Dec 01

European Memories: The Birth of my Wanderlust

In browsing through old photos on my computer, I came across a file of pictures I hadn’t looked at in ages. As I scrolled through, a wave of memories surged over me–each as vivid and colorful as if they’d happened yesterday. I didn’t expect the memories to be so clear, especially since I can’t usually remember what color pants I’m wearing til I look down; but I found myself slowly meandering my way through the pictures, taking time to close my eyes and relive the experiences I’d long since tucked away in the memory banks.

Venice gondola waterway

Seven and a half years ago, I spent the summer of my 19th birthday in Europe with my family (go ahead, do the math). Before that we had taken plenty of week long vacations, usually across the US or to tropical places like Hawaii and the Caribbean, but this would be my first big trip abroad.

I dreamed of shopping in the fashionable boutiques of Paris, strolling through cobblestone streets with my scarf blowing behind me in the wind, and a handsome Italian man sweeping me off my feet.  I appropriately packed a separate suitcase entirely of shoes.

Drinking a beer in London

So excited that I could legally have a beer at a pub in London
























Before the trip I had been talking about getting one of those newflangled contraptions–a digital camera. It was the new thing and all the cool kids were doing it, plus I was getting tired of those darn 27 exposure disposable cameras.

A week before my birthday, though, my mom said to me, “Don’t buy a camera. We’re getting you one for your birthday. But don’t tell your dad, I don’t want him to know I told you the secret.”

A few days later while out shopping with my dad, he said, “Don’t buy a camera. We’re getting you one for your birthday. In fact, I’ll let you pick it out today. But don’t tell your mom, I don’t want her to know I told you the secret.” Well, that was a predicament.

So we browsed through Best Buy and I picked out my very first digital camera–a Canon Power Shot SD400.

Let me tell you, though, unwrapping that camera box on my birthday and pretending to be surprised was a challenge. Luckily I was so excited to finally have the camera in my hands that my big cheesy grin was mostly authentic. I marveled at its tiny, metallic frame and the wealth of features and settings. I even read the manual from cover to cover. And thus was born my fascination with photography.

Venice sunset

Leeds Castle, England

The point of this little reverie is that this trip–and even the little events leading up to it– is ingrained in my memory so starkly because it was the start of a new chapter of life, though I didn’t entirely realize it at the time. It planted a seed that would slowly but steadily germinate and blossom into my love affair with world travel and lead me to a future that would take me to places like Panama, Argentina, the Philippines, and soon to South Korea.

Europe photo

A hallway in the Vatican and a large church in a quaint town in the French countrysie

Tourist photo with gladiators at Coliseum in Rome

Requisite tourist photo with gladiators at Coliseum in Rome

VeniceI hardly remember what else happened during that year; even looking at photos to jog my memory only elicits fuzzy recollections. But I could describe to you even the most intimate or seemingly insignificant details of my time in Europe; in fact,  I can still hear the deep vibrato of the gondolier, bellowing through the dimly lit alleys and echoing off of the surface of the Venetian waterways…

Buildings in Venice at night

I can smell the pungent yet delicious scent wafting from the pot of fondue as we chatted in the cool night air along the shores of Lake Geneva…

I recall the ache in the soles of my feet from stupidly wearing heels to tour the Louvre–yet the sensation vanishing from my mind as I gazed at the ballerina paintings of my favorite painter, Degas…

I feel the sudden gush of warm rain dripping down my bare shoulders and gathering into cobblestone puddles from the flash storm in Dubrovnik…

Dubrovnik, Croatia

I can still see each branch of lightning crackle across the expansive night sky as I stand, completely awestruck, on a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean ocean…

I can sense the warm sunlight kissing my face while I bat my eyelashes at the mist from the fountains of Tivoli…

Fountain at Tivoli, Italy





















Each of these moments, so simple in their own right, compounded over time to create an experience so significant that I was inadvertently changed forever. It was not the sudden change in awareness, the lightbulb moment, that many people talk about; rather, it was a sleepy awakening, like my eyes slowly opening with the rising sun and adjusting to the light of a new day.

I had loved to travel before this trip, and I’d been fortunate enough to go many places. But for some reason it was that month in Europe that enlightened me to just how big and fascinating the world was, and made me realize that I wanted to see it–all of it.


Travel Quote

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

So thanks, parentals, for funding and taking me on such an incredible adventure, even if we did all slightly want to kill each other by the end of it. I am eternally grateful, though you may only have yourselves to blame for the fact that I now want to stray as far from home as possible. I’m 19 countries deep and it’s only the tip of the iceburg…

Have you ever had a life changing trip or experience that convinced you to travel?

  • memographer

    I really enjoyed this! A beautiful memoir of a traveler. Love your “first camera” story 🙂 and “So excited that I could legally have a beer at a pub in London” made me smile.

    • Thank you! Haha yes, it’s funny the little things in life that make us excited… like a legal beer. 😉

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Thank you! Haha yes, it’s funny the little things in life that make us excited… like a legal beer.

  • That photo with the gladiators is priceless! If that doesn’t inspire wanderlust, I don’t know what would! 😉

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Haha yes, although it was the closest I got to being “swept off my feet by a handsome Italian man” it was still a good time!