Monday, April 20, 2009
Lassy's Big Adventure
I never imagined the day would come when I would be shopping for a back pack for my daughter. Not the everyday kind they tote to school. No, this is the one they haul all their worldly belongings in for a big adventure. The one they will never forget. The one they will decorate with patches from different countries they have visited. The one they proudly stitch the Canadian flag on. That one. My baby is off to Scotland this summer for her first trip over the pond. She has me beat by two years. I took my first cross-Atlantic flight at 16. It was an organized high school adventure to London in 1974. I had the time of my life. I saw it all. A live stage performance of Godspell, Shakespeare's birthplace, Anne Hathaway's cottage in Stratford upon Avon, sat upon the boulders at Stonehenge (you were still allowed to do that then), chased the pigeons away in Trafalgar Square, gazed upon the Crown Jewels at The British Museum, tried to make the guards blink at Buckingham Palace,saw and photographed Ringo Starr in front of Apple Recording Studios, shopped on Carnaby Street, bought scads of make-up at Biba and ate green lasagna (food was not the highlight). It was the beginning of a life-long love of travel. My daughter, at 14 is already a fairly seasoned little traveller. She has been to both Canadian coasts, several islands in the Caribbean and seen more American states in her short life than most kids. She was bitten by the travel bug a long time ago. This upcoming trip is different though. This is a true adventure. I won't be with her this time. She will be travelling with a group of 16 girls aged 14-17 (and 2 chaperones). They will spend 5 days in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival, followed by 5 days at a writer's retreat in Inverness. She fancies herself a poet, a writer, a dreamer. She's expected to pitch in with cooking and cleaning at the farm/retreat in the countryside, as well as write everyday. Their work will be reviewed around the fire each evening by noteworthy Scottish writers. I wish I was going. It sounds perfect. She is so much more academically advanced than I was at her age. She takes learning far more seriously than I did. She has an amazing memory for dates and details - she's like a sponge soaking it all in. She's not the wild child I was at her age and I'm grateful for that. Sometimes I wonder how I survived my youth in one piece. Backpacks have changed since my reckless days on the road. Now they have wheels and extendable handles and nifty little features, like secret dirty laundry compartments and detachable day packs. They still feature the shoulder straps, but now you have options. On my first trip to Europe after the high school adventure, my pack weighed 72 lbs. By day 3 in Amsterdam, I sent half the useless stuff I was carrying home and reduced it to 34 lbs. Now I could really hustle down the highway with my pack to get into a stopped car or truck - yes - we hitched through most of Europe - we didn't think twice about it. It was a different era and looking back, I was lucky to have come away unscathed. There were a few scary moments, like the time a French transport driver kept nodding off on the road through some pretty winding, hilly parts near Lyon. We had to keep nudging him awake. Or the time a couple of Iranians picked us up in Rotterdam. We were making our way to Munich for Oktoberfest and they were delivering a couple of SUV's to a car dealer there. What we thought was great luck, turned out to be a very long drive with a couple of creeps with a plan to keep us apart in the two vehicles (we refused) and so they threw our packs in one and we stayed together in the other. When we got to Munich, after much aggressive persuasion on their part, we agreed to stay the night in a hotel with them (it was our tactic). As soon as they got out of the cars, we grabbed our packs and ran as fast as we could to the first underground station we saw and made a break for it. Nearly hyper-ventilating by this point, we jumped on a train with no idea where we were or where we were going, just that we had escaped a dangerous situation and we would figure it out. A German couple with two small children, sensing our fear and plight, took us to the Munich youth hostel and then proceeded to convince the clerk to let us in despite being past closing time for check-ins. We never got their names, but I am forever thankful for their kindness. This first trip abroad for my girl will be far less risky than my crazy escapade, but no less exciting. She loves the fact that she will visit her great ancestor's homeland before her own father (he's never been - yet) and I'm happy she will not have any significant language barriers to overcome for her first time out, although she may have to listen very carefully to some of those really thick-accented Scots. I feel like the mother bird gently pushing my fresh feathered young one to take flight. Proud and scared all at once. If the love of adventure is genetic, I know she'll soar high and land safely and return to her nest. For now.