As of this writing, I have been on travel for more than 14 days. That might not seem like much in the grand scheme of life, but I’ve been amazed at what I’ve learned in such a short time by simply allowing myself to unplug. I have traveled all over the world during my life, but something about this trip is different.
Planning for this trip began nearly 1,000 days ago. Covering sections of Europe—particularly London, Paris, and Normandy—in a short timeframe required careful planning, something my friend is very good at. I felt such joy listening to her ideas as she researched for months. Then Covid struck, and the wait seemed endless. When the day finally arrived, we sat in Dulles eagerly waiting to start the arduous journey across the Atlantic. It had not quite hit me yet how this trip was going to impact me.
The first revelation came during dinner. The setting was Le Florimond, a tiny restaurant in center Paris where we enjoyed Beef Ribs, smashed potatoes, smoked beet fenugreek, homemade duck confit with potatoes, and a French BBQ sauce—coupled with a bottle of French Chardonnay. It was a romantic evening, and my friend looked beautiful in a scarf passed down in her family. After, we walked the streets of Paris holding hands, laughing, and enjoying time together. It was like traveling back in time.
Visiting King’s College in Cambridge, where I studied 45 years ago, was my second moment of new understanding. We took the train from London and spent the day exploring the town and campus. The college seemed unchanged, but the city that felt like a small village all those years ago has grown. We walked the narrow streets to the River Cam where I rowed eight-man crew as a student. Memories flooded back, and as I looked at my friend, it felt right to connect my past with my present.
Our day trip to Normandy to visit Utah and Omaha beaches included a stop at the Normandy American Cemetery. Walking through the final resting place of more than 9,000 Americans was grounding. White Lasa marble grave markers bore each soldier’s name, rank, unit, death date, and home state, many from Tennessee. It was emotional for us both.
As we sat at dinner near the end of our adventure, I was struck by a thought. This journey was more than European adventures and revisited memories; it was a journey into my feelings about my best friend, who just so happens to be my loving wife of 25 years.
People say you can learn much about your partner when you’re on a major trip together. For those in a new relationship, it can be eye-opening. But even after all these years, this trip helped us to know each other at a new level. When we were able to strip away the extra voices, technology, and work, we realized how much we still enjoy simply being with one another. The uninterrupted time together was a blessing.