My niece recently posted some photos on Facebook of herself scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.
Like many young people, she is taking a hiatus from her studies to learn about the world first-hand, and her list of Facebook friends grows with each new location.
In my case, it was after completing a university degree that I embarked on my first European adventure. The year was 1983. I planned to sightsee part of the time with a friend from my hometown and part of the time by myself, but I could not have imagined the people I would meet or the places I would explore.
I left Canada for England in late February for four months, but somehow didn’t get home again until late August. After wandering around France, Italy and Greece with my friend, I continued through Austria and Germany that summer on my own.
It turned out that I could use my Eurail pass to ride not only trains, but also certain boats on the Rhine River, so I did. One glorious July afternoon was spent on the deck, gliding by castle after amazing castle, from Koblenz to Mainz.
It was then that I was approached by a 14-year-old girl who had spied the Canadian flag on my knapsack. I was from Canada? I was travelling by myself?
Her eyes were like saucers. She explained to me in reasonably good English that she was going with her grandparents to their town – the next stop – so we didn’t have much time. I didn’t even take her photo. But she had a question for me.
She described how, on a school trip to France, she had traded addresses with a French student, and how she wrote to this person to work on her French. If she gave me her address, would I give her mine so she could write to me to practise her English?
What did I have to lose? We quickly exchanged scribbled details, and she was gone.
Since that day many letters, and even more emails, have travelled back and forth between us.
Dagmar, who lives near Frankfurt, continued her studies, and has now worked for Lufthansa for many years. She has traversed the world and toured many more countries than me.
On her first holiday to Canada, in 1991, she stayed with me, and met my husband and our first child.
Fourteen years later, I took our two teenagers to see Dagmar in Germany. (Among many other things, we enjoyed an outdoor Meatloaf concert at the ancient Citadel of Mainz, and brunch every morning at the fabulous Café Colada in Frankfurt.)
My niece and her boyfriend found their way to the Yukon last summer. They toured the SS Klondike and hiked the Chilkoot Trail while they were here.
Dagmar and her new husband, who have never been to the Canadian north, are talking about a trip. I can’t wait to share my Yukon home with them.
Europe is a fantastic place to visit because of the geography, the history, the architecture, the culture, the people, and because you might meet someone who will travel to visit you!
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