In the past few weeks, I have found myself daydreaming about Europe on several different occasions. It was getting to the point where I was actually trying to figure out why it was on my mind so much….and then I remembered – I get nostalgic for Europe EVERY April because my first trip to Europe was taken in April. And, to add to the nostalgia, this April marks 5 years since that first trip overseas.
If you’ll allow me this trip down memory lane, then I’ll tell you the whole story….
I took French class for three years in high school, even attempting to take the AP French test (which I did not pass, by the way). I then went on to college and continued to enroll in a French class. At the end of my first semester, I decided that the only real way I was going to learn French was by total immersion! I was going to study abroad in France. I had my essay written, my application filled out – all I needed now was to make one single phone call to the director for my phone interview….and I completely froze. I put it off for weeks. I thought for sure he would hear just how terrible my accent was, and not allow me to go. And wouldn’t you know it, before I could make that phone call – I met Adam. And anyone who knows my and Adam’s story knows it was a quick one. Three weeks in and I knew we were getting married. Three months later, he was proposing to me on a stage. My dad tried so hard to convince me to go to France anyway – go, and if Adam was the man I was supposed to marry, he would still be there when I got back.
I didn’t listen.
I let my dream of traveling in France and Europe go, for the dream of a real romance – my own love story. But I always knew I’d be a traveler at heart. I’m not sure my dad realized that marrying Adam would never change who I am inside – he would only make me better. Adam knew of my dreams to travel, and he supported me in them. So three months after I graduated from college, and eighteen months after marrying Adam, I hopped on a plane and met my dad in Italy. All I had with me was a backpack filled with two changes of clothes, my camera, and my passport – sufficient to cover my needs for 4 weeks of traveling throughout Europe. With my Dad and his wife, we toured: Rome, Vernazza, Milan, Bologna, San Giamano, Sienna, Florence – seeing sites like the Vatican and the Colloseum, the Cinque Terre, and the Last Supper painting. We met up with my brother in Germany and then hit up the Romantic Road, Rothenburg, and the Neuschwanstein Castle. We spent time in Prague, and then because my dad and I share an interest in WWII and its surrounding history, we took a sobering tour of Auschwitz in Poland.
While in Italy, I purchased a small journal and from the time we left Prague, I kept a very detailed journal throughout this trip, and rereading what I wrote has me laughing, crying, and praising the good things that traveling does for my heart! Traveling, and the freeing sense of adventure that comes with it, changes me. Rereading it also makes me cringe at times…I’m SO grateful for the changes that life brings about on its own – without having to travel. Time is its own teacher, as well. Not everything about this trip was perfect – far from it, actually. It’s also a good reminder to me that as much as I love to travel, it is never an “easy” thing to do. It rips me down as much as it builds me up! I am almost surprised at how much I missed Adam. I wrote about him constantly in my journal, feeling so bad for having left him behind while he started his new job. It’s not that I don’t miss him now when we are apart – but it is definitely a different phase of our marriage that we are in now than we were pre-children! I also hit a difficult point around the halfway mark of this trip (I must do that with all my trips!); realizing how much work it is to travel and be on the move day in and day out! It made me want to do things a bit differently the next time I visited Europe. I laugh at the little things – a rickety, rollicking overnight train ride that means I didn’t sleep at all, my dad leaving his passport on the train and having to meet up with the conductor in a super sketchy parking garage to get it back, a queasy stomach trying to adjust to new, rich foods, mishaps with train stations and losing our way.
A snapshot of my room on an overnight train:
I may have said good-bye to my dad at this point in the trip, but my adventures were far from over! My best friend from high school, Heather, was then studying abroad in England….and falling in love with a British boy! She had taken a semester or two of French with me in high school and we had always dreamed of taking a trip together. This was our chance! With my dad, while we didn’t stay in “fancy” places, we did stay in nicer hotels and we ate very well – with him paying for a large portion of my meals. I knew my travels with Heather were going to look very different: hostels + days where we only ate a loaf of bread we had bought that morning from a local bakery. Stay tuned for next week’s recap, because two 20-year-old girls traveling through Europe by themselves is destined to be trouble 🙂