Monday, July 15, 2019

Innocents Abroad

Youngest making good food choices in Prishtina
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: We've been enjoying pictures and stories from several Reds' trips abroad these past few weeks, and it's gotten me thinking about that FIRST trip to a foreign land. Youngest left for Kosovo (with stops in London, Istanbul, Serbia and Croatia) for a month-long college program, and has been sending back pictures, texts and emails describing her experience. She's traveled quite a bit around the US in her childhood and teens - usually accompanying me and Ross on book business - but the was the big one, her first time away from the US ( we won't count a baby appearance in Canada) and the first major trip without parental aid and supervision.

I spent years overseas as a child when we were in the military, which left me with a love of travel and fond memories of many European countries. But even though you're living with and learning about cultural and linguistic differences, living overseas with your parents managing every aspect of your time and travel is nothing like heading out under your own steam.

I left for Italy in the summer of my junior year. I was participating in a stone-age campsite excavation in the Tuscan region before the
start of my school year in London. Unlike my daughter, who managed all her flight reservations by herself, mine were done for me by my mom's travel agent. I remember clutching my precious paper tickets nervously, because of course back in the day, if you lost one you were in trouble.

That's not the only difference between my experience and Youngest's. I had several slim wallets of American Express Traveller's Cheques and a new Kodak camera. I took exactly thirteen pictures in an entire summer spent in Italy because I was so
afraid of running out of film and not being able to capture some vital scene! I had a tablet of onionskin letter paper and air mail envelopes, though I was extremely negligent in writing during the summer. My poor parents - I don't think they heard a word from me in the first four or five weeks. No phone, of course - in fact, from the time I left until I came back to the US for Christmas, the only time I actually called home (with a public phone and a stack of one pound coins) was on my little brother's birthday. I was FINE with this as a impecunious student, but as a mother, I'm very grateful for Face Time.

One thing I had that's still being used by travelers? A Eurailpass. The official Ithaca College/University of Pisa component ended something like ten days before fall classes started, so I hit the rails and began roaming. Scheduling the day meant showing up at the station and reading the times and destinations on a big board. Upon arrival in a new town, I'd check Frommer's Europe on Ten Dollars A Day for suggestions on a pensione, then walk to the place and see if a room was available. I saw Rome, Florence, Nice (where I spent an afternoon topless on a beach!) Monte Carlo and Paris before taking the ferry across the channel to England (no Chunnel yet.)

Except for the fact I flew across the Atlantic and didn't require a chaperone, my first solo trip abroad feels more like the experience an American traveler of the late 19th century than that of my daughter 37 years later. All the time I spent studying maps,haunting information kiosks, waiting in line to talk to a railroad agent, and visiting American Express offices has been  replaced by a smart phone and a debit card. It's easier now, in many ways, but I'm pretty sure one thing hasn't changed: Just as I did, I expect my daughter to come home more mature, more confident, and with a broader view of the horizon.

How about you, Red? What was your first time as an Innocent Abroad?

HALLIE EPHRON: One of my proudest accomplishments has been raising two daughters who are enthusiastic travelers. Jerry and I traveled a lot in the six years after we were married and before we had our first child. We started again with a trip to Puerto Rico when our oldest was 9 months old. When the girls were 8 and 13 we spent 2 weeks in Europe, traveling by train, and whatever you packed to take with you, you had to carry. It was a great trip, including venturing into Prague, before the Velvet Revolution.

My first international trip was to Europe for our honeymoon. We were crazy. Three months with the guy you just married? It's amazing the marriage survived. We rented a Citroen Dayan 6 (that's me with it in the picture -- I'm holding a Michelin Red Guide in the days before GPS), a car so basic it could not be imported into the US. We flew into London, took the train to Paris, rented a car and made our way up to Amsterdam where my husband's college roommate lived, down to Rome via Belgium and Luxembourg and Switzerland, and back through France to Paris. Yes, on $5 (maybe $6) a day per person.

