July 31, 2023
No two journeys are ever alike, because no two pupils are ever alike —Daniel Quinn
I spent the best two months of my life during the summer of 2019. I’m not suggesting it was the easiest or most relaxing summer—in fact, the hardships and strains were part of what made these two months an extraordinary experience. I can never recreate that experience because my children will never be 13 and 9 again.
During the summer of 2019, my family (wife Charlotte, children Nico and Alexia) filled our travel backpacks with enough clothes and amenities to last seven days and set off on a seven-week Eurorail trip from Edinburgh, Scotland to Sofia, Bulgaria. Eleven countries in total. This was a weird intergenerational twist on adventures you usually associate with college friends on tour. I’d never done anything like this before and my children certainly hadn’t. None of us knew what to expect. We were free to choose our own adventure, and the only stipulations were the need to keep costs down and to find laundry facilities every six days. Not insurmountable.
It didn’t start out very well. Before we left, Alexia felt overwhelmed by the idea of bouncing around hotels during these two months. I suppose two months for a nine-year-old is two years in adult time. How will we find a place to sleep? What will we eat? What happens if we miss a train? Do you even know how to speak Slovakian? What happens if there is nothing to eat (a question important enough to ask twice)? How will we do laundry? Are you sure they have laundry facilities we can use? Gosh… we still hadn’t left home and apparently saying that it will all be ok, we will figure it out wasn’t quite going to do.
Eventually, we made it on that first train and beyond.
It’s funny all the little and big things the children noticed on the trip. You can get free refills of soda water in Scotland, but not in England. Belgian waffles taste pretty good in Belgium. People will help you if you look lost. Most of the time, we really will figure it out.
I also observed a few things. At some point near Nuremberg, Alexia stopped worrying about not finding seats on the train. Nico has a tremendous sense of confidence and leadership, unafraid to…