Next, we needed to decide where to go in Europe. I scoured the Internet, absorbing every detail about traveling to Europe for the first time. Which city was the best to visit for first-timers? The do’s and don’ts. The pleasures and the pitfalls. Where to stay, where to eat? Currency exchange. Transportation. How to handle language barriers? How much luggage to take?
Equally important, how not to behave like an arrogant and rude American when traveling abroad, the caricature of Americans I most wanted to avoid. A myriad of things to consider confronted me. However, I was lucky to know three people who could help me navigate the journey. A friend living in England, one in Switzerland, and someone I met in an Ex-pat online group forum living in Sweden. They all offered helpful tips on visiting Europe, without making me feel weird asking ingenue questions.
Finally, I began to outline our trip. Excited by the value of our collective travel points, we had enough for roundtrip airfare, and hotel accommodations for multiple days. Deciding where to go was most difficult. How many cities could we realistically visit in two weeks? How long would we stay in each city? How would we travel between cities? Would Euro currency suffice for multiple countries? Ultimately, our European travel itinerary included four countries, and seven cities within two weeks with stays in hotels and B&B’s.
The Final Itinerary: Europe 2009
France: Paris, Reims, Bordeaux
Netherlands: Amsterdam, Rotterdam
We spent our last stop before Europe with friends in Atlanta for a couple of weeks. Leaving our belongings we packed in the car with a friend, we boarded a flight back to Miami for our departure flight to Paris. After checking luggage, and finding a seat at the gate in the terminal at Miami International Airport (MIA), it hit me, there were only approximately 4574 miles and 9 hours between me and France.
However, while waiting at the gate, a cap fell off one of my teeth and disappeared. Trying not to be superstitious, I refused to think the falling cap was a bad omen. Instead, I checked the weather in Paris. Fifty-four degrees Fahrenheit, overcast, and chilly. I remembered all my sweaters were packed in storage.
Landing at Charles De Galle Airport northeast of Paris was an exciting moment because our official European journey was about to begin. Waiting in line at customs, we were greeted by a personable customs agent. It felt good to put some distance between me and the U.S. The stress of the layoff, moving, thinking about our next steps were contained. My only focus became getting through customs and entering Terminal 2D 2G to absorb a new life experience.