The Pilgrim Soul: My Travel Journey Part I

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This was one of the first posts I ever did on this blog. The post explains how I began my first solo trip to Europe back in 1988. The positive things I learned and the bittersweet ending. Part One is today. Part Two will be Friday and the final Part three will be on Saturday

I’m going to blame it the rain. I’m sorry for that highly unnecessary Milli Vanilli callback) But my whole travel journey began just because I was wanting to get out of the rain. It was 1987 I was a second year senior at Fort Hays State university. The apartment I was living at was a couple miles from campus and so I had to hoof my way to class. One day in April I was walking to class when the sky just opened up and I was caught in a torrent. The rain was coming down so hard I knew I couldn’t make it to class without being steeped in rainwater. I dove in to the nearest building which happened to be a bookstore. Sitting on a shelf almost like it was waiting on me, was the book “Let’s Go Europe” I couldn’t miss it. the book cover was bright orange in juxtaposition to the darker colored books around it. That book became a tangerine grail that exposed me to a wanderlust I still haven’t recovered from.

Both the bookstore and I were at a crossroad. Except mine was just figurative. I was getting ready to graduate from college with no real idea what to do next. The way it described all the different counties and the people , the food, the culture really spoke to me. It was like a revival and going to Europe became my mission.After graduation, I worked two jobs for over a year and saved money to go. i decided to go to eastern Europe which was still communist at the time. It wasn’t a political thing for me i just wanted to go somewhere most Americans weren’t going. So instead of London, Paris, Rome, my journey would be Krakow, Prague and Budapest.I set up a lot of volunteer work in advance to extend my stay. I had about 1500 cash. I ended up staying abroad for for over 9 months. i learned more in that 9 months than I did in five years of university, I was a changed person when i came back. I left an excited child, I came back older, wiser and heartbroken. End of Part I. In Part II I talk about the most bittersweet journey through the iron curtain and beyond.

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