RHYS BOWEN : I wonder if one is born with a travel gene? I had an overwhelming desire to travel from a very early age. I remember my first trips to Wales and Cornwall, what a huge impression they made on me, and begged to go abroad. Finally my parents arranged for me to go to friends in Austria when I was 14. They put me on a train in London. I had to find the right boat, and then the right train on the other side of the Channel. One and a half days in the train (3rd class, hard seats) and I was met at the other end. In those days one did not telephone so I sent my folks a postcard to say I had arrived. If that had been me, I'd have been frantic! Since then going across Europe on my own was a regular event.

Luckily I married a man in the airline business so travel was a big part of our lives. We've been to India several times, Indonesia, Vietnam, all over Australia, and to almost every corner of Europe. I'm writing this from a house in France where we have been entertaining our daughter Clare and her family. We had taken them to England but it's a first trip for the twins to mainland Europe and they are making the most of every minute, including eating snails and sipping red wine (they just turned 16). 


A grown-up Rhys enjoying Nice
Our own children grew up traveling frequently. We always went to England at least once a year, and to other fun places on vacation. They each followed this up with a junior year abroad and then both Clare and Jane went to work in other countries. It was a real growing-up experience for all of them.  And my own travel gene? I have decided I don't need to visit strange and exotic locations. I want to return to places I love. Lots of France and Italy, Switzerland and Austria, and maybe a little taste of Hawaii occasionally.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  When I was a teenager, my father was in the foreign service--a cultural affairs officer for USIA. When I was a junior in high school, I went visit him and his family for a few weeks in Hamburg, Germany--and ended up spending six months! That summer, and about half of my senior year in high school. So it was total immersion European living--and a life-changing experience.

 
I remember one chilling experience: we went into East Berlin, just my fellow 16-year-old foreign service kid pal Allison and I, because my diplomat dad was not allowed to accompany us. Talk about life-changing--it was if the war had just ended, bleak and bombed out, and patrolled by Vopos with snarling German Shepherds. Two cute Jewish girls from America were most definitely not welcomed. 
Checkpoint Charlie, c. 1965

Hank in the 60's
We also went to Amsterdam  and London and Stockholm and it was all amazing and seemed very natural and not touristy--since I lived there, I had to go to the grocery and buy flowers and go to clubs and ride the Ubahn and hang out in parks and not have to DO anything. I learned to speak German pretty well..much of that, sadly is gone, it seems. I attended the International School, so you can imagine the life-broadening experience for a girl from Indiana.  After that, travel never seemed unusual.

Now? It seems like it takes a lot more planning. I'm not sure there is one photo of me there. But here's what I looked like at the time.

LUCY BURDETTE: My first trip abroad was with my family when I was in high school. It was one of those "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" deals. All we kids remember my father freaking out because he was driving around Rome in heavy traffic at night and we couldn't find a room. I also remember feather beds and wiener schnitzel in Switzerland, and desperately wishing for ice in our Coke. I think I've improved as a traveler since those long-ago days! 



JENN McKINLAY: Italy with my mom! A real gal pal trip that included lots of gelato, wine, and art museums. We cherish that trip and the memories made, which includes my mom flagging down the police when she had a beef with the one of the transportation monitors on the city bus! Hiiiilarious! And, yes, I did come back with a fabulous new appreciation of the world, which is why I took the Hooligans to London a few years ago. There is nothing like travel to broaden the horizons.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: My parents took me to Europe the September after I graduated from college (probably because they were so thrilled not to be paying tuition!) Like Lucy's, it was a "if this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium" trip. We started in London, then rented a car in Oxford and did Oxford, Stratford, Bath, Stonehenge, and the Cotswolds. Then across the channel and the train to Paris, Provence, Rome, Florence, Venice. On to Switzerland and Germany, then Amsterdam and finally the ferry back to England for our return flights. 


Eurail pass, American Express Traveler's checks, and Frommer's how many ever dollars a day. I absolutely loved every bit of it, but especially England. Obviously. I lived at home the next nine months, worked and saved money to go back to England on my own, which I did the following June. I had a bus pass and traveled all over England and Scotland, staying in cheap B&Bs, pretty much until my money ran out. I know I have photos somewhere from the first trip, buy I have no idea where! Regardless, it was life altering, in so many ways.

JULIA: How about you, dear readers? What was your first trip abroad? Or your first great solo travel adventure in your own country?

