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