At this very moment, Sean and I are on-board a flight en-route to Bangkok, Thailand. I honestly can’t believe this time has come! When we started planning our trip, Europe seemed so large…so massive…and it felt like we were going to be there for so long. But really, how long is 7 months? In the grand scheme of things, it is a blimp. A moment. A tiny fraction of life. But, in these 7 months, we have learned so much. We have learned about ourselves, our marriage, our world, our relationship with God, and all the other wonderful (and not so wonderful) things about traveling such as the people, the food, and the sites.
When I think back to the moment we boarded the plane in Orange County, CA with a one-way ticket to Rome, Italy, I remember feeling nerves, excitement, sadness (for missing our friends, family, and the life we left back home), and anticipation for what was to come for the next year. I daydreamed about it all day, every day leading up to August 19, 2015. I looked at maps, blogs, articles, and photos just to gather all the information I could without ruining the “surprise” of it all. Who wants to really learn all about a place before actually being there yourself and developing your own opinions? But, with that being said, who wants to be blindsided by certain quirks a city might have? We’ve have always had this daydream version of cities such as Paris, Florence, London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Barcelona…and they all did not turn out to be what we expected. They were so much MORE than our expectations lead us to believe. They were beautiful in their own way and it wasn’t the prestigious monuments that had us swoon (although, they were amazing!), but it was the experiences that we had there. I know this might be cliché to say...I am sure I have seen some quote say this one time or another…but traveling is about experiences and the little moments that make YOUR version of a city special. I am sure a trillion people have seen the Eiffel Tower but have they seen it with wine a cheese? Ok, stupid question. Of course they have! I mean, it is France after all. But, did they see it through our eyes? Did they experience the crisp air of a November evening, with a slice of brie bigger than their heads, a husband that was annoyed with the amount of photos his wife was taking (yes, that happened and I am the wife that is to blame!), the site of an old yellow lab playing in the grass like it was a young pup, an older man holding hands with his wife as they share a baguette, and a conversation that consisted of the Paris attacks that happened just days before mixed in with “wow, I can’t believe we are already 3 months into a yearlong trip…where has the time gone?!” That moment was ours, and it was in those little moments where we developed our own little version of a city. I am so thankful for a (big) handful of those special memories that really encompass our experiences in the cities that people visit every single day. That is what makes traveling so special! You can talk to many people who have seen the Colosseum and even though the amazing monument will always be the same, the stories will be different. Ours includes a cup FULL of gelato, a few photos of us viewing it from a distance, and me telling Sean a story of when I was 10 years old and my dad taught my brother and I all about how they built the arches in the Colosseum and Sean looked at his gelato with such desire, and looked at me with a blank stare. (PS: Papa, thank you for sharing with me how the arches of the Colosseum were built. It is knowledge I will never forget and knowledge I will continue to share with people forever!).
There are so many of those moments to come in Asia, but I know that I am leaving a big piece of myself, and our marriage in Europe. We learned more about one another than I ever thought was possible – which to be honest, after 11 years, I didn’t know there was so much to learn! And I loved every single moment of learning…of growing. Of trusting each other, trusting in situations but most importantly, trusting in God together because for the first time, we were going through every single situation together. We have always shared moments and special times in our lives with one another, but we also had separate situations where we had to lean on God – whether it be work, family, etc. and in those moments, we would pray for each other. But the last 7 months (and the months to come) we have been going through every trial and tribulation together such as a wonderful meal, a missed train, a beautiful site, an uncomfortable situation, another bed to sleep in, an incredible conversation with a stranger and all the moments that have shaped this experience thus far. Europe, as amazing as all the countries are, was just a backdrop to growing immensely in our marriage and in our relationship as husband and wife with God as the center of this union that he so graciously gifted to both of us.
…But let’s go back to the beauty that is Europe. Or should I say, the deliciousness that is Europe! I wish we could say that our most memorable moments and the things that we would miss most about Europe was something magical and inspiring but…it’s the food. Can we just be honest here? I mean, have you ever had margarita pizza from Napoli? Or a brat with sauerkraut from an Oktoberfest booth? How about Patatas Bravas from a little tapas place in Barcelona? Or a fresh crepe from a guy whose job is solely to bring people happiness in the form of a fresh (Nutella filled) thin pancake? What about a cask ale in an old English pub? Or bangers and mash served up with a side of traditional Irish music and a creamy Guinness? And how could you say no to a market fresh Stroopwafel from Amsterdam? The answer is…YOU CAN’T. By the way, to answer the infamous question…yes, we’ve gained weight. But we also have walked more than our little legs ever thought they would! So, I’d like to say it has all evened out, but maybe we had one Stroopwafel too many? Oh well, you only eat once! …wait, what? That’s not how the saying goes?
With food, comes people. Amazing people at that! People from around the world that want to know us and do us the honor of knowing them! When we began the idea of keeping a blog while we traveled, we went back and forth on the “concept” of the blog and we knew we didn’t just want it to be a travel blog. More importantly, we wanted it to be an open journal to our family and friends so they (you) could stay up to date with our adventures. With that being said, we wanted it to be a direct reflection of us and what we love. Well, we love food. And we love what food does to people – it connects them. It creates a platform to gather and share stories, thoughts, opinion, advice, laughs, experiences and of course, food! Not only have we had the opportunity to meet lots of lovely people at markets, restaurants, cafes, etc., some of our most treasured memories come from peoples kitchens where they throw on an apron and get cookin’ while I sit annoyingly in the corner recording every movement they made, every ingredient they tossed in, and I would ask questions such as “how does cooking make you feel? Where did you learn this recipe? Why is it special to you? (and most importantly) whatcha cookin’ and when can we eat it?!” Around the table is where we have learned the most about the people of the world. It is where we have connected with others and realized, wow…we all aren’t so different after all! From the clinking of glasses, to the “cheers” we’ve learned in 12 different languages, and then to the moment where we are all gathered around the table enjoying a mea,l we have loved every minute of meeting some incredible people on our table trail. And let me just say that we have gathered about 150 recipes thus far…but who’s counting?!
So, that’s a wrap Europe! I have a feeling it won’t be long until we return to visit more beautiful countries and see what places like Greece, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, (and the list goes on!) have to offer! But, until then…HELLO SOUTHEAST ASIA!!!!! Time to wear a bathing suit and swim in turquoise waters, visit floating markets, see beautiful temples, explore new cuisines, get lost (not really) in green jungles, meet amazing people and the best part? Getting to travel with our best friends! Let the adventures begin!