Europe: Same Countries, Different Trip
Karl and I just finished traveling through Europe with Karl’s family. We visited some of the same countries I visited twelve years ago during a six week “backpacking” trip I took with a friend. This trip brought back good memories; ones in which I hadn’t thought about in a long time. At the same time, it reminded me how naive I was in my 20’s and how traveling to the same places in my 30’s was so different than in my 20’s. Switzerland is still stunningly beautiful, the Germans still drink a lot of beer and the French still make the best food! But what has changed is me.
During my first trip in 2005, we traveled to ten different countries and thirteen different cities all within a six week span. It was fast and furious. The purpose was to see and do as much as we could so when we came back to the U.S. we could say, “I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, I saw the statue of David in Florence and I saw pot plants growing in Amsterdam (this was before marijuana was legalized in the U.S.). You get the point. We arrived at each city, did a few touristy things and then moved on to the next site.
This time, I went to six different cities in three different countries in a two week span. In some ways these two trips are the same but in a lot of ways they were different. Since we were traveling with our family who still have full-time jobs, we can’t spend as much time as we would like in each country or city. It reminded me a lot of my quick trip through Europe twelve years ago. But, here are the five ways this second trip to Europe was different than my first trip:
- Partying is wayyy less important to me now. When I was in my 20’s, I liked to party. I’m sure this is true for a lot of twenty-somethings. The fact is I liked to party too much. A few days ago during one of our train rides from Germany to Switzerland, guards came by to check our passports and tickets. We showed them our credentials and they moved on. This brought back memories of the first time I was in Europe and I accidentally left marijuana in my backpack when we were traveling to Berlin from Amsterdam. The guards asked for my passport and when I went to dig it out I had realized I still had “party favors” left over from the night before. Even though marijuana was legal in Amsterdam at the time, it was NOT LEGAL in Berlin. I was stupid and naive. I could’ve been thrown into German jail. Luckily, I wasn’t!
- It matters more what we learn and the connection we make than what we do. During my first trip, it was more important for me to see big cities and to check off all the sites. Now, it doesn’t matter what we see or what we do but what we learn and who we meet. It’s more about culture we learn from and relationships we build along the way. Prior to the family trip in Germany, we were in Scotland for 10 days. It was in Scotland that I realized, this adventure was going to be my own Eat, Pray, Love experience. This was going to give me a chance to really grow. You can read more about my Four Valuable Lessons I Learned in Scotland by clicking the link. We left our family in Marseille and headed to Narbonne, France to stay with our first Workaway host, Pierre. It’s through Workaway we hope to meet the diverse people and learn their way of life. We hope to become travelers and not just tourists (Please stay tuned for more stories about our Workaway adventures).
- Sharing experiences with people you love is not to be taken for granted. It’s obvious humans don’t live forever. No one has found the magical elixir that keeps us alive forever. This means it’s important for the us, the Audacious Duo, to gain and cherish these memories. I feel pretty luckyto have a family who are willing and able to travel. Not just willing to travel but excited to explore once they get there. This trip made me realize that it’s not always easy traveling with six people but I feel grateful to share memories we had together. Memories like those that will last a lifetime and I won’t take them for granted.
- History is more important than I thought. During this trip, we spent one night in Wurzburg, Germany visiting Karl’s relatives. Karl’s father was born there after World War II and hasn’t been back since leaving as a small child. His relatives guided us around the city pointing out landmarks and showing us pictures of their city before and after the war. The before and after photos illustrated to us how history has dramatically effected there lives. This was eye-opening and it made me realize how history has a lot to do with the present. In my 20’s while visiting Switzerland and Prague, I was more worried about bungee jumping out of a gondola and drinking absinthe than visiting the Charles Bridge or Lobkowicz’s Palace. Now, I realize how important understanding the past is in other people’s cultures. This is something I hope to keep revisiting throughout our travels.
- Food is more than a substance to keep you alive. This trip to Europe reminds me of how little I cared about food in my 20’s. At that time, food was just substance to keep me alive. During this trip, I realized that food to me means so much more than that. If the family would have let me, I could’ve spent hours looking for the right boulangerie (french word for bakery) in France. To me, food has a certain feel to it. Food is more than what you see. There is a process that goes into each dish starting with the farmers who grow the food, to the people who transport it, to the chefs who prepare it and of course everything in between. Food tells the story of a culture and I hope to learn the background of the people through food.
Before we left the U.S., I wasn’t sure what the long-term trip was suppose to be all about. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even sure I was supposed to be doing this at all. In the twenty-five days we’ve now spent abroad, I know a little more each time I sit down to write. I’m still not sure what the future holds but feeling more confident about this trip each day.
In conclusion, while parts of these two trips were the same, they were definitely different. I’m trying not to take things for granted not only because I’m older and more mature but because I now have the time and willingness to learn more. I want to understand other cultures and have a more open mind. As we keep traveling the world I hope to take in what I learn and continue to mature and progress forward.