Europe: The Beginning
As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I will begin recollecting my first journey overseas in a series of posts. This trip was the spark that started it all for me. In the 21 days that I spent exploring Western Europe, my soul was captured by beauty, history, and people I met along the way. This trip ignited the flame within me to follow my passions and it set in motion a chain of events that led me to where I am today. Without it, I would never have realized my love for travel and you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog as you are right now. So come follow me on my journey across Europe and see it all unfold from the very beginning….
My large suitcase rested comfortably across my bed, neatly packed as though it was a gift wrapped for nobility. I completed my work with a green strap that would become the “bow” to unwrap when I arrived at my destination. Europe was within my reach and in only a few hours, I’d walk in the shadow of Big Ben and Parliament in the beautiful city of London. I had long anticipated this day and had a mental countdown for the better part of 3 months. It was now time to leave and into the car I went, ready for the 3 week adventure that was about to begin. I parted ways with my father at the security gate and for the first time, navigated the halls of Chicago’s O’Hare airport by my lonesome. I was excited, full of energy, and for a level headed, moderate soul like myself, this surge of emotion wasn’t a feeling that I wasn’t exceedingly familiar with. I was stoked, amped, pumped, and ready to explore a new part of the world with a new group of students.
When traveling, some things don’t always go as planned. It wouldn’t be long before I figured this out for myself. As our flight was set to board, the muffled voice of a hostess announced our flight’s cancellation over the terminal intercom. I should mention again for the all of those reading that this flight was through United Airlines. In later travels, I’d encounter more of the same bullshit and mallarchy and this certainly won’t be the last unpleasant encounter you’ll hear about from United (a company high on my list of “businesses that have no business being in business”). Did I mention that I hate United?
Due to our flight being bumped, our group of about 12 was forced to endure the night in the splendor of a top tier hotel…how unfortunate. The rooms were reminiscent of high end display rooms in the Ikea showcase and were equipped with marble floors, soft, sultry lights, and showers with more spiggots than I could ever want, need, or imagine. My favorite piece in the room, which was the artistic rendition of a dozen Pikachu’s dancing in an apple tree, because, why the fuck not? Our group marinated in each other’s company with card games and just enough alcohol to dull our angst. The following day we’d try our hand at departing once again, only this time, we were slightly more successful.
This flight would be through Virgin Airlines and the service was much better than I had anticipated. All of the crew was British and their hospitality was significantly more attentive and personal than anything I’d experienced on American flights. As our wings parted the clouds and the seatbelt sign lost it’s glow, I was already being offered a beverage. I ordered red wine and sipped slowly, relishing in the thought that I was doing something that many won’t do in their entire lives. As I finished this personal toast to my accomplishment and took the last slip I slipped into a dream in the hopes that I’d wake again with wheels on the ground in Heathrow. Of course, on an international flight with upright seats, this was nothing short of a pipe dream. I woke after a short snooze and unfortunately, got no sleep for the duration of the flight. Instead, I occupied my time with the in screen games such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Now this game, as many of you know, usually offers about 5 easy questions in the beginning that are nothing short of child’s play, but this game had a twist. This was the European version and I swear I could not get past the first 3 questions. There were questions based on pop culture, sports such as cricket, politics, and history and I couldn’t answer a single one. I guess this speaks to my knowledge of pop culture in Europe which is, to say the least, lacking.
We stepped off the plane at 8 AM and for the first time in this journey, reality set in. I was 3,943 miles from home in a strange but wonderful new place. Everything was new and vibrant and the sights and sounds of this foreign airport danced tirelessly through my busy mind. After gathering our belongings, we were whisked through the airport to the shuttle that waited for us just outside. I had finally reached my destination. My excitement in that moment couldn’t be contained and I was grinning like a freaking idiot. Who knew what adventures lied ahead in the next three weeks?
To me, each minute and step was a new adventure and I wasn’t planning on wasting a single one of either.