Contrary to belief, traveling to Europe with children is possible and can yield many wonderful memories! We journeyed across the Atlantic eight years ago so that we could meet members of our expanded family circle. At the time of our trip in 2005, we had hosted two foreign exchange students both of whom lived in Europe.
The pre-digital photos and accompanying stories have yet to be transformed into a scrapbook. I do hate to admit that fact as scrapbooking used to be a priority in my life. Thankfully, I do have journals from each of the kids as well as my own to reference.
So, let’s just pretend the scrapbook is complete and that we are peering inside right now. Some of the intangible and tangible acquisitions included…
This was our children’s first experience with international travel. They were quite excited to have their own passport! Although we did not receive official stamps from each country, we did visit or drive through Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein.
A Warm Welcome
We received a very warm welcome from our German “daughter”, Anne and her mother at the Frankfurt airport. Anne was our family’s first exchange student during the ’02-03 school year. Her home in Bochum served as our “home base” for the trip.
Breaking News Events
In France, we intercepted the Tour de France outside a rural village. While waiting for the cyclists’ arrival, we heard firsthand accounts on the BBC of the London bombings which had occurred earlier in the day. We followed both news events as possible throughout our trip.
Art appreciation & Sex Education
We hit many “name brand” sites while in Paris which provided opportunities to learn about architecture, art and sex! Our son found one of the fountains outside the Pompidou Center of Modern Art especially hilarious. Our daughter noted in her journal that she was not expecting to see “men & women nude & some men touching other womens breast (sic)” while at the Louvre. One night in our hotel room, my son happened upon a pornography channel on the TV. When I asked if he could understand the language, he remarked it was in “the language of men!”
Birthday Gifts & Souvenirs
It seems as though mid-July is our favorite week to travel. My son and I have celebrated our birthdays away from home more frequently than not. During this trip, we celebrated in Luzern, Switzerland with our Swedish exchange student, Emma, her mother and two sisters. Emma’s mother made a Swedish Princess Cake!
My son selected a Swatch for his birthday gift from us. The kids gave me a jumbo dark chocolate Toblerone. Later in the trip, our German exchange student gave Ethan a copy of the just-released Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
In addition to the gifts, we had to find room in our luggage for my daughter’s beret, postcards, my son’s medieval artifacts and my handcrafted Christmas ornaments.
Although we did spent several nights in hotels, the families we visited were very gracious in sharing their living spaces with us. Some of our fondest memories are those spent visiting around their tables. There’s nothing like experiencing local life firsthand!
This trip helped expand our children’s experience of life beyond the Midwest cornfields. We want our children to know that they are not just Americans but world citizens. Sure, physical travel can act as an agent of personal transformation. However, it’s our individual relationships and global connections that can transform neighborhoods, communities and countries!