The European backpack trip (similar to the gap year for European kids) has become a right of passage. Recently I attended an event with a group of American women and they were asked to share their favorite memory of Italian food. Wierd question I know, but it was a cooking class. I was surprised that nearly half the group recounted a trip to Italy with friends during their college years and how fabulous those first few meals were. How many of you headed out during or after college to explore another country and can still today remember nearly every detail?
My niece Maddy and two of her good friends spent the last week with us preparing for their European adventure. They have BIG plans and will be touring for the next four months. The arrived in London, found a good place to sleep (here), adjusted to the time difference and learned to master the European train system. Now they are off to Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and then …… They will see where it takes them.
A trip like this has to take place while you’re young. By the time the late-twenties arrive we start to worry about too many things to just take off and seek adventure. All of my college-age travels were focused in the U.S., down the East Coast and up to Washington state. I didn’t venture over the Atlantic until I hit 40, and now look what has happened! You have to be young to travel with an unstructured itinerary, not quite sure where you’ll be sleeping, and not really too concerned about it all.
We tried to provide a few gentle suggestions especially concerning safety and the weather. The first full day they were here Lance and I took them into London. The sun was peeking through the clouds, so these California girls wore a t-shirt and a sweatshirt or light jacket. They didn’t seem to notice that the two old people had on three layers of clothes, a big jacket, gloves and a scarf. Once we headed out on foot in London and crossed the bridge over the Thames, the cold wind starting blowing and even though we could see the sun, warm it was not. Their hands tucked inside their sweatshirts and by the end of the day they announced that they had never been so cold. By day two we saw the jackets, gloves and scarfs come out.
They are true optimists. As they packed their backpacks on the last day, they decided to leave their “winter clothes” at our house. They felt confident that Portugal and Spain would be warm and sunny even in March. I hope they’re right as I would love to know how far we need to travel to thaw out.
I took this picture as we headed off to the train station explaining that this was for a before and after. They’ll be back in June for a day or two before returning home. I hope to see them a lot tanner, perhaps a bit tired, but still as optimistic and full of adventure.
Many prayers for a safe and memorable journey.