by mia hinkle
This is one of the questions that my sons, Walker and Jackson, gave me as a writing prompt through StoryWorth. Thought you might enjoy it….
What was your first adventure like?
Wow, I could go a hundred directions with this question! I think my greatest adventure is without a doubt marrying your dad and moving 600 miles from Minnesota to Indiana. Running off with a bass player wasn’t exactly the kind of thing that was modeled in my family growing up! It was pretty gutsy, come to think of it! The sky was raining cats and dogs on Christmas Day 1981 when we arrived in Indianapolis; I thought I had moved to the deep south! “Hey! Where are the piles of snow? It’s Christmas!”
Another great adventure was creating our family through adoption. What a wild and beautiful adventure it was raising our two beautiful sons! When you guys were little and we would be on a road trip and would (occasionally) lose our way, you could sense it and would always ask, “Are we lost?” And I would reply (while folding and unfolding the interstate map), “No honey, we aren’t lost. We’re just on an adventure! Everything will be alright.” Later on when you were on the cusp of adulthood and sometimes seemed to have lost your way, I would have to remind myself, “They’re not lost, they’re just on an adventure. Everything will be just fine.”
But the question isn’t asking about my greatest adventure, it’s asking about my first adventure. So here goes.
When I was 19 years old, I traveled around Europe for a month. I visited London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Lucerne, Heidelberg, and Frankfurt. It cost me $1,000 including airfare, train connections, food, lodging, and admissions to museums. Plus, I brought back gifts for everyone in my family! Before boarding the plane in Germany to fly back to Minneapolis, I searched my pockets and found I was down to my last 25 cents. No cell phones. No credit cards. No Venmo. Just planning my cash for a month to get the most bang for the buck!
Those were the days! The dollar was strong in 1973. When I got home, I wrote a paper about the experience, got an A+, and earned four history college credits. I didn’t know a soul in the group before we left. We roomed four in a room at hostels, ate twice a day, and had a blast!
In England, we visited the British Museum where lots of stolen Greek antiquities reside after they were plucked off the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. We toured the Tower of London, the prison and torture chamber where King Henry the 8th had two of his six wives beheaded. We walked the streets of Stratford-upon-Avon where Shakespeare was born and wrote many of his classics. We sat in the cheap seats at the Palace Theatre and saw the Jesus Christ Superstar with (nearly) the original cast!
In France, we visited the Louvre where we saw Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Pieta, and countless other masterpieces. I got separated from the group in that giant museum and had to make it back to the hotel by myself. (Again, no cell phones, no Google Maps!) Still not sure how I did that! We climbed the Eiffel Tower where I was groped by a local perv as I took photos of the Paris skyline. We traveled to the Palace of Versailles of LET THEM EAT CAKE fame otherwise known as the birthplace of modern democracy. I bought a handmade Alencon lace tablecloth there. We toured the Musee Rodin where the works of Rodin, Van Gough, and Monet can be seen; The Thinker and The Kiss are among the most famous sculptures on display in the lovely gardens there.
In Italy, we visited Vatican City where the Pope lives in opulent splendor. And felt quite troubled by the streets around it lined with beggars. In St. Peter’s Basilica, we gazed upon The Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that Michael Angelo painted by laying on his back on scaffolding for the four years it took to complete. His eyesight was permanently damaged by the process. We went inside Roman Coliseum where Emperor Nero and his lions killed Christians just for sport back in the day.
In Florence, we saw the famous Statue of David and marveled at how handsome his naked body was! We shopped at the Ponte Vecchio which is an enclosed medieval bridge over the Arno River with shops along both sides. We took a side trip one day and saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa which has been leaning for nearly 840 years! We scored tickets for Verdi’s opera Aida in the Roman open-air amphitheater in Verona Veneto. And didn’t understand a word.
In Heidelberg, we had cheese fondue for the first time and visited the ruins of the Heidelberg Castle. And we drank German beer.
In Switzerland, we visited the city of Lucerne and took the Funicular Gutstch to a fancy chateau in the mountains. The snowcapped Alps and the stunning view of Lake Lucerne truly took our breath away.
In Frankfurt, we caught our flight back to Minneapolis. With 25 cents to my name.
It occurs to me as I write this just how important travel is in one’s education. Many details of that trip nearly 50 years ago came rushing back to my mind’s eye with each paragraph.
So, the moral of the story is this. Travel more. Accumulate less. Spend your time and money on seeing new places. Travel with your kids. Travel without your kids. Just travel. You can have the time of your life and come home smarter and with a better understanding of the world we live in.