fifty years ago in europe

The next fifty years

August 16, 2021

   This past June marked fifty years since I first took off to see the world. I had 200 bucks and a copy of Arthur Fommer’s Europe on 5 Dollars a Day. That meant I had about 40 days of working capital. Somehow, I managed to stretch it into almost three years of vagabonding through Europe, North Africa and Greece. These are the outcomes that can occur in life, when you’re in your twenties and are convinced you are immortal.

   I Ubered just about everywhere. Back then we called it hitchhiking, but the concept of getting into a car with a total stranger is about the same. Back then, it was free too. A couple of times I did get stuck, and would have to spend the night sleeping by the side of the road. We did not call ourselves homeless, even when that included getting kicked out of a subway station in Munich at three in the morning.

I Ubered just about everywhere. Back then we called it hitchhiking, but the concept of getting into a car with a total stranger is about the same. Back then, it was free too.

   It was in Munich that I spent the last dime to my name on a German pretzel. I had a return plane ticket, but the thought of going home with my tail between my legs was abhorrent. What turned out to be a lifetime of good things falling into my lap when I least expected them occurred, and I shortly found myself with a job and a roof over my head. The concept of white privilege was still unknown then.

   I met Carolyn in Munich in January of 1972, not realizing forty years would pass before we’d reconnect, marry and then I’d lose her again – to leukemia this time. In the time we had together, we’d often tell ourselves to live each day as if it were two, to make up for the time we’d lost over those forty years. Turned out it should have been four, or maybe eight, days to each one we did have. By now, though, I’d learned to be grateful for what days I did have with her.

   I can’t begin to put into words what Carol has meant to me. Since I’m a humorist writer, I at least have to try. Life is truly not over until you draw your last breath. (Even then, consciousness continues on, or at least for me it does.) Carol and I have already made many trips together in the three years we’ve been together, and plan many more. With Iceland, we discovered we both still have plenty of game, and a sense of adventure continues to burn strong.

   I still believe in making multiple days out of each one I wake up to. But it’s because of things I have little control over. The country is in far worse shape than it was in 1971. Same for the planet. In 1971 I believed we could change the country and the planet for the better. I’m not so sure anymore. Today I feel like a guy who’s just spent the last dime on a pretzel.

   Maybe that means it’s time for me to take some of my own advice again.

Read the full story of my time in Europe here – A hitchhikers guide to life – Reid Champagne Blog

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