It’s been more than 20 years since I took my first trip to Europe. I traveled by myself and it was scary and exciting. As someone who grew up in a small town in Canada during the 70s and 80s my only knowledge of the world came from school, television, libraries and the family encyclopedia set (Funk & Wagnalls). I spent hours, definitely days, possibly months laying on the family room floor reading our atlas. I studied cities and countries all over the world. Honestly I have no idea why – I’m sure there is a post about a small town kid dreaming about seeing the world.
My trip had very little plan to it. I had a too large backpack, a plane ticket from Winnipeg to London (and back), a Eurorail ticket, and a Lonely Planet guidebook. In 1998, I did have an email address and dialup access to the internet, but I didn’t even think to use, what we called, the World Wide Web to plan my trip.
My trip was amazing. I spent 2 months meeting and traveling with new people the entire time. I stayed in cities as long as I wanted and left when I felt like it was time. No itinerary and no reservations. The thing that made the trip so special for me wasn’t the cities or countries (they were fantastic), but it was that I got out of my comfort-zone, talked to strangers, became friends, ate dinner together, traveled together, said goodbye, moved on to new destinations and did it all over again.
Currently I find myself living in Europe and still traveling a lot with my wife. What strikes me when we travel is how connected and disconnected travelers seem. It happens to me too. Sometimes I find myself traveling alone, either for work or for pleasure, and I am connected and disconnected. I’m connected, reading the news while I eat eggs in the morning. I’m messaging friends and family all over the world while I drink a glass of red wine, but I’m disconnected from the place I’m in. I rarely talk to or get to know strangers. I wonder if this happens with younger travelers today? Those experiences of getting out of my comfort-zone to meet people had a huge influence on who I am today. I hope that travelers today still get those same experiences.