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I was 13-years-old the first time I traveled abroad, and without my parents. I had saved my allowance and paid for a portion of the cost required to travel with fellow junior high school Spanish class students on a two-week exchange trip to Mexico. We spent a week in Mexico City and a week in Acapulco, during which I fell in love with the language I was struggling to acquire, with the culture and the country. I had to return. And I did, when I was 17, on spring break my senior year in high school. This time I insisted that the trip should be taken as a family vacation. So this was the first time I dragged my family--Mom, Dad and my brother--with me.
At the age of 17, I enlisted in the Army, left home soon after turning 18, and rarely felt the need to return to Minnesota. I spent a year in Monterey, California, plus some time in Texas and Massachusetts. I was assigned to Wurzburg, Germany and arrived there just six days before my 20th birthday. It was 1989 and I was serving in West Germany during the last year of the Cold War. By an increadibly lucky stroke of good luck, I was in Berlin the day the Wall fell. It was the first time I had experienced history first-hand and it affected me to the core. Soon after I was able to travel to Czechoslovakia before it broke in two, East Germany before it was reunited with West Germany, and Poland. At the end of my two-year assignment, I brought my parents over and we went on a two-week driving tour of Europe. We covered Rothenburg, Munich, Garmish-Partenkirchen, and Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany; Venice, Italy; Vienna, Austria; Prague, Czechoslovakia; a city in East Germany; East and West Berlin; and back into West Germany for Wolfsburg and Frankfurt. We had no hotel reservations and we drove until we were ready to stop for the day. We took what ever room-for-rent we could find, and some of my fondest memories come from the adventures we had on that vacation.
Soon after the Iron Curtain fell I bought a ticket and visited Moscow and Leningrad--as it was still named back then--as a tourist, which prior to this time would have been unthinkable as a US soldier and nearly impossible. I walked across the Red Square, where so many thousands of Red Army soldiers had marched in huge military parades displaying strength and power, and almost felt like I was doing something forbidden. I was entranced. Granted, the smog was pretty bad back then from all the old Soviet cars and diesel trucks, and I got car-sick everyday chugging along in the Inturist bus. While most downtown buildings were dirty and drabbly colored, the buildings that were national treasures were large, ornate, and very beautiful. And everything that glittered in Russia... was gold. The churches--thank God they survived--had gold crosses and gold cupolas. The icons were framed in gold. The beauty of it all took my breath away. That was 1991 and it was the only time I paid to go. The Army paid for me to return to the former Soviet Union several times over the next decade. I spent weeks living in Alushta and Yalta, Ukraine, and St. Petersburg, Russia. A contracting job with Land O'Lakes allowed me to live in a village not far from Tula, Russia for six months. The last major contract I worked had me traveling back and forth along the highways between Helsinki and Moscow for six months. I spent Y2K New Year's in Finland.
In 2007 I met my future husband. We got married in 2009 and had a daughter in 2010. In the few short years my husband and I have been together we have had our fair share of travel. Our first trip was to Nairobi and Masai Mara in Kenya; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Las Vegas, Nevada; Brainerd, Minnesota; Orlando, Florida; Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; Belize, Belize; Honduras; and now Tbilisi, Georgia.
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- 42 Reviews
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- 9 Cities
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