Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Travels.....long ago

Okay, so I am a bit ashamed to admit it, but I watch the Hills. Once everyone goes to be in my house (around 8:30 / 9 O'clock), I stay up and start looking for trash TV. Anything from the girls next door / the hills / fatherhood (snoop-dog) / etc.
I lay on the couch, and take an hour or two and just sit there living the reality of someone else. It is fun. Last night was the premier of the Hills, they are entering a new season, and they were in Paris. Ahh! This is the real reason for my post.

During my Senior year in college I did a study abroad program, I signed up to stay in Austria (Vienna) for 16 weeks. I left New Years Day and came back in April 1997.
I have always known that I am suppose to live somewhere else. I have always known that I am suppose to travel - those dreams will have to wait until the kids are older, but they are still there. So there I was 18 years old, home-grown / corn feed setting foot on a 12 hour plan ride half way around the world getting ready to 'wing' it.
My mother was terrified, and wished I wouldn't go. I was scared, but knew I had to go. It was the trip of a lifetime. I took out several student loans to make this work, and I would do it a 100 times over. I traveled with another girl-friend from college, we stayed in a 5 bedroom flat with 12 other students. I had roommates from Croatia, Hungry, Russia, and the states. I bought a euro-rail pass and only took classes M-W; so I could travel R-Sunday.

Paris was on the list of places to visit. I remember stepping off the train, in the middle of the night and arriving in Paris. It felt like home, it warmed my heart to be there. The air was crisp, a light wind blew, the streets were busy with people walking, talking and the shops were open.
We looked like travelers, we had our coats on, back-packs, and a map. I spent most of my travels turned around, and just winging it. To this day, I cannot read a map - it sure was not any better back then. We had a number of a lady who allowed students to stay with her. She walked to get us, and we were on our way. It was around 8pm, and I was determined to see the Eiffel Tower. We dropped off our packs, got directions and were on our way. We made our way to the tower, screeching with delight. I made it, I had actually made it. We took a moment, laid down under the tower to take in the moment.

We spent three days traveling Paris and other parts of France. The Eiffel Tower as well as the Louvre Museum home to Da Vinci's Mona Lisa painting, the Champs-Elysees, Arc De Triomphe and the Palace of Versailles. We experienced the night life, ate in cafes, lived off of bread and nutella.
So, last night I watched Lauren from the Hills tool around Paris, and sat there thinking - 'I was there, and there, and I saw that too'. Gosh that was a life time ago, but still seems like yesterday. A few of my favorite places, Amsterdam, Budapest,Prague, Malagla-Spain. Europe has my heart........perhaps I will make my way once again.

Learning how to travel in places where you don't speak the language, cannot read the signs and can barely communicate is not highly recommended - but it does make for a good story.

The men in Italy were aggressive and abrupt - the women were beautiful and the sense of family was overwhelming. I stayed with people I didn't know, got in cabs going no-where, rode trains all night long, attempted to sleep in stations, laid bare breast on a beach (we had to fit in), and gained 20lbs. ha!

I met a man from S. Africa one afternoon while I was standing at a bus stop. He approached me, speaking English. He inquired if I knew English' yeah, I stated'. He was 40 plus, and on business. We had coffee (why? - I don't know), then he invited me to dinner. I accepted (for real, it was a free meal). Looking back now, it prob is really creepy, but then to me it was just company. This man told me, it was a shame I was so young visiting Europe - because I truly wouldn't understand the experience. He said I needed to be older to really appreciate it all. Perhaps he was right in some sense.
However, had I been older and a bit wiser, I am sure I would not have experienced half of what I did. Fear and /or common sense would have set in.
I wonder what I will do when Pyper decides she wants to travel at 18? Perhaps, I will just join her.......

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