My first trip to Europe was when I was 21. My mom had a business trip in Frankfurt, Germany, and asked if I wanted to tag along. Um… I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough.
By that point in my life, I’d been to Canada a couple of times, along with a quick hop across the border into Mexico. I’d been to most of the states in the U.S. But I hadn’t ever been off the continent (unless you count our trip to Bermuda when I was three, but I always forget about that one).
As this was before the internet was really there at all, and before I realized that I adore researching the heck out of a trip before I take it, I didn’t plan anything about the trip beforehand. Neither did my mom. Short of buying a small German dictionary and procuring a good road map at the airport, and picking up our rental car, we had very little plan. My mom thought it would be a good idea to venture up the Rhine and see where it took us, so that was what passed for a plan.
We were off on a true adventure. Though it rained every day but one. We started up the Rhine, enjoyed looking at the castles, impressed at the mountainside vineyards, and floundered in the small towns of people who spoke little English (and my mom’s meager school German only got us so far—I recall a lot of gesturing). At some point we turned west and went to Luxembourg, which included some serendipitous finding of a pedestrian shopping street. Then we circled back down south and east again through the corner of France and went to Heidelberg, which included an entertaining afternoon that included one large pretzel and two even larger beers. Needless to say, half a pretzel and a hefty mug of beer had us giggling, arm in arm, down the street. We loved Heidelberg so much we stayed an extra day (zimmer frei!). Then back to Frankfurt and my mom’s conference.
We only had about six days on our adventure, but I caught the bug for international travel. I’d always loved traveling domestically—something we did quite frequently—but international travel was different. Going somewhere where everyone speaks a different language, being surrounded by different kinds of products at the grocery store, completely different kinds of scenery—it had a huge effect on me.
I think I spent that whole week with my mouth agape. Of course little kids in Germany speak German. But it was another thing entirely to actually be there and see it. Products with different names. Brands you’ve never heard of. Versions of brand you have heard of but were different. Fresher food. Basically, being immersed in a picture book of a far off land. Because that’s pretty much what it was.
Unfortunately, life is busy and expensive, and travel is quite expensive. So I haven’t had nearly as many trips to Europe or other places as I would like (though I have gotten to go to the Alps, Ireland, and New Zealand—Switzerland is tops on my list for where to return). Still, the future is coming.
In the not too distant future, there will be much more European travel in my future. We’re learning German so as to have another major European language to fall back on, and we’re doing research on places we’ll want to see. Though I know we’ll have some long visits over there, we’re likely to have shorter jaunts as well. Being a freelance writer means I can work on the road (though the traveling will go slower). And the Nomad List is a great resource for evaluating costs. So, here’s a very, very early Bon Voyage to us.