I have always loved to write and I have always loved to travel. I was fortunate to have travel-loving parents who introduced us to the wonders and excitement of traveling at a very young age. My father spent three years in the navy before attending college and it opened his eyes to the world so significantly that it changed his life. He met my mother his last year of college and although it was a serious relationship, my father left the summer of 1966 to travel around Europe with one of his friends for three months. As the heart often does, especially in such a romantic, beautiful place as Europe, my father began to miss my mother terribly. After only a few weeks, while looking out at the beautiful Mount Blanc, in Chamonix, he telephoned my mother and asked her to come join him. In the late 60s, it wasn’t very appropriate for a young, unmarried catholic woman to travel around Europe with her boyfriend. So unbeknownst to my father, my mother flew over with plans on marrying as soon as she arrived. You can imagine my father’s surprise when she informed him that they were to be married! Unfortunately it was easier said than done. Most countries would not wed them since they had to be residents. After much searching, they were finally wed in St. Gallen, a lovely, quaint village in northeastern Switzerland, which was the only place that would marry them. They found a witness off the street who barely spoke a word of English and were married at the small, rustic courthouse. They spent the next couple of months traveling around Europe on less than a dollar per day, and the story of their travels would be retold over and over again throughout our family for years.
Given my father’s love of travel, we traveled often throughout my childhood, spending our family vacations with the five of us (and sometimes our dog!) squeezed into our diesel wood-paneled station wagon driving from Minnesota to such faraway places as Florida, Montana, Wyoming, California and not to mention our annual trips to Harlingen, Texas to visit our grandparents. These Texas trips often brought us in the family station wagon wandering into Mexico to several unusual spot where the Mexican children had never set eyes on a blond-hair, blue-eyed child. It was a strange experience for a six year old girl! The stark poverty of these towns built alongside the road, lined with shacks for homes, had a big impact on me and I’ll never forget it even thirty years later today.
The bigger more impressive family trips happened later on, in my teens. During one of our annual Christmas visits to see our grandparents in Texas, my father came up with the brilliant idea of volunteering to be “bumped” for flight vouchers off the oversold flights (yes, this was common in the 80s and a great way to make money for your next trip, especially with a family of five). After three long, torturous days spent in the Dallas airport getting “bumped” off our flight, we were able to make enough money to fly the whole family to Europe the proceeding summer. I was surprised my parents would want to take us anywhere after those hellacious 48 hours of non-stop whining, complaining and fighting, but they did. We took our first family trip to Europe, spending three full weeks hitting the major highlights such as Paris, the French Riviera, Rome, Venice and of course, Chamonix where my dad realized his love for my mom. I was at the impressionable age of 13, taking my first class of French, and becoming more and more interested in the world around me. At first sight, I was mesmerized. Paris blew me away. I made my decision right then and there, looking down the magnificent Champs-Élysées, that I would someday live in Paris and spend a semester studying abroad. Eight years later (after another family trip to Europe and a surprise visit to Japan to see my uncle), I spent a semester abroad in Paris during my junior year of college, worked as a fille au pair (aka nanny) for a French family in the small village of Les Angers, and spent the summer after graduating college in Marseille, France doing an internship. From that point on, I was obviously hooked and the travel bug grew and grew every year. Here are some of my stories.