As of this writing, I had been traveling for over 14 days. It may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of life, but I was amazed at what I learned in such a short time by just allowing myself to unplug. I’ve traveled all over the world in my life, but something about this trip is different.
Planning for this journey began nearly 1,000 days ago. Covering parts of Europe – especially London, Paris and Normandy – in a short period of time required careful planning, which my friend is very good at. I felt such joy listening to her insights as she researched for months. Then Covid hit, and the wait seemed endless. When the day finally arrived, we sat down in Dulles, eagerly awaiting the start of the arduous journey across the Atlantic. I still hadn’t quite understood the impact this trip was going to have on me.
The first revelation came during dinner. The setting was Le Florimond, a small restaurant in central Paris where we enjoyed prime rib, mashed potatoes, smoked beetroot fenugreek, homemade duck confit with potatoes and barbecue sauce French, paired with a bottle of French Chardonnay. It was a romantic evening and my friend looked stunning in a scarf passed down through her family. Afterwards, we walked the streets of Paris holding hands, laughing and enjoying the time together. It was like traveling back in time.
Visiting King’s College in Cambridge, where I studied 45 years ago, was my second moment of new understanding. We took the train from London and spent the day exploring the city and the campus. The college seemed unchanged, but the town that looked like a small village all those years ago has grown. We walked the narrow streets to the River Cam where I rowed an eight man crew as a student. Memories flooded in, and as I looked at my friend, it felt right to connect my past to my present.
Our day trip to Normandy to visit Utah and Omaha beaches included a stop at the Normandy American Cemetery. Walking into the final resting place of over 9,000 Americans was overwhelming. Lasa’s white marble headstones bore the name, rank, unit, date of death, and home state of each soldier, many of whom were from Tennessee. It was emotional for both of us.
As we sat down to dinner near the end of our adventure, I was struck by a thought. This trip was more than European adventures and revisited memories; it was a journey into my feelings about my best friend, who happens to be my beloved wife of 25 years.
People say you can learn a lot about your partner when you go on a big trip together. For those in a new relationship, this can be eye-opening. But even after all these years, this trip has allowed us to get to know each other on a new level. When we were able to eliminate the extra voices, technology, and work, we realized how much we still love just being with each other. The uninterrupted time together was a blessing.