This season, I checked a dream trip off my bucket list. A close friend and I took a slow Viking Riverboat voyage along the Rhine River from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands and visited the remarkable Christmas markets!

 My now dear friend Susan was only an acquaintance in high school but we reconnected after 40 years and we like to say, that “one martini later” we became great friends and travel buddies. A unique trip to celebrate both turning the BIG 65 was exactly what we set out to do.

Celebrating on the ship

 An authentic, open-hearted friendship shapes not only the relationship on the trip but also the landscape and destiny of the experience itself. The days and nights on the ship lived through the lens of our desire and commitment to relax, have fun, and be present in the moments shared floating down the Rhine, unencumbered by all the responsibilities left at work and home.

We embraced our rebellious impulses to venture off into the unknown at each stop and relished the beauty of not knowing where we would be and what would we find.

Chilly Christmas market fun

Somehow, we were lucky enough to have discovered our fountain of youth- adventurous travel shared with a compatible joy seeker.

As we embarked on this journey, it seems we have arrived at the age where we have come to terms with our past and framed a healthy attitude toward the future. Less worried and more light-hearted, a perfect spot to land at 65 years young. Now we are free to make new memories to recount and laugh about for years to come.

Our river cruise let us experience an array of timeless wonders of European winter traditions. Holiday fare only available during these seasonal markets were a delightful mix of handcrafted goods and edible delights.

Shopping in Cologne

We stopped at tiny German towns and tasted local fare at every stop. Sausages, hot mulled cider in traditional mugs, cookies, chocolate and specialty foods awaited us at every turn. We wine tasted in the famous French Alsace region and learned to make Stroopwafels in Gouda, Holland. We shopped for holiday gifts that included children’s wooden toys and colorful music boxes, glittery ornaments and soft handknit sweaters plus all the delicious homemade edible treats.

Views from the deck as we cruised down the Rhine

Even those days when we stayed on board, bundled up on the deck watching castle after castle go by was truly magical. We met other interesting travelers and shared stories of adventures abroad. We laughed and listened and celebrated the here and now.

This journey down the Rhine seemed to mirror the journey of a great friendship with all the twists and turns and unexpected surprises of a life well lived.

Do you have a dream trip on your bucket list? Start planning it now! I’m already cooking up my next adventure- stay tuned.

Want more travel stories like this one? Check out drsharonufberg