61 comments:

  1. My first great solo adventure was driving across the country to California. It was an amazing experience, but I’m not at all certain I would choose to do it again. I’ve never really enjoyed driving, so the best part of the trip was the sightseeing . . . .

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    1. Joan, Ross took a cross-country rail trip on one of those scenic view Amtrak trains one year while he was in the Air Force. It went from Canada up into British Columbia, then back down across the Great Plains. I can't recall where it wound up, but he talked about the gorgeous sights and the towns they stopped in along the way for years and years.

      They're still around, and still an amazing way to see America without driving (and your bedroom travels with you!)

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  2. No trips abroad for me. I don't travel around a lot inside the borders of the country either. I'm kind of boring that way.

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    1. You know, Jay, it's not that it's boring. I have come to believe some people are born to be happy at home. My oldest, the Smithie, is one of them. She traveled to several places in the US with us when she was a child, but since reaching college age has been perfectly content to stay almost exclusively in New England. It's not that she dislikes or fears travel. She - and many others! - just know deep in their hearts there's no place like home.

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    2. Julia, OK we'll go with that. I've gone to a few places (Philly, Vermont, Georgia) but I have no real desire to go anywhere for a trip unless there was a specific event going on while I was there. San Diego for Comic Con or Atlanta for DragonCon or anywhere the Super Bowl was being held if the Patriots were playing in it.

      I've said it before that I'd really only like to go to England, Scotland and of course Ireland if I was traveling to other countries. But trying to find the spark of true desire (and the money) to do so is another thing entirely.

      I'm fine with going to work, doing my various close to home activities and then just being at home.

      Now if I win the lottery for untold millions of dollars, I might change my mind. But I doubt it.

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  3. I haven't been abroad, yet. As a child I traveled with my family around the country, camping, which isn't as much fun as it sounds.
    But I've really enjoyed reading the Reds' memories of their first trips.

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    1. Judi, in my experience, camping is best when your nights in a tent are interspersed with stays at hotels or B and Bs, preferably ones where parents and kids have separate rooms.

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  4. Other than Mexico and Canada, I didn't go abroad until I was in my fifties, and that was a quick trip to Paris in January because Julie had a conference. It was the beginning of a long romance with France, still my destination of choice.

    I envy all of you who studied abroad. What an opportunity to immerse yourselves in another culture and another language, and I count what is spoken in the UK as a separate language. We spent a month in France, mostly in Paris, the year Julie was 50, my longest time out of the US. I've been to England a couple of times, and to Italy once, Florence and Rome, Assisi and Lucca, all by train. We don't drive in Italy.

    It is hard enough now for me to travel with someone, never mind a sojourn alone. I've driven halfway across the country a couple of times, accompanied only by my cat, Izzy, whose preferred seat was the dashboard of my Camry, and a long Stephen King novel on tape. One of those lasts from Texas to California with no problem.

    We do go to Canada a lot because it's there. So we can decide in the morning, go for lunch, and be home by bedtime. My favorite trip there, though, was to Montreal and then Knowlton, a Three Pines tour. There is a whole economy built around Louise and her books, and is she ever loved an appreciated! She was a shot in the arm for some little towns that were dying on the vine, now doing an enthusiastic tourist trade.

    The next trips are to Cape Cod in September and then Texas and Bouchercon in October. No trip across the pond this year, which is good since I haven't been up to par in a few months. Debs, will I need a passport to get into your state this time? :>)~

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  5. I didn't go "abroad" (not counting the routine trips to Canada we took because we lived in Buffalo and hey, there's Canada, let's go) until I was 22 and out of college. I went to Puerto Rico for three months and then the USVI. And even then, I was working for the SBA on disaster relief. But I did talk my way into a New Year's Eve party on Yost Van Dyke in the BVI without a passport and only a photocopy of my birth certificate. Ah, youth and the days pre-9/11.

    My daughter has already said she wants to spend a semester abroad, but hasn't decided where, when or what for yet.

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    1. Liz, having a kid study abroad is the PERFECT excuse for making that trip overseas. After all, you're only being a good, loving mom...

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    2. Hmm. That means I'll have to consult on the selection - although knowing her, she'll listen to me then make up her own mind anyway.

