Sometimes it's not so much that you learned something new as much as it is that you remembered something you already knew to be true.
I don't think Europe taught me that people were good or that food was meant to be savored as much as it reminded me that these things were true.
Ryan is furloughed from the parks ever January. Since he got this job (almost three years ago now) we have talked about how amazing it would be to go on an extended trip to Europe during that month. So this year, we finally did it.
When people heard we were going to leave for a month there were mixed reactions, some people were envious (their jobs or young families not allowing a trip like this at this particular stage of life), some were a little judgmental (how can you take that much time off of work? don’t you feel bad?), some were truly excited for us and others were concerned for our safety (with the world the way it is, aren’t you scared? Is something we heard often).
As a perpetual people pleaser it was difficult to drown out the noise of other people’s opinions. But I’m glad I did, I’m glad we went.
Here are the reasons I wanted to go (aside from the obvious bucket list dream to backpack through Europe):
Ryan and I know that we want to start a family. We’ve known for a while and this trip has only solidified that. If it was difficult to get away for an extended period now, it seems it would be near impossible to do it while raising babies. In other words, if we wanted to backpack through Europe we weren’t getting any younger.
Related but different to #1 – having babies is not going to be easy for us; we’ve known that for a few years now. We have reasons to be hopeful but regardless there are many doctor appointments in our near future, most likely IVF, egg donors, etc. In other words large bills and loads of stress are headed our way and before we dove head first in to that I wanted to store up as many epically happy moments as possible.
After almost 9 years in the family business I just needed a break, a break before I broke so to speak. Long days can well, get long. Managing employees and customer’s expectations can get overwhelming and if you’re someone like me it can be easy to lose yourself and your own priorities in the name of work. Easy to work late instead of connect with the people you love, all under the false illusion of a bigger picture.
So that’s it. Those were my three main reasons for wanting to hit the road: I wanted an epic adventure with my husband before we start the biggest adventure of our lives as parents, I wanted to store up a large back of happy and I needed a break.
In our 30 days abroad we went to Barcelona, Florence, the Tuscan hillside, Rome, Naples, Paris, Bordeaux and Porto. And here’s what I discovered:
Europeans know how to enjoy life; they seem to intrinsically know how to prioritize quality time with family and friends. In Paris a work week is 35 hours and a three day weekend is the norm. And all throughout western Europe meals are long and enjoyed between friends until the late hours of the night, no one seemingly in a rush to go anywhere. In Barcelona the city plazas were full to 1AM on weeknights with families, including kids playing a version of red, light green light. And on Sundays, entire families gather for dinner and long walks on the coast of Porto.
Europeans eat well. They seem to enjoy good things just in smaller portions. Shortcuts aren’t taken when it comes to food. It’s fresh and meant to be enjoyed, to be savored not to be consumed quickly for you to go back to work.
People are good and despite some cultural differences we’re the same. We went to four countries in total, five if you count the layover in London and everywhere we went, people were, well…people. We met nice people, we met rude people. Some of the kindest people we met were in France and they didn’t care that we couldn’t speak French. We saw moms and dads, some who were having parenting wins and some who looked like they needed a vacation. We met people struggling to find work and people who were working two jobs to make ends meet.
We encountered people from all over the world, people who came to visit the same places we did because they have the same bucket list we do. We never once felt in danger (and that includes walking through the streets of Porto at 4am to catch a bus to the airport).
One of my favorite moments of the trip was in Disneyland Paris. During the end of the night firework show, Frozen’s “Let it Go” started to play over the loud speakers and an entire audience of female guests, young and old, presumably from all over the world took a collective gasp before they started singing along.
If a country has a national anthem then I believe the world does too. It changes from time to time, decade to decade and currently it’s a tossup between Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect” and “Let it Go,” both reminders that we’re all a little more alike than we think.
I’m convinced more and more that the quicker we turn off the news and the sooner we get out into the world, the faster we’ll realize it’s not as scary of a place as it’s made out to be. So let go of your fears, your stereotypes and your anxiety, go travel because the world and a large portion of the people in it are far more perfect than you think.