Tonight I’m thinking about the trip I took to Europe two years ago in November. (Patience, patience! We’ll get to the tip about winning free nights at a Hilton soon. Let’s just stroll down memory lane for a while first, shall we?)
It was one of those improbable trips. Here’s why. My daughter Kiah and I had traveled to Italy, Switzerland and southern France in 2007 after she graduated from college. It was a trip-in-a-lifetime. We stayed in hostels and bed ‘n breakfasts and tiny hotel rooms. We rode trains from Rome to Venice, up through the Alps to Switzerland, stayed with old friends (with whom I’d lived as an exchange student through the Experiment in International Living in the summer of 1975), down to Nice, France, over to Florence and back to Rome. It was an exquisite trip. Click here to see some photos of that adventure. It was also an expensive trip…and there seemed no abundance of funds to re-visit Europe any time in the next decade.
Fast forward a year and a half later. Kiah is volunteering through an organization called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), working on an organic farm in Belgium and a quinta (a country villa) in Portugal. After a six-week stint of manual labor, she opts to travel back to Belgium through Spain and France.
That’s where I come in. We’re Skyping away about her fantastic experiences when suddenly–one of us–comes up with the brilliant idea that I should join her.
What? But we don’t have enough money for another European adventure. But…it sounds too enticing to miss…maybe I could figure a way?
No sooner had the idea birthed when many amazing synchronicities came together. I won three free night stays at the Hilton Hotels anywhere around the world. No kidding. (See, I told you we’d get around to the free nights at a Hilton!) I won them playing a game over at the Northwest Airlines website where you drove little baggage carts around like a Pac-man game. I don’t remember the specifics, except it was a little frenetic and I was a little addicted.
I had also made friends on the original Gaia.com (a social community no longer on-line in its original form)–one from Belgium and the other from the Netherlands. Kiah had already visited Victoria during her Belgium farm stay–and liked her very much. I told Victoria about the possible upcoming trip and she immediately invited us to stay with her in Antwerp. Lucienne in the Netherlands couldn’t wait for our arrival.
We also planned to visit Suzanne, my Swiss “sister” from the 1975 summer stay, who now lived at the tip of the Netherlands in Den Helder.
The trip fit together so effortlessly it felt like it was “meant to be”. It proved to be probably one of the most inexpensive European trips one could ever take.
Ahhh…memories! It has felt so good to re-visit that lovely trip this evening.
The answer to the headline “How to win free nights at a Hilton anywhere in the world” is this: play all the game contests the airline and hotel chains offer. Play them fanatically, every day. Drive around miniature baggage carts until you know that you’re–perhaps–a little bit strange.
You, too, may win three free nights in a Hilton hotel!
(Unfortunately, I’ve never run across one of these contests since. Darn it. Otherwise you can be sure I would be obsessively playing!)
P.S. Most of these photo credits go to Kiah. I didn’t even know how to use a camera way back two years ago. 🙂