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  6. Thank you, Reds, for your wonderful travel stories. I've only been to Canada (which doesn't really count if you live in Michigan) and Mexico. I want to go to England and Ireland to see all the wonderful museums, cities, villages, and see where my ancestors came from.

    "But here's what I looked like at the time." Um, Hank, your photo is missing.

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    1. Cathy, that was my fault - I was supposed to add it in, and I was SO conked out by the Thrillerfest conference this past weekend in NYC, I slept until 11 this morning! Didn't wake up until my poor starving kitty began meowing pitifully by my bed.

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  7. Yup, it was! And now it is back. I want you to know, I did that haircut on myself! My mother was horrified. But hey, it was the 60's.

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    1. Hank, you still looked beautiful!

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    2. You did a great job, considering!

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    3. Hank, you were cool even then.

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    4. Honestly, Hank, when I saw your picture I thought you went to the Vidal Sassoon salon to get it done. You look like a Mary Quant model.

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    5. Julia, that is what I was thinking!

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  8. And the WINNER--final call--of Susan Van Kirk's book is--SUSAN! Who saved her family wedding rings from a fire. Email me at hryan at whdh dot com!

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  9. I was in high school when I accompanied my parents on a "If it's Tuesday" trip to Europe to visit friends in London and Paris. We also visited Bavaria and Amsterdam. I spent my junior year in England, and now that the kids are through college, we take a 2.5 week trip every year.

    My kids all did a semester abroad: Sydney for the journalism/anthro major, Paris for the history major, and Copenhagen for the Political Science major.

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    1. Margaret, that sounds like the perfect locations for each kid. I'm hoping when Youngest picks her semester or year abroad program, it'll be somewhere I want to visit!

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  10. Wonderful post. I love to travel. First trip abroad - does Canada count? My Mom and I visited Canada the summer between high school graduation and college. The next summer my Mom and I travelled to England, Scotland and Norway. We saw Hampton Court Palace andWe the Kensington Palace Gardens. We took two different bus tours. We took a bus tour to Oxford. I think the other bus tour was to Windsor Castle ? We walked all over London. We took the train up to York and stayed at the Churchill. We also took the train up to Cambridge and saw Cambridge university. When we left England, we took the train up to Scotland. I remember Edinburgh Castle and a tea room on the Royal Mile. We took a ferry from Newcastle to Bergen, Norway. We rode a train around Norway from Bergen to Oslo. That was a great trip.

    My first solo trip abroad was a study program at Oxford. Wonderful experience! The Julia Whelan novel about Oxford brought back memories of my time at Oxford. No phones for me either. I sent a postcard to let my family know that I was fine. I also sent a fax from a clothes shop in Oxford. I asked if they could send a fax and I gave them four pounds. My family got the postcard before they got the fax! I took about 1,000 photos!

    Diana

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    1. Diana, what a great experience. I envy you that study program at Oxford.

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    2. Deborah, it was a wonderful experience!

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  11. Hank, I can imagine what it was like visiting Germany! I was in Germany AFTER the fall of the Berlin Wall. I met up with American friends. One of them was fluent in German because she was born in Germany and spent her childhood in Germany. The four of us went to a Turkish restaurant in Hamburg, near the University and the waiters only spoke Turkish! NO German! No English! It was comedic!

    Diana

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    1. Diana, you may have hit the only restaurant in Germany where English isn't spoken. I took my midterm holiday in Germany when I was at school in London, hoping to see sights from my childhood and work on my extremely rusty German. But every time I opened my mouth, the person to whom I was speaking would reply in flawless English. Needless to say, I didn't improve my own language skills very much.

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    2. Julia, they did not speak German either!

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  12. Deborah, I remember the Eurail pass!

    Rhys, Wonderful stories about traveling. I travelled to Austria on a 14 day tour with the Rick Steves tour group. It was right across the border from the Mad Ludwig Castle. We could walk from our farmhouse in Austria to the Castle in Germany.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, I looked it up when I started this conversation, and I was delighted to find the Eurail pass is alive and well (and costing a great deal more than you or I ever paid...)

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  13. Julia, sounds like you and your family had wonderful experiences travelling abroad.

    Hallie, that car made me laugh. I do not know why that car, the Citroen, looks so funny to me!

