In the twelve days between deciding to go to Europe and actually leaving, I still had to work. Go figure.
Suddenly, though, something was different. I had an end in sight, something to work for, a countdown in my head. I knew I was about to be living a better, more interesting story.
And my trip was affecting my customers, too. As I poured wine for people and the subject of Europe would come up, a change came over them, and they sat up straighter, their eyes would light up. Stories of their own European travels, whether they happened two months ago or thirty-two years ago, would spill from their lips. They were alive with joy, with the memories of their own trips, eager to share with a pair of willing ears.
One woman backpacked for six months after spending the summer on a diving team in Spain, and with her first stop she found herself at a German train station at night all alone. A stranger and her husband took her in for the night and cooked for her.
A man sporting round, wire-frame glasses told me all about traveling with his now-wife. They spent all their money on hashish and custom-made leather jackets in the 70s. He laughed a lot as he recited their itemized expense list.
A former travel agent told us, “You have to go to Interlaken, Switzerland. It’s the most beautiful place on earth.” (That person was telling the truth, by the way.)
Hiking in Interlaken Switzerland
I heard stories about getting lost, getting found, serendipitous meetings, falling in love, adventure after adventure after adventure. As they told stories, their minds traveled to another place, to another time. They relived the best parts of their lives with me as an observer.
One woman, after nearly an hour of crazy stories, snapped out of her memory dream and told me, “This will be you. In just a couple of months, you’ll be full of stories just like this, lighting up at the memory of it all.”
And boy was she right. About halfway through our trip, my travel partner and good friend Michelle and I started to dread going home to the question, “How was Europe?” We were accumulating unbelievable experiences and stories at an awesome pace, and the idea of having to distill all of that down into a five minute response was just too hard. Even the nearly 5,000 pictures (yes, that’s a five with three zeroes) weren’t good enough. We snapped photos of a La Sagrada Familia, the Swiss Alps, Neuschwanstein Castle, the Eiffel Tower, or even just down random streets or the views from our hostels, look at the photo, and would shake our heads. “No one will understand from this,” we’d say to each other. It felt like an entire lifetime in one five-week-long span. I was afraid I’d come home and go back to work and that all of it would feel like a dream–an amazingly vivid one, but a dream nonetheless.
I’m still afraid of that as the days pass by and Europe gets farther away.
Excited to be at the Eiffel Tower
So forgive me for being so late with this blog entry. It’s simply because I had no idea where to start. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be chipping away at it all, sharing my favorite moments and lessons learned. Also, some of you might be wondering, “Hey, wait a minute, isn’t she supposed to be starting grad school in Seattle?” I’ll talk about that, too.
The other day, post-Europe, I was pouring wine for a couple of ladies. They were asking me about my trip, and I was glowing with memories, spilling story after story. One said, “Sounds like it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip!”
And I responded, “I sure hope not!”
It’s amazing how a spur-of-the-moment decision can alter your whole perspective on the world, how it can change your whole life. I’ve been bitten by the travel bug, as one friend put it, and I can’t wait to go back. Travel as an answer to the “Get-a-Life” dilemma is working for me, and I don’t plan on giving up on it quite yet. Hopefully reliving it here a little bit at a time will extend that feeling until my next trip.
Have you traveled? Share one of your stories in the comments! Or, if you’d like to guest post on this topic, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a lesson you learned from your travels or an experience you had that will stay with you forever. What is it that makes you light up and come alive? And how do you hang onto that feeling when the daily grind sets back in?