Europe 1979 – 2 – How It All Began

Map of Europe with the cities I visited noted.

It was the seventies. A time when it seemed lots of young people were backpacking across Europe. I think that was part of the reason I wanted to go to Europe so much, but it wasn’t the only reason. Even then, I just loved to travel.

A friend and I had decided we would go to Europe. We set the time for a year out, but we didn’t fill in all the other details. That would come later. Except it didn’t. She decided to get married instead, and I was happy for her. However I still wanted to go to Europe. I had been saving my money! That wasn’t easy to do as I was a college student at the time.

I attended UMSL, the University of Missouri at St. Louis, a university that had opened in 1963, only 14 years earlier. It was a commuter college. There was even a bus line that ran from South St. Louis to the college . Which was how I got to college my first two years.

The bus line ran twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. I took the late route home each night as I had a student worker job my freshman year in the Philosophy department. One evening, as I left the department, I saw it. It was taped to the wall by the elevator.

It was a poster advertising a company which offered tours in Europe for college students. The company was called “American something something.” I can’t recall! But what I can recall was that I was excited to see this poster. It was my ticket to Europe.

I don’t remember if I wrote down the contact information or tore off a small piece of paper from a notepad attached to the poster. It wasn’t like now, of course, with an easy to remember website listed.

Whatever contact information was there, I followed up on it soon after. The company sent me two or three names of students who had taken the tour a year earlier. I wrote each student a letter and asked about their experience. Mostly I had one concern, one issue I was really worried about.

I was going by myself. I wouldn’t know a single person. And I was kind of shy. Could I do this? The letters I received back said it was an amazing experience, and guess what else. Each person said they had gone alone, not knowing a single soul, and … most of the students on the trip had come by themselves, too.

I signed up. I sent in my money. If I recall correctly, the cost of the trip was slightly less than $2,000, including air fare. I was going to Europe. I knew it wouldn’t be the same experience as back packing through Europe, but I was going. I would be with a tour group, and I would be visiting 13 countries in 31 days!

One Saturday morning, a thick envelope came in the mail with all the information I needed to know for my trip. As instructed, I applied for my passport and the needed visas. I scrounged and came up with the minimum suggested spending money to bring along. I even read all the recommended books including, “The Agony and The Ectasy. ” I was surprised at how thick that book was when I picked it up from the library.

One Friday or Saturday evening close to my departure date, my boyfriend and I went over to Linda and Phil’s flat to spend the evening with them. However, when I opened the door, it wasn’t just my sister and her husband, but lots of people who yelled, “Surprise!” It was a bon voyage party for me! Everyone asked me, “Were you surprised?” I was definitely surprised as such a thing never even crossed my mind.

I was and am lucky to have my sister who has always been a cheerleader for me and my endeavors. It’s a lucky thing to have a cheerleader, and it’s kind of a rare thing, too. That’s one reason why I try to be a cheerleader for others.

When I read the comments from my post announcing this Europe blogging project, I felt like you all, my dear readers, were cheerleaders for me, too. I wasn’t sure if anyone would be interested in my trip to Europe in 1979, but the enthusiasm just rolled off the page. It was very touching, and I thank you.

Next stop: Arriving in Heathrow

33 comments

  1. Fantastic introduction, Betty! Can’t wait for Chapter 1. For me, the excitement of reading about your trip, is that this was exactly what I wanted to do in the 70’s but didn’t get the idea “off the ground”, so to speak. By following along with your experiences, I’ll vicariously go there in the 70’s – sort of like time travel 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I appreciate your excitement. You’re right; it is a little like time travel. It’s a visit to the 70s, but it’s also a glimpse of who I was at 20. I hope you have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a VERY interesting story and you are an excellent story teller, Betty. The cheerleader element really catches my attention. You were inspired to visit Europe by the adventures of your sister and brother in law. You wrote to others who took the trip you were considering and they were encouraging as well. So, after a surprise party, with more cheerleaders, you took the trip. I can only imagine how just one negative comment from someone you cared about could have derailed your Europe plans–before they came to fruition. Like you said, THAT’S why we need to encourage others in their adventures. Provided they’re not planning to bungee jump off the Gateway Arch, or something similar.😳

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, David, for your kind words. You are right; I could have been discouraged so easily. Even though I had encouraging letters from those who took the trip as well as my friends and family’s support, I was very nervous to go alone. I am convinced how powerful our words and actions can be, and I am sure we never fully realize their impact on others. Now, how did you know I’ve been encouraging others to bungee jump off the Gateway Arch? 😉 Have a great Saturday!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great beginning! In 1979, I was a year out college and a year into graduate school. I got married at the end of that year and not long after, my father- and mother-in-law began to travel to Europe. I was so jealous of their trips when I saw their pictures and heard their stories. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait until we were their age before my wife and I began to travel to Europe. I look forward to future updates to hear about your adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it was really an ambitious iternary. I’m glad you are looking forward to my posts. It’s a bit tricky to piece it all together after 42 years. Plus, I want these posts to be of value to my readers. But I am as ready as I’ll ever be! So….Go!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My first trip to Europe was to Paris where I had arranged a rendezvous-vous with a friend who lived there. We had grand adventures during the two weeks we spent together. That trip was the beginning of many other joints to European destinations.
    I look forward to hearing of your solo adventures. How brave you were!

    Liked by 1 person

    • How wonderful you had those adventures! Hopefully, my posts will help you relive some of your own adventures. I only went to Europe once. I’m glad you had many jaunts to European destinations. I look forward to your comments with your own memories!

      Like

  5. To have a dream and to dare to act on it. That’s what makes life so fulfilling. To live not with “well what if” but rather to live life with “I went for it and how rich my life is because I did”. What a marvelous time in your life it must been. Looking forward to the rest of the trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As one of the country songs we like to listen to, “It all goes by real quick.” Don’t we know it? Pity those who don’t even try to make the most of it. Perhaps our example can inspire others to enjoy life to the fullest – as best we can. Have a great week ahead!

      Like

  6. I’ve enjoyed this part in your series and look forward to more! This story is a perfect example of how things that don’t work out usually do and often in a better way!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right. There have been so many times in life where something disappointing leads to something better. I am glad you enjoyed this part. Thanks for reading and letting me know that. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

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