I developed my first serious case of wanderlust when I was 17 and simply announced one day to my parents that I was going to Europe for my 18th birthday. I had saved my earnings as a summer lifeguard, had a part-time job after school and could finance this trip I was planning.
My plan had been to take a ship across the Atlantic to Holland to visit with my mother’s family, take a side trip to Paris – the centre of the universe – and then fly home. Why take a ship? … both of my parents had arrived in Canada on a ship and I wanted to share that experience of a trans-Atlantic voyage.
I obtained the first of what would ultimately become many passports in my life ….
…. and then began investigating airline flights, costs, and trans-Atlantic cruise schedules. That’s when my parents started to become concerned. It appeared that I was serious and was really going to follow through with it.
… and that’s when my plans started to go sideways.
Before I knew what was happening, my mom was coming with me. We would be flying both ways – there was no chance she was getting back on a boat – and, oh-why-not, my younger sister might as well come with us too.
This was not exactly the holiday I had planned – for in addition – we weren’t going to Paris either. That trip would have to wait a few more decades.
In spite of my disappointment over Paris, it was a wonderful trip. I spent my 18th birthday in the beautiful city of Breda in the southern part of the Netherlands. It is here that I had the extraordinary experience of having a gun pointed at me.
My sister and I had gone out sightseeing alone and discovered a beautiful old building with a moat. Where I came from, we didn’t have buildings with moats and therefore, by definition, this became something worth investigating. We attempted to venture inside to look around.
We were intercepted by two guards I assumed were asking if we needed any assistance. Since we didn’t understand exactly what they were saying, I simply smiled, shook my head and continued walking. They called out to us a second time and I gave the same response.
The third time, they drew their guns and shouted “NAY!”. THAT I understood … and we made a very hasty retreat.
In relaying the story afterwards to my uncle, he explained that we had attempted to enter a military training school for officers in the Royal Dutch Army and Royal Dutch Air Force. Both he and my mother thought our story was quite hilarious and that I had a knack for finding trouble.
I was less impressed.
I never admitted to my parents that – in the end – I was grateful for the company of my sister and mother on this trip. Having someone to share the memories with was a wonderful side-effect I hadn’t appreciated in advance.
…. and my sister and I still chuckle over our close encounter with the Dutch military.
Thanks so much for visiting. Please help yourself to a cookie …. today I am offering Hamandash.