Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Reading over my last post, it hit me that the most important word I wrote is adventure. When we’re young and curious, almost everything we do is an adventure -- it’s all brand new because much of what we do is for the very first time. As we get older and our risk-averse genes take over, it gets harder and harder to keep adventure in our lives. In fact, there are so many adults who go to great lengths to eliminate even the concept of adventure from their worlds. They want their days scheduled and their nights predictable and would never think about embarking on something unless they knew the outcome. While I’m a huge fan of schedules, organization and checklists, I also crave adventure and perhaps that’s why I love to travel so much, especially to places I’ve never been. If more adults embraced adventure in their lives and -- God forbid -- actively sought it, maybe they’d be happier, feel younger and be open to embracing more possibilities.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Only Other Fear

Can you go back? Can you really go back? My first time to Europe was in the summer of 1977 after my junior year in college. Like so many American young people, my college roommate, two of her friends I’d never met and I embarked on our coming of age adventure, armed with Let’s Go Europe as our bible. We applied for our passports, booked the cheapest charter flight available (British Caledonian), bought our Eurail passes and headed off for London. We were on serious budgets but managed to visit ten countries in six weeks (England, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France and Spain). Our flights were $425, the Eurail pass cost $240, I went with $900 in travelers checks in my fanny pack (no ATMs back then) and returned home with the $200 I needed for my senior year spending money. Sound familiar?

That first trip to Europe, that inaugural experience of a world outside my own – of unfamiliar and extraordinary art and architecture and language and food and drink and smells and people and landscapes – can never be recreated. That genuine, jaw-dropping awe that filled me throughout the trip will not be repeated. It was the wonder of Christmas Day every day and while I know that I may never again tingle with those exact same feelings, I do expect to be seized by the sheer exhilaration and freedom of living abroad for a full 365 days as an unemployed adult.

I’m determined to go back -- to go fully back with my eyes and ears and mind open to as many adventures as we can find. While some may fall in our path, I know there will be others we’ll have to seek out. And while nothing may ever be as raw and new and surprising as it was when I was 21, I plan to embrace this dream made reality with open arms and a racing heart. By acknowledging that this time will be different (and who knows?  -- maybe better), I think I can indeed go back. Just as I truly had no idea what would happen when I headed to Europe in 1977, I really don’t know what awaits us when we leave next year.  I just know that I’m really going back.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Fears -- Number One

People often ask me when I tell them our plans, do you have any fears? Trepidations? Uncertainties? Well sure, I tell them. And the first of those involves our son and daughter. Anyone with children knows that going off and leaving them behind is always difficult -- even if they're young adults and are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. At 26 and 23, they've been away from home and on their own on the west coast for several years now. But somehow, being in a foreign country with an ocean between us will feel so much farther than being on opposite sides of our own country. Yes, the children will absolutely make it over to visit us -- if we're lucky, more than once -- but still...  Maybe the fact that we can actually go to Europe and leave them behind marks a separation milestone of sorts, and a bittersweet one at that. We've always tried to raise our children to be independent but can we be independent of them? We're two of that lucky breed of parent whose adult children are the two people we like best in the world. They've become our closest friends/companions/ partners-in-crime and with whom we cherish spending every minute possible. Yes, indeed, I do fear leaving them behind. I fear how much we will miss them.

But as our children always do, they're cheering us on. Excited for our adventure. Our biggest advocates.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Itinerary

We'll have a full 12 months in Europe, and the question is: where shall we go? What started as a clear, straightforward picture (one month in Paris, 3 months in the corners of la belle France profonde, 2 months in Spain, 3 months in Italy and 3 months in Greece), has become a bit muddled. After watching Casablanca late one night, we say, let's take a quick ferry from Spain over to Paul Bowles' Morocco for a week. We're not particularly interested in Germany but have always wanted to visit Berlin, so let's add it to the list -- and while we're at it, why not see Prague, Budapest and Vienna? Dubrovnik is one of the world's up and coming travel destinations and we have a state department friend in Croatia, so let's stay there for a week on our way down to Greece. The itinerary is getting somewhat more fractured because my insatiable wanderlust is in a tug of war with our desire to settle down and actually live in select different places for months at a time. How do we balance these natural adversaries yet satisfy them both?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Countdown Begins!

Labor Day 2010 has finally passed and the countdown can begin! Our departure for Europe and the gap year we’ve been planning for over 10 years will be right after Labor Day 2011 and is at long last less than a year away. My anticipation has been building on an almost daily basis until I can hardly stand it anymore. I told myself that I wouldn't plan in earnest until there was less than a year to go, so let the serious planning begin!