Turns out age 26 is actually the greatest

I’m sorry. I’m going to disappoint you all. I’m not going to talk about a single thing I said I would in my last post.

Because the fact is, I’m frankly incapable of talking about (or thinking about, or reading about, or dreaming about) anything other than what I’m about to tell you.

…You guys. I’m going to Europe.

No need to adjust the settings on your computer monitor, folks, you read that right. Exactly six months from right this moment, I will be traveling to London, Paris, and Rome with the greatest man who ever walked the Planet Earth.

On my 26th birthday last week, while I was busy having a quarterlife crisis – lamenting my lost years and wondering when the heck I’m going to get around to being an adult – Taylor was preparing to give me the greatest gift a human being can give another: a plane ticket, a binder full of hotels and attractions, and four travel books detailing the different European hubs we’ll be making our way to in April… forcing every other boyfriend, from here on out, to live in this gift’s perpetual shadow. Taylor makes even Ryan Gosling look like a common street corner scrub. (Upon hearing the news, a friend of mine even exclaimed, “What the hell? My husband got me pajama pants for my birthday.”)

I unwrapped my gift with tentative enthusiasm, then genuine confusion, followed by utter disbelief. As realization set in and my eyes bulged out of their sockets – I leafed through the travel binder carefully, timidly, afraid that if I turned a page too quickly or jostled the giftbag in my lap the whole fragile thing would crumble. “No,” I said. “No. No. TAYLOR!”

He told me, giddily, that we would be leaving in exactly six months to the day – my half-birthday, in fact – and that we would be seeing the most beautiful and romantic sites the continent had to offer. (Including, forgive my dweebiness – PLATFORM NINE AND THREE QUARTERS AND THE BEATLES MUSEUM)

Tears followed, along with a breathless call to my mom. Taylor ushered me through the rest of my birthday celebration – including sunset cocktails and dinner Portland’s nicest rooftop restaurant overlooking the city – and it was all I could do not to babble to every stranger I met about our plans. Everyone from our Uber driver to the hostess who sat us at our table inducted him into the Boyfriend Hall of Fame.

So, for some background: I’ve been to Europe before, with my high school vocal ensemble. It was an honor, to be selected to travel halfway across the world and sing hymns as old as the buildings we occupied – hearing our voices reverberate around high-ceilinged domes, walls lined with frescoes, itching in our long choir robes.

However, I was 16 – and with all my best friends and a handful of really cute boys. And admittedly (and perhaps characteristically), we were much more consumed with the tapestry of young love stories being woven around us than the thousands of years of history beneath our feet. We scampered past timeless works of art without pause, whispered to each other as our tourguide pointed out monumental statues, peeked around the corners of architectural masterpieces to giggle at the sight of our crushes.

I even remember, jetlagged and sorely uninterested, actually falling asleep at the pulpit of a grand Spanish cathedral… because why should I care about some historic Catholic Church – with its breathtaking ceilings and intricate stained glass windows – when, like, Stephanie and Gabe were totally holding hands under the table of that last cafe?

Youth is wasted on the young.

Not to mention – even if I’d had a more mature grasp of the setting around me… we ventured to the parts of Europe that (at the risk of sounding like a spoiled American brat) I might not have sought out of my own accord. Poland was gorgeous, to be sure – but seeing the mountains of shoes and eyeglasses of victims strewn about Auschwitz, and the horrifying chambers  – labeled on one side “Able-Bodied Men” and on the other “Women and Children” weighed heavy on my young heart.

An earth-shattering experience, no doubt about it… but it didn’t jive well with the Lizzie McGuire version of a European vacation I’d come to expect.

Needless to say I’ve been itching to return, from the moment my feet landed back on American soil a decade ago.

But Europe – Europe – that’s the stuff of miracles, isn’t it? Boarding an airplane, crossing an ocean, and landing on a foreign shore… replicating in reverse the journey our ancestors made generations ago… entering a continent with such rich history and culture, buildings that are more than 300 years old?! It was a dream, sure – but the kind of dream that only presents itself once or twice in a lifetime. I thought would come true again maybe for my honeymoon, or as a faraway work assignment from some yet unidentified future employer… or maybe in retirement, when I would think up the idea in a lace nightgown while sipping tea.

But for my TWENTY-SIXTH BIRTHDAY?! Not in a million years.

I’ve been asking everyone I can think of – from my neighbors, to my entire extended family to the FedEx guy – what recommendations they have. With only 11 days to make it through 3 (possibly 4, we’re mulling over Edinburgh) cities, I need all the advice I can get.

My travel books are dogeared, torn, folded, crossed out, and scribbled all over. I’ve got a jetlag-avoiding Melatonin regimen from one friend, a packing guide from another, a language-learning app from a third, and a long list of attractions, museums, and restaurants. Taylor and I have an entire movie marathon – from Eurotrip to French Kiss – to get through by April, and all of my friends and family are tired of hearing me talk about this.

So I pose it to you, faithful readers: What should we do, where should we go, what can’t we miss?

And also: AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!

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One thought on “Turns out age 26 is actually the greatest

  1. As we speak, I am going to forward this to all my hundreds of friends to brag about my 26 year old niecie who has a flair for words and a gift for writing and let them see for themselves what I have been bragging about. This is wonderful (!), Susiegirl, and I am so proud of you! And I am most happy that you will at last have a wonderful dream come true. I am glad we have six more months of Memories to share before you leave . . . but as soon as I get married and move away from my airline years, the ending of the memoir will not be far away. Those were wonderful times, but motherhood, while wonderful ALWAYS, is just not quite as exciting and “memoirable” aka Memoir-worthy. We shall see, and I’m looking forward to our next meeting, here sometime when you absolutely have the extra few hours it takes from your and Kris’s Sundays afternoons . . . with appetizers, wine, lots of laughs, good conversation, loving auntie, fun uncle and cousintalk, an adorable puppy, Andrea Boccelli in the background, and Oh! did I mention crab and wine, and . . . more crab? 😉 xoxo Auntie

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