    Diana

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    1. Diana, there is a great pictorial article in this morning's New York Times about the iconic Citroen 2CV, the "Deux Chevaux", and traveling in France in that car.

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    2. Karen, thanks! I will look for the article!

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    3. Diana, I have a photo of my mother, sister and I wearing Bavarian felt capes standing beside the 1960-something Volkswagen Bus we bought when we were posted to Stuttgart. I looked in 9 albums and couldn't find it! A sign I need to organize where I've shoved the pictures a bit better.

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    4. Julia, my sixth grade teacher and her first husband honeymooned in Europe and bought a VW bus. They had it ferried over to the USA and I remember our class riding in the VW on field trips.

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  14. Lucy, it was very brave of your dad to drive in Rome! I would not endeavour to drive in Britain nor in Europe! Did you like the food in Switzerland? I had the rosti, which is similiar to our hash browns.

    Jenn, how fun that you travelled abroad with your Mom and now with your kids!

    Diana

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    1. The think that made the most impression on my in Switzerland was the raclette. The food... always the food.

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    2. Deborah, we were in Switzerland for one or two days. I do not remember the raclette, though.

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  15. What a great experience for Youngest, Julia. My two younger daughters both had semesters abroad: one to Bangkok, Thailand, with a significant side trip to Nepal to trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest with three other American students, over Christmas. The youngest went to Sydney, Australia, where she radiated to most of the major Australian cities, New Zealand, and a three-week trip to Bangkok and Phuket, by herself. She ended up being invited to stay with a French family in Phuket, in their servant-staffed enclave. (Yes, this DID freak me out after the fact! I knew nothing about it until she was back in the States.) They both started international travel as 14-year olds: one with youth group, and the other with her Latin teacher.

    All three daughters have traveled extensively since then. One has been to every continent but Antarctica; the middle daughter has been to all but Antarctica and Australia. She has also spent a lot of concentrated time traveling, including ten months roaming around Europe in a travel van she bought in Turkey, from a German couple she met at a climbing area. Lots of adventures!

    When I met Steve in 1978 I had been to about a dozen states; he had been to 48 by then. Now I've been to all but Alaska, and have driven, on my own, from Cincinnati to the East Coast (Hartford--which was my first solo car trip, the Adirondacks, and NYC), to Miami, to New Orleans, to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to Wyoming, and from Seattle to San Diego. We have also taken a lot of car trips together, crisscrossing the country most directions.

    The only solo trip I've taken out of the country was to Italy, Innsbruck, Munich, and Prague three years ago. I was only truly on my own for about a week of that time. But it was mind-bending, and high time, I thought, at age 64.

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    1. Karen, did your trip to Italy include the writing workshop in Tuscany?

      Diana

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    2. Karen, Youngest is enjoying in very much, thank you. I was happy she chose a one-month trip for her first study abroad experience, since she hadn't been overseas as a child. Like you, however, she has seen a LOT of the US. I was the opposite - I was in my forties before I started seeing more of America than a handful of states and DC.

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  16. Rhys and I might be sisters under the skin. Back in the day when I was in college airlines offered student fares. As I recall, it was $65. I don't know how I graduated. I went to Jamaica and lived on the beach - sold a spare pair of sneakers for extra money. Went to Great Britain, somehow managed to talk a car hire agency in renting me a car (only tried to shift the door handle two or three times) that I immediately took to the Lake District where I got a job pulling beers in a pub and that came with free room. I loved it, didn't come back home for three months. Then I decided to see all the Caribbean, so I, who could barely boil water, signed on as a cook on a cargo ship. I was the only cook, it was a small boat, and those men taught me how to cook. Give me three ingredients, I'll make you a meal. That adventure lasted for two months. The end result, I have seen very little of this country, never been west of Houston! I still have some travel to do.

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  17. I spent 2 weeks in Mexico with Girl Scouts when I was 15. I wasn't alone just wasn't with my family which was my problem. I had never been any where unless it was with family and then it was to visit extended family in Washington. 15 years later I returned to the same areas of Mexico while in a chorus, my paternal grandmother died while we were in Taxco. I took the ferry to Victoria from Seattle, with my step-grandma. It was only for a overnight trip. I'd love to visit Butchery Gardens again, take more time and as beautiful as Mexico was I'm a little leery about a third trip. I haven't left the continent and I'd love to, will make someday. First I need a passport.

