That I stepped off a Tower Air (don’t ask) flight at Charles de Gaulle airport and embarked on the journey that would both cement my love of travel, and my love for a certain traveling companion, for life.
Ahead of us: ten weeks of travel throughout Europe. After all, we had just graduated and we didn’t have jobs to start until September. My parents bought me the plane tickets for graduation and my temp job at Morgan Stanley the previous summer had been both sufficient for my portion of senior year tuition and this trip. I planned it meticulously and for many months and before I tell you some of the ways it went off the rails, a disclaimer:
I didn’t own a digital camera in 1999 and my print photos were a) terrible at the time b) not favored by 20 years in an album, so I’m going to be borrowing other people’s photos and attributing them (for this post and the companion ones). THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU ARE OLD.
I must be a master of persuasion because while Jim’s friends were strategizing Eurail passes and figuring out how to get girls back to their hostels, I had convinced my travel partner that we should buy a car.
For less than the cost of two Eurail passes and certainly less than the cost of renting a car, there was a program that essentially granted you a short-term lease. Technically you bought a brand new car and the company promised to buy it back from you less the cost of using it, at the end of your lease period. For $1200 we had a brand spanking new car.
A 1999 Peugeot 106 with none of the following: power steering, air conditioning, power windows.
It was the best decision we ever made. Did you know that, in a pinch, your car can double as a hotel room? Did you know that there are places in Europe worth seeing that you can’t get to if you’re sitting on a train hurtling from one major city to another? Did you know that if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can just haul your car onto a ferry and end up in Morocco?
Which you should totally do because an impromptu 8-day trip through Morocco is amazing. Even in August.
I’m going to talk about this trip throughout the summer because it is way too much information for one post, but I wanted to give you a teaser:
That’s the number of miles we traveled in our little Peugeot. In 10 weeks.
My brother, who is getting married in two weeks, once asked me when “I knew” that Jim was “the one.” I don’t know if there’s such a thing as “the one,” but “I knew” that anyone I wanted to spend 13,338 miles in a car with, was someone I wanted to have by my side for all the adventures to come.
We haven’t spent much time traveling through Europe since that summer. Sure, we’ve gone to visit friends several times, but we haven’t explored like we did that summer twenty years ago. When I think about what I would now do with another magical 10 weeks of open-road freedom, it wouldn’t be Europe. Tracing the Silk Road, perhaps; Cape to Cairo; the trans-American highway. But that trip was transformative. It spoke to how we would travel together going forward, it highlighted our strengths (and weaknesses: me – I get hangry, I don’t care if we just stop at a gas station for Pringles; him – foolishly eating salad from an outdoor stall), it made the idea of just another holiday feel insufficient to our needs. Though I can’t believe it’s been 20 years, I’m secure in the knowledge that 20 more won’t go by before we step into a car, point it in a direction, and just go.