Catch up! Read:
I spent the Summer of 2003 getting reacquainted with two people I’d lost touch with years before: Myself, and the God who made me.
I read a book called I Married Adventure, written by 70-year-old Luci Swindoll, who forsook marriage for a life of travel. But Luci wrote that one didn’t have to travel the world to find adventure; it could be located – even created – in everyday situations. It was almost as if God had hidden it there for me, all along waiting for me to unwrap the gifts of each new day. To ease myself into my new life of adventure, I ordered new dishes at favorite restaurants, and ventured out at midnight for the release of a favorite book.
And then I did the thing I’d dreamed of doing since I was that 5-year-old girl with the paper dolls, and the thing I had put off because I couldn’t bear to be apart from Derek for three months…
Because I knew that if I left, I might not come back…
I was coming up to my last year of college, which meant it was my last chance to travel to England as an exchange student. I signed up with my school’s foreign exchange department, and told them I wanted to go to England – I didn’t care where.
One night, out with my friends, I saw a girl I hadn’t seen in a while. “I’ve been in England,” she said. “In Scarborough. It’s up north, and it’s beautiful. You can walk along the cliffs and watch the North Sea crashing against the rocks.”
The next day, after very little thought, I called the foreign exchange office and told them where I wanted to go.
“You’re in luck,” said my advisor. “We just arranged an Autumn exchange with Scarborough. It starts this Fall.”
When I was 17, I tried to convince my friend Amanda to move to London with me after high school. We dreamed of living in a little flat over a bakery somewhere and working in a pub or a restaurant, meeting cute English boys and walking around the streets of Camden and Notting Hill on the weekends.
I was serious.
We talked about it for hours at a time, but one day, as I was going on about it again, Amanda got quiet.
“Maybe we could share a house with some other people to save money,” I said.
“Mm-hmm.” Amanda stared at her hands.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“It’s not really going to happen, is it?”
“I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe not.”
And that was it.
Four years later, when my semester in England was booked and my place in a shared flat in North Yorkshire was reserved, I called Amanda.
“How would you feel about backpacking around Europe with me?”
“I’d love it.”
Early in the morning on the 21st of August, 2003, Amanda and I landed in London, and quickly boarded a train to Paris, where we ate a picnic of baguettes and brie under the Eiffel Tower. We followed a crazy lady in a red lace dress around a park and through a market, watching her throw herself dramatically onto a display of apples and weep into her elbow.
We took the train to Northern Spain and bartered in broken Spanish with a lady named Joaquina, who put us up in her apartment for 18 euros a night, and we watched children run along a cobblestone street, chasing a famous Spanish footballer who was visiting the area. We walked barefoot along the beach and dipped our feet in the other side of the Atlantic, breathing in the Spanish air, thick with the scent of salt and wine.
In Nîce, we stayed in an old monastery and went swimming with two Canadian boys, who flirted with us, and taught us the correct usage of “Eh.”
In Rome, we let dark, handsome men buy us bottles of wine and stare, transfixed, at our bright blonde hair.
We walked through the Colosseum and among the ruins where the apostle Paul once walked, running our fingers over columns that he may have once touched, even leaned against, as he spoke of Jesus.
The man I had always so wanted to know, to please. He became real to me in those days, as I traveled on night trains and slept in pensionés, and breathed in the air of places I had always heard of but had never truly believed existed.
He loved me, and for the first time in a long time, that was quite enough.
After three weeks, Amanda and I returned to London. She boarded a plane for North Carolina, and I got on a train at King’s Cross station, bound for the north of England.
Revived by my travels – independent, confident, inspired – I opened my journal as I watched the English countryside pass by at 60 mph.
I am committed to this life of adventure, I wrote. All I need is You, and I know that now…
And so, for two things I pray: One, that you would help me find a community where I can belong while I live here….
…and two, that I will not be distracted by a man.