“When I dreamt of Europe it was all romantic flying buttresses, cobblestone streets, and outdoor cafes full of chic women who wore jaunty scarves. But real travel isn’t Disney.”
I grew up in a small rural village in Southern Ontario, surrounded by cattle and corn fields. I discovered the world through my Grandfather’s enormous cache of National Geographic Magazines. I longed to see the world for myself, hear romantic languages, dance to different rhythms, taste and smell exotic foods, and fall in love over and over.
At 18, I ‘planned’ my first trip with my best gal pal. We had Eurail passes, unwieldy backpacks, a guidebook and no clue what we were in for. Our ‘plan’ was to go wherever our hearts and good weather led us. It was my first Epic Adventure and a big education.
The bomb went off, shortly after we arrived at Frankfurt airport.
We were devastated and scared. A young soldier walked us through the bombed terminal and warned us not to look, but how could you not? Tears ran down our faces as we walked past the crater in the floor, shards of glass and twisted rebar, blood and thick dust that made it hard to breathe. Three people died that day. We headed straight for the outbound trains and took the first train to anywhere.
Anywhere was Zurich at midnight. We had no Swiss currency and no hotel so we hunkered down on a sidewalk outside the train station with indigents and other lost souls. There was a cold, light drizzle and we were thoroughly miserable until an American soldier, looking for a corkscrew, approached us. I had a corkscrew, he had a bottle of red wine and we had a new friendship. Together, we spent the night sneaking into the train station to get warm and were chased out by the security guard who kept telling us “go home”. It was a long night of cat and mouse, but morning came and we carried on.
When I dreamt of Europe, it was all romantic flying buttresses, cobblestone streets, and outdoor cafes full of chic women who wore jaunty scarves. But real travel isn’t Disney. There
Those first 48 hours in Europe could have derailed me, but they didn’t. Nothing was easy on that trip. This was pre-cellphone, ATM and Euro. We stood in endless lines. We slept on sidewalks, in sketchy hostels, and train cars with pickpockets. We were always grubby and not particularly welcome in some places. I found out what I was capable of in a very short time. There wasn’t much that could deter me or a situation that I couldn’t handle. Patience, perseverance and the fine art of when not to understand someone are good allies. I learned to trust my gut – always. And I learned to have a plan.
I went home and earned degrees in Classical Civilization (Greek and Latin) and Recreation and Tourism Development. I worked at Harrods in London one summer and hitchhiked through the UK and Ireland. I spent another summer on a Kibbutz near Haifa where I discovered that archaeology is nothing like Indiana Jones. I traveled through Greece by myself and experienced the true grace of strangers who took me into their homes and under their wings. I fell in love with Costa Rica and her 12 biological life zones when I lived there to learn Spanish. I worked as an adventure tour guide before my life took an unexpected turn. I met a guy, emigrated to the United States and got my accidental MBA so I could start a real career. I traveled, but my bucket list items waited for the right time. The right time – is right now. Tomorrow is not a given.
I urge you to practice a sense of urgency, see and do much as you can with the resources you have. I will do the heavy lifting and sort out all the logistical stuff. Simple as that.