Six months ago, Patrick and I decided to plan a trip to Europe. We got excited. We saved money diligently. We searched Airbnb for the perfect place to stay in Paris and the most central location in Rome. Weeks in advance, Patrick woke up at three in the morning to buy tickets to a Tottenham Hotspurs Futbol match and he booked a wine tour in Tuscany, too. We researched restaurants and sights, museums and transit. We sent out pleas for recommendations and read Rick Steve’s latest travel guide as if it were the Bible.
Because we’d decided to go on a trip. And we’d decided to make it great.
But expectations are joy-killers. So we tempered our excitement and realized there would be bumps and disappointments and frustrations along the way. We looked forward to the disasters—because we knew that great stories aren’t made from perfect moments strung together like pearls on a string. But what we didn’t expect was that what would go wrong wasn’t Europe. It was us.
Let me explain.
Like any naive couple of humans, Patrick and I hoped that this trip would be magical, rejuvenating and life-giving. And don’t get me wrong. There were plenty of moments of awe and wonder both at God’s creation and each other. There were romantic dinners and bottles of wine and sunsets. There were history lessons and moments of quiet reflection and a break from the pressures of life and work at home. And we are, and always will be thankful for the time and the ability to see the world.
But Patrick and I are the same in Europe as we are in Nashville. And so when we had our first disagreement in Europe on our very first night in Europe, it shocked us. Wasn’t this supposed to be a dizzyingly romantic trip with fun and crazy stories and joy and hilarity? Wasn’t this EUROPE?
It was. And Europe was great until we showed up.
As it turns out, I still have a short temper, a bad sense of direction and impatience when it comes to making decisions whether I’m standing in front of the AT&T building in downtown Nashville or the Eiffel Tower. I wasn’t going to magically become more patient, loving and generous just because we we’d traversed the Atlantic Ocean. And if that seems like a simple realization—it wasn’t. It was painful.
As it turns out, you don’t need to plan a trip to find adventure. And you don’t need a trip to be rejuvenated. Because if you can’t find joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control at home—you won’t find it anywhere else. Because you are you wherever you go.
It’s so easy to take a picture and smile. It’s even easier to hide behind your camera, angry and frustrated, and snap a photo of a sunset to share on the internet. “So blessed to be in Europe!” you could write for a caption. “#CinqueTerre,” you could add, just to rub it in. But photos on the internet don’t do justice to the truth that is revealed through travel.
I messed up our trip to Europe. Maybe not all of it. But enough to notice. And enough to need forgiveness.
Travel isn’t an escape. It’s a mirror. And what it exposes isn’t always pretty. It exposes the places within us that need changing. And it exposes our inability to change ourselves. But it also points to beauty so beyond our comprehension that you can realize that you are small AND you are loved.
Across the continent and the countries we chose to see, there were beautiful landscapes, breathtaking architectural feats, and history so deep and wide that I couldn’t swallow it all in one bite or two or three thousand.
It was all too much to take in.
And that is what the love of God is like.
It’s like Europe.
You show up, screw it up, and it still blesses you beyond your wildest dreams.
- Lake Como, Italy, Day 13
- Amsterdam, Netherlands, Day 5
- Sunset at Manarola, Italy, Day 17
- Patrick and Big Ben, Day 1
- Chamonix, France Day 12
- Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, Day 7
- Traveling Lessons: When we’re worried
- My favorite photos from Europe
- Ideas for Traveling in Seattle
- Packing for a 3-week trip in one carry-on bag
- The Do’s and Don’ts of NYC