This post was originally published in November 2013. Since I’ve gotten some questions about and interest in my career story recently, I thought I’d update and repost the series. Click here for part 1, here for part 2, and here for part 3.
Where did I leave off? Right, Aaron and I were at our favorite brewery one spring evening when I blurted out, “hey, I’ve got a crazy idea…let’s backpack around Europe this summer.”
I remember Aaron looking at me like I was indeed a little crazy but, to me, it was the perfect timing. My teaching jobs ended in May and I didn’t have to be anywhere until my PhD program started in August. Aaron was planning to quit his first “real job” to move out of state with me. It had been almost 3 years since I’d been to Europe and I was itching to go back. For Aaron it was closer to 8 years since he’d lived in Madrid.
Traveling together seemed like the most logical way to spend the summer. (Travel is typically my solution to everything.) Plus, we were getting pretty serious, and I thought we needed to make sure we could travel together before getting engaged.
Aaron didn’t immediately agree to the trip but I could tell he was intrigued. I was ready to jump on a 3-month Eurail pass; Aaron suggested a couple weeks vacation before we moved out of state.
We compromised on 7.5 weeks in Europe.
It was our first “big” trip together and we had a blast revisiting old haunts, exploring new cities, hiking in the Alps, sleeping on trains and in questionable youth hostels, and visiting friends from grad school. I loved that we were getting to know parts of of each other that only existed in Europe.
We both agreed that it was the best way to spend the summer. Sure, we didn’t save as much money as we could have had we stayed home and worked. But we don’t regret going abroad at all. Even though we’ve traveled many times since then we reminisce about that summer more than any other trip, including our honeymoon.
Moreover, that summer trip was as important to my career path, as all of my schooling and jobs have been. A few things I learned…
1. When Aaron agreed to quit his first “real job” to backpack around Europe and then move to another state with me (without a job lined up), I was pretty sure he was the one. But when, on one of our final days in Europe, I offhandedly said I wish we didn’t have to go home and that I could so easily continue traveling for several more months, and Aaron said, yeah, me too, I KNEW he was the one.
2. The conversation Aaron and I had at the brewery has repeated itself many, many times in the years since. Aaron is now used to me saying, “Hey Aaron, I’ve got a crazy idea…” and I now know that Aaron isn’t going to immediately say yes to every crazy idea I throw out. But I do know that he’s game for some ideas, and he does understand and support my unending wanderlust.
3. Instead of thinking just about myself and what I wanted to do with my life and career, I had to start thinking me + Aaron. I loved traveling with Aaron and just being with him in general. But I also wanted to live and travel abroad as often as possible, and in fact, it’s always been a necessary component of my work. And as much as Aaron loves being abroad, his job is decidedly location-dependent. I had to learn to see his need for roots as just as valid as my need for wings.
Once we returned to the US after our summer in Europe we moved out of state, I started a PhD program, Aaron found a job, and we got engaged. At the time I assumed I’d become a German professor and we’d move back and forth between the US and Germany. But that’s not exactly how it turned out…
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