GK and I had been visiting teaching partners for about 10 years. But then we were split up and assigned to other partners. From time to time, we try to do lunch or dinner together to catch up. It was at one of those catch up dinners in January 2017 when she invited me to go to Europe.
At the time of the dinner, I was still reeling from 2016. So, I caught her up on my woes. However you want to call it – venting, murmuring, complaining, whining – it must have produced some amount of sympathy because she told me about her approaching summer vacation to Europe. And she invited me. This probably could be a cautionary tale of extending sympathy invitations because to both of our surprise I accepted. I mean, I didn’t have any commitments to worry about in the summer. My calling? I was about to be sustained as a nursery worker. I figured by June I could use a break from that.
So why not go?
I have never traveled outside of the country before so the first thing I did was get a passport. There happened to be two of us who arrived at the same time to the post office needing a passport. The clerk made friendly conversation and asked us where we were going. He assumed we were traveling together. I tried to mention as nonchalantly as possible that I was going to about 6 different countries. The other traveler was only going to Canada…but she planned to walk across the country in some sort of fundraising effort. And just like that my 6 country tour was trumped.
I didn’t want to wipe out my savings for the trip so I decided to take out a loan to cover the immediate expenses. Because I have no collateral except my hard earned savings that money was put into a different account. I call it jail because I can’t touch it until next February.
The trip seemed so far off at that point that I didn’t really think about it too much.
As a novice flyer, and the fact I was traveling with strangers (for the most part) I was concerned I’d be the weak link in the trip. Everyone else in the traveling party was only doing a carry-on but that stressed me out with all the airline compliances. Plus, we were traveling for 10 days. Ten days. I opted to check my luggage.
I prayed that my luggage wouldn’t get lost and slow the group down.
I also have had some stomach issues so I prayed for good health so that I wouldn’t be sick. Not only that, but sometimes I get some severe headaches that can ruin best laid plans (looking at you Mesa Verde trip of ’16). I did not want another headache to thwart my vacation.
When I get tired I get overly sensitive. I knew I’d be running on fumes. I prayed I wouldn’t be overly-sensitive.
I prayed that I wouldn’t be the creepy-quiet one. I wanted to be able to carry on a conversation.
Basically, I didn’t want to be the bothersome one; the annoying one.
As the day drew nearer, I was amazed at how many times I could bring up my trip in casual conversation. I didn’t want to brag about my Europe trip but everyone I conversed with seemed to find out about my upcoming journey. No matter how cool I tried to be about it the fact was my insides were churning with excitement and anxiety.
Except there was one place that I never mentioned my trip plans at all. It was no easy task to keep quiet but I adhered to the 21st Century Safety Standard and did not say anything about my vacation online. Apparently, ne’er do wells look for opportunities to break into people’s homes. And if people broadcast their home will be vacant it might prompt an unwanted visitor. I really have nothing to steal. My fear was giving an impression of a vacant home that would not be vacant. I didn’t want any harm to come to anyone so for the past couple of years I only post my trip experiences after the fact.
The time approached and I completed all my other to-do’s until the next task at hand was, in fact, the trip. GK, her dad, and I flew to Des Moines on Sunday. GK’s sister and brother-in-law live outside of Des Moines and that was our converging point. On Monday we traded our dollars for Euros. I made a mistake and did not choose to get any Swiss Francs. Up until that day, I didn’t realize Switzerland had its own currency so I didn’t prepare for it. Looking back, choosing not to get any Francs was a huge mistake.
Our journey was to begin at 4:00am Tuesday morning. We had an early flight to Chicago. Then we had a few hours layover in apparently that most dreaded airport of the country (no one has anything good to say about O’Hare) and then to New Jersey. Our flight to Berlin was scheduled for 8:00pm Tuesday out of New Jersey.
But we woke up Tuesday morning to some plan changing news. Severe thunderstorms in Chicago canceled and delayed flights. We would not be able to get to Chicago and then to New Jersey. The best we could do was take an afternoon flight to Houston and stay the night then to New Jersey Wednesday morning and fly to Berlin exactly 24 hours later than scheduled. We’d lose a whole day in Berlin. But it was the best we could do and took it.
Tuesday afternoon we drove to the Des Moines International Airport and took our first flight to Houston. We stayed overnight in a hotel and left early Wednesday morning for New Jersey.
My co-worker asked for a pin from New Jersey since she figured she would never make it to New Jersey. Who plans to go to New Jersey? But apparently, not a lot of people fly into New Jersey to sightsee that great state. If they fly into that airport they are on their way to the Big Apple. At least, that’s the impression I received from the souvenir choices. I could find no pin after searching a bit in the airport. Back at our seats outside of our gate I looked at the souvenir kiosk next to us and found a New Jersey magnet. That was the best I could do.
Since we were on a rescheduled flight our seats on the plane to Berlin were not together. I sat next to a young German mother with two young boys probably about 3 and 1. The boys actually shared the seat between the mother and I and my first thought was, “Heavenly Father really wants me to like little kids.” It was an eight hour flight and I was worried about sitting next to toddlers. But the older boy fell asleep shortly after take-off and the younger brother finally fell asleep. They slept the whole trip. Sometimes the older boy rested his head on my arm but it wasn’t too bad. The mother had to use the restroom at one point and pointed to me and the boys as if to ask if I could watch them for a second. I could do that. I wanted to write a note to the mother and let her know she was doing a good job but I never did. She did get sick as we landed but was discreet about it. I did exit the plane quickly though because I didn’t want to get sick also. I hoped that since she was a young mother maybe it was morning sickness and not something I could catch. I did not want to be sick! Since I was sitting in front of the rest of my travel group I thought I could get my checked luggage and not make them wait.
I left the plane and received my first stamp in my passport. Welcome to Berlin!
My Europe Road Trip Part V