Subject: 1st time solo traveler in Europe
Gym shoes,some unmarked t shirt: That's a good way to go, particularly if you are carrying it all.

The ugly American refers to behavior not dress. Some Europeans dress more formally than Americans but so what? You are never going to pass for a Frenchman or Croatian no matter WHAT you wear. And you know what? You will NEVER see these people again.

I own neither - "collar shirts and Rockport walking shoes" and have never failed to have a good time in Europe. I fail to see how I could have had a better time wearing clothes that I wasn't comfortable in.

> Is it possible to just wing it in Europe? In my opinion, that's the best way to do it. Some trips, my wife & I don't even know what countries we are going to until we get there.

If you don't do it now when will you? Take a deep breath &remind yourself that this is not that big of a deal. It's a vacation. You don't have to see everything on your first trip and every day doesn't have to be perfect. If you end up in a lousy hotel for the night, roll with the punch &move somewhere better tomorrow.

Don't worry too much about the money. You can get local cash at ATMs all over Europe (except, maybe, Croatia - perhaps somebody else can help out here). Don't carry too much at any one time. Don't worry too much about the exchange rates either - just get a general idea for each country you are visiting. It's good enough that there are about 7 Francs to the dollar - that will tell you if something is a rip-off or a bargain. E.G. In France you can get a nice hotel room in a 2-star hotel for about 200-250 FF a night. That's about $30 in round numbers and it's a good deal :)

It's similar, with the languages. You are never going to pass as a native speaker no matter how hard you study. Get a simple phrase book for each country &do your best. People will appreciate the effort and will suddenly discover that they speak much better English than you speak their language. If nothing else, learn the words for please and thank you - those two (plus a dumb look!) will take you a surprisingly long way.

As to safety, it's 99% common sense. If you wouldn't go there in Chicago or New York, don't go there in Paris either.

Lastly, keep a diary. We will expect a travelogue when you get back :) Terry & Kathie Richards.