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Voices: First overseas trip triggers thirst for more travel

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Construction on the Colosseum in Rome started in 70


It was my seventh airport in 12 days. This dateline near the coastal capital of Reykjavik could also read London, Paris or Rome. But despite being gone from the USA for so long, I was tempted to ride an Icelandic horse through the volcanic fields near here.

I deal with foreign news as USA TODAY’s deputy world editor, but I had never traveled internationally before. When I was a kid my family visited the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, but that was before you needed a passport to go there, and we didn’t go that far across the border, so that hardly counted. I went to Puerto Rico last year — a trip that awakened the traveling bug in me — but that island is a U.S. territory.

I don’t quite know how to sum up the week and a half of travel. It was exhausting in many respects. There was lots of walking. I got a bad sunburn on my shoulders in Rome. I spent too much time in airports and on planes.

My savings for the trip were nearly drained. I feel I gained 10 pounds. I never want to see a selfie stick again, and don’t get me started on waiting in long lines, climbing stairs or walking uneven cobblestone streets. The next street seller who comes up to me is going to regret it.

But it was exhilarating. I experienced an overload of museums and mind-boggling ancient sites from the Rosetta Stone and Tower of London in Britain to the Colosseum and Vatican in Rome to the Louvre and Versailles in Paris. I tried to remember my four years of high school French. I bought way too many books to learn more about history.

I had fish and chips, then steak and ale pie in London; caprese, gelato and pizza in Rome; and croissants, baguettes and croquet poulet in Paris. I tried to exercise some of that off by running seven miles through St. James Park and Hyde Park in London, crossing in front of Buckingham Palace before the morning crowds hit. I ran another six miles through the Champ de Mars, going under the Eiffel Tower, then to the Louvre and Jardin des Tuilleries in Paris. In Rome, I took a short two-mile jaunt along the banks of the Tiber, coming upon the Castel Sant’Angelo as I rounded a bend.

I had a glass of wine or beer with nearly every lunch and dinner. The number of souvenirs I bought is more mind boggling than the sites themselves. I became obsessed with the colorful doors and door handles in Paris, even more so at the palace in Versailles.

Along the way, I met some interesting people. An 84-year-old London woman recalled being in New York shortly after the end of World War II.

Pope Francis stopped right in front of my mom and me as he scooted around on his Popemobile in the crowd before his weekly audience at the Vatican. A Paris bakery shop worker was patient with me as I tried to order in French and butchered the language a bit along the way.

I could have spent at least two more days in each city. As much as I love home, I wanted to extend my trip another week — if the suitcase weight limit of 50 lbs. could handle it. On the way back my checked bag came in at 49.72 lbs.

There’s something about traveling to and running in a new city, and experiencing all it has to offer, that makes you want to do it more — not just internationally, but closer to home as well.

Now more than ever I want to go to U.S. destinations such as the Grand Canyon, Austin and San Diego. Within my own city, I would like to tour the White House, run a race through Baltimore’s streets, revisit D.C.’s Smithsonian art galleries and head over to the Newseum.

I also want to tackle more international trips, including returning to the three cities I’ve just visited — particularly London and Paris. Among others at the top of my list areDublin, Edinburgh, Athens, Madrid and Montreal.

Reykjavik is up there, too. What I could see outside the window on my brief layover was stunning, and the images in the airport looked amazing. Plus, I was serious about wanting to ride an Icelandic horse.

Until then, it’s cheers, au revoir, arrivederci to Europe.



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