Venice Hotels Articles

May 17, 2010

Memoirs: My first trip to a foreign country

My first overseas trip falls into the category of cliche, but it was deeply meaningful for me. I graduated college, and I took a job in a city in which I knew no one. It was 1984, and college graduates couldn’t be selective about jobs (much like 2009, when jobs are hard to get). After year at the job, I had saved enough money for my first overseas trip – backpacking across Europe with a former college roommate.

My roommate and I left the US from Newark Airport on a sweltering day in June. Neither of us had been outside of the US. We landed in London, and we were greeted with a week of cold and rain. We decamped to Amsterdam, where we were robbed at knifepoint and endured another week of (from our perspective) unseasonably cold weather. Welcome to Europe.

With spirits undaunted but our bones chilled, we decided to take the next train south, and to not get off the train until it was hot. It took about a day, but we reached Rome. We were reborn. We camped along the Appian Way, and we explored the city on foot for endless days. The contrasts between the ancient Roman ruins and the modern day world were startling and exciting. We didn’t want to leave.

Over the next month, we explored Florence and Venice, Paris, and Munich. We ate and drank and danced and fantasized about all the women we’d meet (but were too shy to talk to). It was glorious.

Finally, we parted ways in Geneva. I headed from there to southern Germany, and from there across France and into Spain. I spent a month traveling by myself – meeting up at hostels and cheap hotels with other travelers. I walked, and I hitchhiked. I took trains, and I took ferries. I was on my schedule, and no one else’s. I drank in the morning, and I wrote far into the night. I met two girls (finally!), and I was robbed (again!). It was all glorious, too.

Finally, my money ran out. I was in Calais, with a ticket for a ferry to Dover and enough money to take a bus from Dover to London. I had a return ticket from London to New York. I got to London, and I couldn’t get on that plane back home. I had nothing that I needed to return home to do. I didn’t care about my job, and I didn’t have a girlfriend. I had no possessions that really mattered to me. And I wasn’t done exploring.

So I stayed in London. I found a job at a restaurant that paid under-the-table, and I got a cheap room in a group apartment. In my free time, I explored London. I was an Anglophile who majored in literature (Dickens, Shakespeare, Yeats, and P.G.

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