The (Almost) Brand New Experience

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There are a handful of trips that we take in life that are truly meaningful.

  • The first step out the door
  • The first meaningful errand
  • The first time stepping out on your own
  • The first time you realize the world is bigger than you ever realized
  • The first time you can introduce your children to that bigger world.

Today, after years of planning, mishaps, missteps and delays, we were able to bring our girls to Europe. This wasn’t our first trip out of the country. We’ve been to Mexico multiple times, but Mexican culture is so infused with Los Angeles, that it doesn’t really feel like traveling away from home as much as it is exploring more of it.

As I write, we are on a plane to Vienna and will catch a connecting flight to Frankfurt. We will meet K’s cousin who will take us to Stuttgart for the start of our trip. In the coming days, we will travel through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Slovenia. My kids will get to meet several great-aunts and uncles and a multitude to cousins and second-cousins. For K, it will be returning to her parent’s homes, places they left long before she was born.

For my girls, this trip feels exotic and new. And for me, it’s the surprisingly the same. This is not my first trip to Europe, but what I realized today as we waited at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, was that my last experience traveling to Europe was 23 years ago. It was so long ago that it didn’t feel so much as a memory as a slightly hazy fever dream from long before I was married, before I had kids, before I became the person that I am now. Today felt new, or if not quite “new”, it felt “suspiciously unfamiliar”.

Standing with my daughters, I realized that I had no relevant (recent) travel experience that I could guide me, aside from the tried and true “Don’t Panic”. And, I realized (again, I think) that international travel is exciting in a way that domestic travel is not because you never really know what’s on the other side. Flying domestically is okay, but regional difference or not, you will always end up in the United States, and you’ll probably be somewhere within a couple feet of someone speaking English and your currency should work fine.

But, when you travel internationally, even with lots of planning, you will be in a place where much of the time you’ll be left wondering what’s going on. Things will be confusing and scary, at least for a while. And that anticipation is scary but also exhilarating. But, the feeling is hard to hold once you’ve been through that experience a few times. But, now, many years later, I have a trip that feels just like that, and it feels wonderful.