Saturday, April 27, 2013

One Day...I want to go to Europe!

So, my trip of a lifetime has begun...sort of.

I’ve wanted to go to Europe for as long as I can remember. It was even on my "What I Want in a Husband" list when I was a teenager!

Many people want to go to Europe but most seem to prefer the exotic...places of sun and surf, leis and luaus, or faddish Australia. None of those popular places held priority with me. If I never swam with the dolphins in Mexico, I’d be okay. If I never surfed or ate roasted pig in Hawaii, it’s fine with me. And I’m actually tired of the infatuation with all things Australian! Really, what is so intoxicating about the phrase, "G’day, Mate"? The accent actually annoys me.

No, it’s always to Europe I’ve yearned to go. I’m fascinated by the micro-cultures contained within such a small space. Each country has its own distinct personality and flavor...the language, the food, the music, the scenery, the architecture. By simply hopping a train it is possible to enter a new world within hours, and then another world, and then another world! The history is intriguing too. So different and yet so intertwined, like a twisted family tree whose old, gnarled branches have spanned generations and nations. Most of us trace our ancestry there. For me, it’s a lot of British on my dad’s side and German on my mother’s, with a sprinkling of Austrian-Hungarian and Polish thrown into the mix.

Coming from a twice broken family that moved a lot, ancestry and heritage never really played a part in my life. I didn’t even have a clue what my great-grandparents names were, let alone where they came from. Outside of the fact that I knew my mom had a lot of German in her (her maiden name was Wiesner) and my dad told stories about French royalty, I was pretty much heritage-less, if that’s a word! Even when I was given an assignment when I was in school requiring me to trace part of my family tree, I tried to interview my grandma on my dad’s side---my only living grandparent—and all she could say was, "I’m sorry, honey, I really don’t remember." My mom told me she had a tragic upbringing and probably just didn’t want to go back and revisit it. So I had one grandma and that was it. My dad grew up without grandparents and his own father died when he was 14. My mom grew up without grandparents and her mother died when she was an infant. I wasn’t terribly bothered by my lack of a family tree, but somehow it comforted me that my own children at least had their dad’s 400-year-old traceable lineage in Denmark even if they knew nothing about my side. But then one day when I was in my late 30s I received a letter from my great-uncle, married to my great-aunt, who was sister to my grandmother who had died when my mom was a baby. He was an avid geneologist, and having completed his own family tree, he then moved on to his wife’s. I suddenly held in my hand pages of people who were related to me...all the way back to Germany, for real! I was amazed. I had half a heritage! Then, just a few years later, my dad passed away and I was given an old photo album that contained pictures of him as a baby. But there was something else in that album—a letter to my grandma from her great-aunt with a handwritten family tree. And suddenly I had the other half of my heritage, this time going back to England on both my paternal grandparents’ sides...Lewis Davenport immigrated to the "new land" in the 1700s and his son Nathaniel Davenport even fought in the Revolutionary War! I was about as American as I could be!

So now I knew I was very English and very German, and not one bit French, let alone descended from French royalty, as my father loved to tell! And I’m sitting in an airport in Germany right now as I write this, thinking to myself that 100 years ago my "greats" farmed this green land.

This year is Jeff’s and my 25th wedding anniversary. We planned to travel to Europe together as part of our celebration. In our 25 years of marriage, only once have we taken a trip or vacation that wasn’t combined with ministry. And that is perfectly okay with both of us...I’m actually very thankful for the ministry trips we’ve taken because I know we would never have been able to afford traveling to all the places we've been if they were only vacations. But this time we were going to save every penny and go to Europe for two reasons: 1) We’ve always wanted to go, and 2) Our daughter is there and we want to visit her.

We started on the dreamy, romantic, impractical side of planning our trip: We would start in Sarajevo where our daughter is living as an exchange student, and then we would take a ferry across the Adriatic Sea to Italy, then the train to France where her other host family from a previous exchange lives (she’s definitely got the Travel Bug!), then back on the train through Germany and up to Denmark where Jeff has family. We wouldn’t see England this time; we didn’t want to be too extravagant. Well, we were too extravagant even with our scaled-down plans! Sarajevo, Bosnia is in Eastern Europe, in the Balkans—a beautiful, isolated part of Europe that is very hard to travel in and out of. The cost went way up, and our budget went way down. Then my daughter’s week off school was scheduled for the beginning of May, which didn’t correspond with our plans to visit in the beginning of June, a quiet time in our church and family schedule. There was no way Jeff could take time off for a vacation in the middle of April when life was in full swing. I really couldn’t either, but he insisted I go. So, on Kate’s birthday I bought my ticket.

At first I was disappointed. It just didn’t seem right doing this half-trip...without Jeff and to only one location. But as time went on, I adjusted to the plan and began talking with Kate about what we would do. Suddenly, the Balkans became a beautiful and alluring destination, and I am so excited to see the region. And I am very excited to see my daughter and experience everything she loves about her foreign home for the year.

So although it’s a "sort of" trip to Europe, I think it’s going to be amazing in its own way. I am so excited to be on this journey, and I am thrilled that I’ve been given the opportunity to enjoy this "experience of a lifetime" with my youngest daughter!

Thank you, Jeff, for this special gift. But it’s still on my list that we will "one day go to Europe!"


1 comment:

  1. How interesting to hear your story in this light Karyn. I also enjoyed reading why the timing and traveller(s) had changed for this trip from what we had heard last summer.
    Reading you brings a breath of "fresh air". I appreciate how once you deal with the disappointments, you don't stay there, but move on. You keep your eyes on God and consciously look at the positive. Thank you!
    Jeff: hats off to you!