Community column: Travel in Europe bridges points in time
Since 2003, when we spent six months in Slovenia during a Fulbright appointment for my husband, the Van Noy family (or various subsets thereof) has visited this small European country every few years. Connections with friends and family as well as a now habitual wanderlust are fed each visit. We attempt to see something new, along with the familiar, and we have learned that our boldest plans often winnow down as we face time- and dollar-based limitations.
Discussion of this summer’s tour began with an eye on the Euro Cup. Our son, Sam, has maintained a high interest in the Slovenian national soccer team and alerted us to the prospect of a swing by Kiev or Warsaw should his favorite make the competition. When this did not happen, we began to reconsider the entire concept. Air fare was triple what we have paid in the past. We all lead busier lives now. We conjured many excuses.
Sam’s stubborn insistence and loving emails from all corners convinced us to break the piggy bank for a two-week adventure. I imagine the term “whirlwind tour” would appropriately describe our rate of travel as we drafted an itinerary from Venice to various locales in Slovenia up to Prague, over to Vienna, into Croatia. Practicality stepped in and we cut our northern destinations. But my meteorological metaphor would prove oddly prescient as we watched a tornado cut across the lagoon during our ferry ride from the Marco Polo International Airport to Piazza San Marco. (Media reports describe the path of the tornado as passing over land, as well as the water of the lagoon.)
The remainder of our stay would seem relatively mild. We savored the sights, food, conversations, and time together. Travel with teens brings a new range of challenges and joys than when they were four and five. I wondered at their ease and enthusiasm, considering the prospect of their future trips, perhaps without us and among college-aged peers, a ritual that I contemplated on my flight back to America.
A year or semester abroad had long been a tradition restricted to the well-heeled. But the practice has clearly become more democratized as universities installed study abroad programs and college-bound populations expanded. Approximately 200 students at Radford University study abroad in a calendar year, according to Teresa D. King, interim director and immigration counselor at the International Education Center. She has seen an increase over her 24-year tenure and attributes the change to a number of factors.
“Many students today are beginning their college enrollment with increased community volunteer service, a broader world view, and recognition of the significance of a global experience can have on their future career path,” King offers. The competitive advantage inherent in the process is one she further expounds upon: “Students are curious about the world, and recognize the interconnectedness of today’s global economy. They recognize that a study or internship abroad experience will set the apart from other job seekers in today’s very competitive job market.” King mentions other benefits cited by students, such as self-discovery and confidence, but the overarching theme is career-building.
I am a bit surprised by a distinction here. I’m recall that most of my peers, back in the 1980s, expressed a desire for adventure and encounters of the purely sensate kind when plotting their own tours. Gilding a resume was the last thing on their minds.
Some patterns persist. We spent one Saturday evening in Zagreb where throngs of twenty-year-olds gamboled and gabbed, distracted from their socializing by the occasional soccer goal projected on numerous screens along a cobblestone mall. There was something wildly beautiful about the scene — twinkling streetlights, clinking globes of amber beer, summer whites challenging the shimmer of the moon itself.
Travel stokes an acuity even among the eldest adventurers. I considered this also, once home and after another wind-related event. We escaped the heat and our still powerless neighborhood to catch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at the Lyric. The film’s narrative and characters reflected my own feelings about the magical and timeless gifts found in exploration. To paraphrase a particularly memorable point, travel “like life itself, I suppose, is about what you bring to it.”
By Catherine Van Noy
Special to The Burgs | 639-3330
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