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    1. Good heavens. Deana, Mexico sounds like a Series of Unfortunate Events for you. Maybe you should get that passport and try Canada instead. My family has had some amazing holidays up north, skiing, camping or enjoying much larger city life than we can get anywhere near Maine.

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    2. I read about some beautiful trains trips across Canada. That's my current dream but I have to work up the nerve to take more than 1 week off work.

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  18. Contrary to most of the Reds, I was 55 the first time I went abroad and by myself. I planed all and booked B&B 's using travel's guide and a little bit of internet. I only bought my plane ticket and my train pass through my travel's agent.
    I wanted to visit Scotland and no one else was interested at the time, I went anyway and never regretted it.
    I communicated with family and friends in " Internet cafe " a couple of times to let them know that all was well.
    It was marvellous and life changing even at that age. I have gained a lot of confidence in myself and planed others after that.

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    1. Danielle, I think the good effects of travel happen at every age, so long as we're willing to be open to new ideas and experiences!

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  19. I love these stories. Rhys Bowen, I think we are born with a travel gene, which is as good an explanation for wanderlust as any. My first trip abroad was 1968, the summer before my senior year in college. I lost my mom suddenly in my freshman year and by the spring of my junior year, my dad was engaged to a woman who lived in our town who had a daughter just completing her freshman year. They'd lost their husband/father the past autumn and my soon-to-be step-mom promised her daughter a summer in Europe so they would not be spending the summer feeling miserable at home. They invited me to join them. All I can say is that traveling so intimately with strangers is not the easiest way to get acquainted with your new family! My step-sister and I had so many adventures together that we still laugh about them 'til this day. My step-mother and dad are both gone now, but they were together for the rest of their lives. I cherish my memories of that summer.

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    1. Judy, what an amazing story! You really do get to know the people you travel with - warts and all! My mother always said you should take a long trip with a man before you agreed to marry him, because nothing showed a person's real character like the stresses and surprises of travel.

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    2. Julia, someone should have told us that. We always have a few "arguments" when we travel. Fortunately, when you are in beautiful places, the romance takes over. I try not to make him angry on the way home.

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  20. My first solo trip was from San Francisco to Manila where I stayed with my Aunt & Uncle for the summer between high school & college. What a culture shock between my California upbringing & the Philippines! My first day there,I unwittingly insulted their maid by making my bed! They then took me with them to Europe -Germany & England. So, technically, I went around the world..... but the 22 hour flight from Manila to Frankfort was a killer. I was thoroughly infected with the travel bug, and travel abroad whenever I can....

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    1. M. Smith, that kind of early experince is almost guaranteed to make you a travel nut - or to swear it off forever. A 22 hour flight! My butt hurts just hearing about it.

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  21. Laughing. I still remember buying travelers checks to use on trips here in the States! Glad those days are over. My first trip abroad, and I do not count Mexico border area, Canada, or a Caribbean cruise, was when I was 46 years old and my husband and I invited my parents to go to Ireland with us. I was in charge of everything once we were there. Route, rental car, hotels, b&bs, the whole enchilada. It was a miserable flight there but worth it. Three years later I planned a trip to Spain with husband and my youngest sister. We had a ball though I was again stuck with all the details. My m-i-l was a travel agent and invited me to go with her on a fly and drive tour, offseason, hotels only, no b&bs. To Ireland, one of her favorite places, in January or February. So I found myself driving in a foreign land for the very first time. Asking total strangers, generally garrulous older men, for directions, and loving it. Seewee had a cold when we left Houston and ducked out on some of the sightseeing, electing to stay in our room. Which left me on my own to drive off to castles, or wander the towns on foot. Of course, every darn time I came back to find she'd vanished. I'd have to wait for her to reappear or else going looking for her. Anyway, that was my first semi-solo trip abroad. Now I have a question. Some time ago some of you were raving about a series of single city tour books. What were they? Frank and I are taking our granddaughter to London in September for a graduation present, hoping to give her more confidence in certain areas and instill a love of travel. Which may bring up the issue of do I let her wander off on her own if she wants to? Help!

