“Mom, look!” I said, “It’s our plane!” I was so excited – this was my first trip abroad. My mom and I went on a one week whirlwind trip to the Netherlands. That trip was fifteen years ago, but it was the one that instilled in me a passion for travel.
I had always dreamed of traveling to the “old country” as some of my relatives called it. My grandfather, my mom’s father, was born in the Netherlands; on my father’s side it was my great-grandparents. I started tracing my family history when I was in junior high, so this trip was a culmination of many years of research.
We were, in fact, going to the Netherlands to attend a family reunion. An American third cousin had alerted me to the fact that someone overseas was also tracing our history. When I contacted this Dutch man, one of the first questions he asked was if I was going to the reunion. That was the first I’d heard about it.
My family members were all excited when I first told them about it, but in the end, my mom and I were the only ones able to go. My dad, whose side the reunion was for, wasn’t able to get away from his farm work. The other relatives also had conflicts. My mom and I also had conflicts and were only able to commit to a week-long trip.
So, we were off! We were able to keep the budget low by arranging free housing. We stayed two nights with distant relatives that had visited America a few years before. We stayed another two nights with an even more distant relative arranged through the reunion committee. Our final two nights we stayed with the family of the genealogist who I had met on the internet.
We flew out on a Monday evening, arriving Tuesday morning and returned home the following Monday. When we arrived at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, we picked up our rental car and drove south. Our relatives lived in Zeeland Province, the south-westernmost area of the Netherlands. They welcomed us and showed us around their neighborhood.
Our second hosts were in the north-western province of Friesland. We made a few stops along the way to their house, exploring some of the eastern part of the country. During our stay in the north, we drove east – almost to the German border – to explore the area where my grandfather was born.
The family reunion was on Saturday, lasting most of the day. We met many distant relatives, including the genealogist that had told me about the reunion. We walked through areas where our ancestors had lived, saw the location of their long-since destroyed estate, and visited the church where they had worshipped. Over 400 relatives gathered together for a wonderful picnic dinner showcasing local specialties. At the end of the evening, we followed our new friends south to their home near Rotterdam.
We explored the country from the south to the North and then back again. It was a wonderful, crazy week but it was all it took to instill in me a desire to travel. Since that trip, I have been back to Europe several times. I can’t seem to get enough and am always thinking about my next trip.
Traveling has had a deep impact on my life – so deep that I want to share it with others. I love talking to people, not just about my trips, but about their own travel. I love helping them with their plans. I count all my readers as friends and hope that my stories inspire you to travel.
For more details about this first trip, read Small Dutch Towns.