on-the-ground tours designed for independent boomers, and other travellers, who want to connect with real people and authentic places in a meaningful way.

But instead of hunkering down in a sleeping bag at a dingy youth hostel (the go-to accommodation of a student travelling on a shoestring budget), Europe Lives offers more upscale lodging.

“Our target customers already know how to get to the continent,” said Dirk Terpstra, Europe Lives co-founder, originally from Holland. “What our company does is provide an organizational framework so they can focus on what they really want – experiencing Europe face-to-face in a way that’s extremely personal. You can think of us as the Zipcar of European vacations.”

Just as Zipcar customers find a vehicle waiting for them, Europe Lives takes care of all the trip’s details. The traveler simply shows up and is ready to hit the road, either by car, bike, or on foot.

“Our tours are anything but boring,” said Terpstra. “We get you off a bus and on the ground to do your own thing. Travelers can be confident that Europe Lives has taken care of all the details – the reservations, bookings and ticketing.

“You’re free to engage, to roam and experience the continent without the hassle.”

Each one of Europe Lives self-guided tours is crafted to maximize encounters with local culture. The company encourages its customers to shop and eat in local markets, advises them on undiscovered restaurants and directs them along roadways that maximize the opportunity to engage with locals and discover a unique region.

Europe Lives offers travel experiences in 10 European countries, including a walking trip along the Chianti vineyards in Tuscany; a combined driving-walking trip to the Pilgrims Trail to Santiago de Compostela; a bicycle trip from Amsterdam into the Dutch countryside; and an eight-day, self-guided trip to the Spanish province of Asturias on the country’s northern coast to explore the Picos de Europa.

Vernon’s Bryan Schenker, who used Europe Lives to bike with a small group along the Dutch canals, appreciates the company’s go-your-own-way approach.

“We’ve all been overseas before, but what Dirk’s team did was make this adventure easy,” said Schenker. “Our bikes were waiting for us when we got there. The itinerary was loose, but organized.”

Reservations are now being accepted for Europe Lives’ next series of trips beginning in early spring.

Europe Lives Travel Ltd. is located in Vernon. Contact the office by phone at 866-800-6600, email info@europelives.com or visit the website, europelives.com.

Graeme Corbett, contributor