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The Vacation That Changed My Life

This post was originally supposed to be posted as a guest post for the 20 Something Bloggers Blog Swap back in July, but after I sent it to my blog swap partner, I never heard from her again, so I have decided to just post it on my blog instead. The theme was Childhood Summer Vacations. Here was the post.

My family did not go on typical family vacations when I was younger. In fact, I vividly remember being insanely jealous every new school year when everyone would come back tan, and I would be my same old incredibly pale self who had spent the whole vacation in my room reading. I would even lie when people would ask me where I went. Yeah, I know probably not the best thing to do.  We did end up going camping at the beach every year, but I am a sunburn magnet so even then I spent the whole time in the tent reading a book. One year however, when I was 10, my family- (My mom, Uncle Jim, Nana, and cousin Alice) went on a trip that would forever change my raison détre (reason for living). We went abroad for the first time. To Paris.

In fifth grade, I was at the height of my Joan of Arc obsession. I like to think that this was the reason behind picking Paris, but it probably has nothing to do with why the adults chose to go there.We did every touristy thing you can think of to do in Paris, with the exception of the Louvre, as luck would have it, the staff went on strike the day we arrived and went off strike the morning we left. We attended a fashion show at a department store and my cousin and I were asked to come up and walk the catwalk after the show, by a model who in my mind looked exactly like Cindy Crawford. We went to Versailles, we ate hot dogs in baguettes, and drank hot chocolate out of bowls where you added your own sugar. I remember being in awe of everything, the architecture, the parks with the carousels, the food, and the fashion. I was in love!

Our last day there, I wanted to go back and see the building that to me best represented everything I feel in love with in Paris- Notre Dame Cathedral. As I stood outside the beautiful Gothic cathedral with its magnificent flying buttresses, I remember bursting into tears at the thought of having to leave the first place I ever felt I truly belonged. I felt at home amongst the ancient and historic, the glamorous and the tiny.  I knew right then and there that I would move to Europe someday.

I didn’t leave the United States again until I was 18. This time I went St. Petersburg, Russia. My college years, I was obsessed with getting back to where I belonged across the pond that I would skip whole semesters in order to spend a few weeks abroad. Finally, I quit school and found a decent full time job in order to bankroll my trips. I gave up on my dream to move abroad because I didn’t see how I could make it happen. Then something amazing happened, I met my soul mate, who just happens to be from The Netherlands. After doing the long distance thing, we got engaged and I moved to The Netherlands last year. I couldn’t be happier. I am even going back to finish my undergrad, this time in International Tourism Management. I believe that a trip can change your life, and I want to be part of giving that joy to others.

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I absolutely know that feeling.  I lived in the Netherlands back in 2004 when I volunteered at a Christian youth hostel in Amsterdam.  I was in college at the time, and each year our ministry would go on a missions trip and stay at that hostel.  I went in both 2003 and 2004, and on that last visit I got this overwhelming feeling that I believed was a sign from God that I was supposed to be there. I applied to work at the hostel, and I was informed that I shouldn't buy my ticket for several months as it could take that long to be approved to receive the necessary permits. And I said, hey God, if this is truly from you, then I want to be approved in one week. And exactly one week from my submission, I was cleared to come on over. Someone bought my ticket (cause I was so poor!) and no sooner after I'd landed in Schiphol did I realize that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I had never felt like I was at home before...me, short black girl in a world of very tall white people! I looooved it! 14 months later, when I left to live in Spain, I cried and cried. I loved Spain, but I was homesick for Amsterdam which I returned to about 15 months later. I stayed in Amsterdam for another 3 months before going back to Atlanta. While waiting for my plane, I sat next to a bunch of American businessmen, talking loudly, and I just wept. My first few months back "home" were so hard...everything was so big and everyone was so loud. I knew I wanted to go back to the Netherlands but I, too, had no idea how to make that happen. 
And now, here I am, very happily married to an awesome Dutch man with whom I was in a long distance relationship.  I've been here for a week, and I'm still getting used to my new home, but there is absolutely nowhere else I wanna be.

What city did you move to again? Sorry! I don't remember! 

I live in Barendrecht, a town close to Rotterdam.

I really liked this post!  It's nice to hear how moved you were as a kid and that it inspired you to travel, so many Americans just stay within the US.  Hope life is treating you well in Barendrecht!
And thumbs down to your Blog Swap Partner, she really missed out!
Groetjes vanuit Eindhoven,
:) Danica