This post is part of a series inspired by prompts from the book 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. If you want to play along, write your own post (on your blog or other online forum) and post a link in the comments. I’ll add “shout-outs” at the end of my post and on the Keep Swimmin’ Facebook page to anyone who shares a link.
The prompt: #392: Your first time in a foreign country
In 1985 I was a freshly minted high school graduate and had the opportunity to join in a post graduation trip to Europe chaperoned by teachers from the school. For about 2 weeks a group of, I don’t know, forty (?) of us – a mix of 17 to 19 year-olds – spend time in London, Paris, Venice, Innsbruck, Brugge, and Munich.
Totally awesome, right?
It really was a great experience, however probably somewhat wasted on a 17-year-old who had never been away from home before. Here is the abbreviated (although not by much) version of what I remember.
* Holy crap, my parents aren’t here. Yay!
* There is no one to tell me when to go to bed.
* I can have a beer? What??
* Nice castle.
* Where the h*ll did that car come from?
* Where is Picadilly circus?
* Why is the food so gross?
* Nice church.
* Holy crap, my parents aren’t here. Yikes!
* Yay! Paris! I took French in school – this is going to be ah-maz-ing!
* Oh, apparently my French is the sort of French that enrages French people who just wish American teenagers would just shut up and disappear.
* There are pickpockets everywhere – must be diligent.
* Nice church.
* Holy crap, my parents aren’t here. Help.
* Thank goodness we aren’t in Paris anymore.
* Dutch words have a LOT of letters in them.
* Nice church.
* Europe is fun!
Innsbruck (we arrived around 6PM and just spend the night there – I’m not sure why):
* Hmmm…everything is closed.
* It is dark.
* Where is the beer?
* No churches to tour?
* Everything is open!
* Italy is cool.
* Nice (big) church/castle thing.
* Holy Hannah, that’s a lot of pigeons.
* Lots of gross water.
* Living here would be complicated.
* People shouldn’t eat whole octopuses – like – ever. Certainly not in front of me.
* My parents would like it here.
* That is one big beer.
* Nice town square.
* Maybe if I take 700,000 pictures of this thing you’ll be able to see that it is moving.
* That’s another big beer.
* Where are my parents?
* Where is my hotel room?
I’m not saying it wasn’t awesome and fun and a great experience. But I think a LOT of the things we saw were lost in my newly free, newly legal, teenaged fog. A lot. I keep thinking I should go back and do the same tour with my adult eyes and priorities and actually SEE the stuff instead of all of the peripheral stuff.
I came back with a box of snapshots (not sure where that ended up), and a bunch of memories (that I now forget.) But despite the lack of actual tangible memories, I am super thankful for the opportunity to see old things that somehow made me feel young and free and capable. And I gained a whole new appreciation for my parents :)
How about you? What was YOUR first experience in a foreign country?
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My son went to Paris for 10 days post high school with his favorite teachers. He was most impressed with finding Jim Morrison’s grave.
He also commented all the cars were small and the breads were awesome.