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.