Hello again, blogreaders! I’ve been away for awhile, but since all six of you are in my close family, I’m sure you know what I’ve been up to. I’ll give an update in the off-chance you’ve stumbled over here as the result of a Google search such as “i am in my 40’s and just piling on weight” or “how to handle vizsla witching hour” or “what should a man turning 40 look out for” or my favorite “my friend is turning 40 what song can i sing for her.” (These are all actual search queries that have led people here!)
Since the last time I was here I’ve taken an epic European vacation visiting five countries. I include Lichtenstein, Austria, and France even though I only spent between five minutes and two hours in each. Our main destinations were Switzerland and Germany.
On our trip, there was a lot of this:
“The hiiiiilllllllls are alive…”
And a lot of this:
Read: I’m feeling pretty good about hiking all the way here, and I can feel that this is a really special thing I’m getting to do.
An enormous amount of this:
“Be still. Hold still. Stop grabbing your crotch. Do you need to go to the bathroom? Smile. If you’ll just let me take one more picture I’ll buy you some ice cream.”
A daily dose of this:
“A light lunch” according to our German friend.
A little of this:
You can never have too much of this:
A fancy dinner on a pretty lake.
And sadly some of this:
Read: Blisters, hot, sunburned, tired, and maybe a little bit lost = Get that dadgum camera out of my face.
The attitude displayed above does nothing for one’s joels as you can see. Most of the time, we really appreciated the differences between what we are used to here in the US and the way people live in Europe. It’s the first time I’ve been overseas where I’ve gotten to really experience another culture by staying in people’s homes and also just being there for so long. It seems like with every good vacation the best things you bring home are ideas about how to change your day-to-day life a little bit to make it more like vacation. At the risk of being too self-help-y, I will share some of my “souvenirs.”
We walked our tails off on our trip, and I felt like I came home in much better shape physically. As an example, in the picture below we parked in a garage in the modern section of Heidelberg WAY over to the right outside of the frame of this picture. Then we crossed the new bridge (not pictured because it’s WAAAAY over to the right like probably where the edge of your screen is), hiked up to this vantage point via the Philosophenweg (aka Philosopher’s Way), all the way down to the old bridge in this picture, all the way through the old town to the train station just below the castle tucked into those trees on the left, all around the castle, back down and all around the old town pictured, and then all the way (very far!) over to the right and back to the parking garage. This was the kind of thing we did almost every day of the trip.
We ate lots of new foods and appreciated how the Europeans shop and eat. You walk to the bakery and get the fresh bread. Go to the market for everything else, buying only enough for a couple of days because your fridge is teeny. Maybe you buy your vegetables or fruit from a street vendor on the way home. You pick your berries from the garden and make homemade jam. You use your good, China cup in the morning for your home-brewed espresso. Going out to eat is a much bigger deal (in Switzerland, anyway) because it’s so incredibly expensive and time consuming. To simplify the lesson if there is one: slow down, think about it, enjoy it.
We tried to learn some of the language and realized it’s a no-brainer to stretch yourself a bit for the sake of making new friends. There is a whole post wrapped up in this picture, for another time. Suffice it to say, this moment was a highlight of the trip, and frankly, of our lives.
We soaked up the history of the people and the buildings we were surrounded by. There certainly isn’t the same kind of history here in Texas and the US, but maybe we should get out of the car and walk around a bit? Maybe try to learn some more about…well everything. You with me on this?
So the first couple of weeks after we got home I was dedicated to applying these lessons. We made weinerschnitzel, we rode our bikes to the grocery store, we made some new friends, and we took the boys for a hike to an Austin landmark. We even read the historical marker while we were there! I’m still in the process of habitualizing (that’s most likely not a word, but just roll with it) my new European ways.
Here’s the thing, lest you think this post is picking on Amer-ka. There is no shortage of great things about America too. Even with all our politics and junk food and reality TV, I believe it’s the greatest country that has ever existed. After two and a half weeks, I was so ready to get home. One of the first days we were back I took the boys to Wendy’s for lunch (I know, shut-up. They have good salads, okay?). While we were sitting there this really, really old lady starting speaking across the restaurant to this young lady who was wearing scrubs and sitting with her co-worker.
(Please read the following with a major Texas accent to get the full affect.) “Honey, what is that you’re drinking? That looks so good!” The young lady replied, “It’s a root beer float.” “Ohhhh my gooooodness, that just looks so good! I haven’t had root beer in ages.” It was a wee bit awkward, but we all just smiled nervously and went back to eating. A few minutes later I looked up because there was commotion with the old lady again, and saw that the young lady had gone up to the counter and bought her a root beer float! “Honey, that is about the nicest thing I have ever seen! You did not have to do that! Thank you so much Dear, you are just as sweet as you can be.” Later as the old lady was leaving she stopped for a quick chat at the younger ladies’ table. And that, folks, made me so happy to be home that I took a picture of it.
(I recommend clicking on that roller coaster picture. It’s worth it.)