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  22. Shalom Reds and readers. Besides Canada, I was 35 before my first trip abroad. The year before, my mother had died and left a small life insurance policy for me and my two brothers. I was struggling with depression and alcoholism at that time and decided to take an extended trip to Israel. I applied and was accepted for a program which was at that time subsidized by the Israeli government and I was to have room and board on a kibbutz in return for a half day’s work 5-1/2 days a week. The other half of the day, I was to study Hebrew in an ulpan (Hebrew immersion). The program was for six months. I got my passport and purchased an open-ended roundtrip on EL-AL. My father accompanied me to JFK airport and he left me when I got on line to have my luggage checked and get my boarding pass. Then the adventure began. Airline security called me out from the end of the line. As a young adult male travelling alone and who had paid for my ticket in cash, they wanted to take a closer look at me. They unpacked and checked all of my luggage several times while questioning me severely for at least 45 minutes. I was sweating. They said “You seem nervous. Why are you nervous?” I said “You’re giving me the “third degree”. Why shouldn’t I be nervous?” (It’s a Jewish thing. Answering a question with a question.) They got me on the plane minutes before it took off.” I arrived in Israel at 2 am and was taken by taxi on a long ride to the kibbutz which was to be home for the next 6 months. It was a Friday. It was 4 or 5 in the morning. The program director was awake to greet me and we did intake paper work. On Shabbat, Saturday, second cousins (once and twice removed) travelled many hours from Jerusalem, picked me up and took me to the retirement home where my mother’s aunt and uncle lived. They were already suffering a bit from age and senility but we spent the afternoon looking at picture albums and getting to know each other. My only regrets from that time are that we didn’t have the internet and that we didn’t have digital photography and the ubiquitous smart phone cameras yet. Although, who knows, maybe those were divine blessings. Just a few weeks ago, I just got my photographs for a new passport.

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  23. My first trip without family was a month in Argentina to improve my Spanish. I stayed with a family through IACE, an exchange group, and had to write a paper and go to some classes at JFK University in Buenos Aires for credit at my college at home. The family had 7 kids, 2 maids, a swimming pool, a piano, and an estancia in the country. Talk about cultural shock! However, even though they were rich in some ways, our appliances and TV's were better. Although the family was great about talking to me in Spanish, most of their friends and the professors at JFK insisted on using their English. Since one friend, Isabel, and the Argentine "sister" who had to accompany the blind woman in our group didn't speak English, I thought that was very rude and tried to include them in the conversations.

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  24. My first trip abroad was when I was 16. It was the first time I'd ever been on a plane. My parents didn't go with me, it was sort of a teen tour but we all lived with families in the suburbs, and then toured London and other parts of England during the day. After 4 weeks, we traveled to Scotland for 4 days. It was the summer that Prince Charles married Princess Diana so it was wonderfully exciting to be in London for the big day.

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  25. Oh my I adore all these tales. So exciting. I love travel. I was at something called Girls State as a high school senior and had a roommate that week while we bunked at the U. of Kansas. She was homesick! Poor little thing, she was so upset, only a week. And I simply couldn't understand it. I wanted to see the world!
    The summer between my sophomore and junior year in college I spent at a Russian language program in Finland and the USSR. In the sixties! Khrushchev was not long deposed when I was there...that's how long ago it was. Six weeks in Finland with ancient Russian emigrees who fled after the revolution teaching us Russian and then four weeks in the Soviet Union. I loved every minute of the whole summer and never got homesick once. I could go on and on about it, but that trip absolutely changed my life. I returned to college and added another major to my English major, in Soviet Area Studies, then went on to get grad degrees in Russian history. The Russian people are wonderful, the history dramatic and sad, and the government, hmmm, not so much.
    Pinned to the cork board that faces me as I sit and type on my PC is a decal from the hotel where I stayed in LENINGRAD. I can't begin to tell you how weird it was when Leningrad returned to being officially named St. Petersburg. I tell you I was steeped in centuries of Russian and Soviet history. By a fluke I had taken Russian as an undergrad instead of German, as I had planned. If I had gone on my college's summer language institute to Germany instead, I often wonder how my life might have been different. I was just crazy to learn about another culture. I think that was it...and I still am. But I am very Eurocentric. I know that isn't the fashion these days, but there you are.

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