My girls’ don’t remember their first trip overseas. They were each about two when they boarded their first airplane to make the long trip to their new home. More than a decade later, they tested their wings again, this time to explore the world on their own terms. I wasn’t sure how they’d adjust; I shouldn’t have worried.
International travel is grueling. Though we’d excitedly planned the trip for months, even I had a certain amount of dread before we left knowing what was coming. But with Megan’s mobility issues and Claire’s social anxiety, there was definite risk to our trip. I was proud of them both; they did great. It was fun to watch their worldview broaden as they experienced another part of the world. They experienced what it’s like when the food, language, transportation, architecture, and even the electrical outlets are different than what they’re accustomed to. Watching them discover the wonders of two of the world’s jewels was a joy.
Our adventure began within the first few hours, even before we got to the airport. Ever since a friend 25 years ago recommended flying Aer Lingus when I eventually went to Ireland, we drove to Chicago the day before our flight. On a whim, we stopped at the St. Louis Arch, all lit up at night…it was magical. Once in Dublin, we grabbed packaged cookie-waffles and caffeine in the airport and found our way to our rented apartment. For the next three days, we explored cafes and castles and churches, chasing leprechauns down cobblestone streets which have seen a millennium of history. Then off to Munich, for Bavarian architecture and food and a sobering trip to Dachau. We learned that we like chocolate muffins but not German coffee. We learned that public transportation is convenient, once you get the hang of it (they didn’t believe that I put us on the right train going in the wrong direction to teach them how important it is to look at the map in advance). They learned the importance of flexibility and rest, and they kept their sense of humor when things didn’t go perfectly.
I was proud of them, just as I’ve always been proud of them. They are now citizens of the world, though they’ve always had one foot standing in two different countries. They’ve seen for themselves that the world is a big place and that there is not just one right way to live in it.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” –Mark Twain