Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints

Well we certainly did that.  105 videos, 2,600 photos, and 1,089,052 steps.

Our journey started January 3 at JFK Airport, and we were one of the last flights to get out of New York that night because of a snowstorm that was about to hit the city.

We weren’t so lucky on this end (well, I guess we really were). Our original flight to go home was scheduled for this past Wednesday, but was cancelled because of the fourth nor’easter to hit the East Coast this month. The earliest flight we could get back was not until the following Monday, and so tonight is our last night in Europe, in the lovely city of Barcelona. There are certainly worse places to be if you have to get stuck somewhere for a few extra days…

It was certainly a trip that we will long remember.

The foundation for the trip was the opportunity to teach an Accounting class to Villanova students who were participating in a study abroad program in London. The students take classes for about nine weeks, and then do an internship for about eight weeks.

My wife and youngest son were able to join me, and that made all the difference.

We took full advantage of London’s central location, and did weekend trips to Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Paris. We also took day trips out of London and headed out to Oxford and the Cotswolds. And throw in multiple museum and outdoor markets visits in London, and we did a lot of traveling.

A lot of that traveling was by foot, and I got kind of obsessed with making sure I got at least 10,000 steps each day. Twice that meant walking around the apartment at 11:30 at night just to get the last few hundred steps in. My ultimate goal was 1,000,000 steps while in Europe, which was hit sometime last week. We all hope to keep our daily walking habit going when we get home, and ditch the car for short trips.

Along the way, we reconnected with my cousin and her family from Ireland. They welcomed us into their home and made us feel right at home. We met the wonderful people who run the study abroad program; they became more than just colleagues, but our friends.  All of our landlords/hosts were great, and we fell in love with the idea of staying at someone’s house in the middle of the city instead of at an hotel. We are also grateful for all of the restaurant personnel we met, particularly the ones in Barcelona who helped us greatly in our struggle with the language. We did a lot of pointing at pictures and eventually using Google Translate, but for the most part, we always got what we wanted.

I also fell in love with public transit, particularly London’s and its Oyster cards. But we also used Amsterdam’s, Paris’s, and Barcelona’s, (with its 10 rides tickets) and found them all relatively easy to use. We hope to use public transit more when we get home, when the opportunity arises.

I never really got comfortable with the currency in any of the countries we visited; I still can’t tell what one coin is versus another without taking off my glasses and putting the coins right up into my face. Most times I would just take out a bunch of coins out of my pocket, whether in London, Paris, or Barcelona, and just tell them to take what they needed. I think everyone was honest.

But perhaps the best thing to come out of this trip is an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I am grateful to my family back home – my niece for watching our house and our dog, my grand nephew who met with the sump pump repairman, my aunt who kept us informed as to what was going on, my wife’s family for the many chats and messages exchanged, to our neighbors who kept a watch on things (particularly to one of them who tried to fix the sump pump), and gave us great ideas as to what to do while in Europe.

I am grateful to the many people back at Villanova who helped make this opportunity a reality.

I am grateful for my iPhone, Google Maps, and EE (a London-based telecom company). There is absolutely no way we could have done what we did 20 years ago.

I am grateful for the cast of Hamilton, one of the best plays we have ever seen.

I am grateful for a wonderful pair of sneakers, thanks to the people at Bryn Mawr Running. My feet never once hurt, despite all of the walking, up to nine miles a day a couple of times.

I am grateful for a warm hoodie for those chilly London nights.

But most of all I am grateful to my wife and son for being a part of this trip. Your willingness to do anything and to go anywhere (by whatever means), all while maintaining a positive and carefree attitude with lots of laughing along the way, made this journey one that I will remember forever.

I can’t wait for our next adventure.

Paris, across from Notre Dame

in Covent Garden after seeing Motown

Amsterdam – celebrating Pat’s 28th birthday

Having lunch with the EUSA crew

4 thoughts on “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints

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