Travels to the East: Chapter 1: Preparations for the Journey

In August, 1973, as I gazed out over the breath-taking scene of snow-capped mountains, a feeling of expansion and freedom overwhelmed me. I realized how much I wanted to be free–to be released from the burdens and cares of responsibilities, schedules, and humdrum of daily life. I resolved at that moment while I was on a five-day backpacking trip in Yosemite National Park, that I would travel to Europe and experience freedom to go wherever I wanted to, whenever I wanted to.

My trip to Yosemite was one of many backpacking trips which I had taken in the past two years with two other girlfriends. At that time, I was attending San Diego State University. I had gone to college for a year, having gone there straight out of high school. I was doing well. I had even made the Dean’s List. But that was not to continue because travel fever had consumed me.

In retrospect, I can see that I was inwardly ready to travel at this time. About six months earlier, I had also resolved to travel to Israel, where my sister was staying in a Kibbutz. But when I was fired from my job as a hostess in a high class steak house, my 11 year old Volkswagen Bug  needed major repairs, I lost hope of ever saving money. But this time, I set the goal of traveling. I wasn’t willing to let go of the dream. I had a vision, and I was going to see it become a reality.

I believe now that God was talking to me and giving me this message: “You need to change your life style with the values ‘if it feels good do it’. I have better things for you.”  He enabled me to surmount the trials I was to face in the coming year, and there were many. The funny thing is…I was an agnostic.

I returned to my home in National City, California and took the steps necessary to follow through with my resolve. I researched charter flights and found a cheap one costing only $210 for a one way ticket to Paris from San Diego. I didn’t want the limitation having a return flight that would limit my ability to stay as long as I wanted.

I decided how much money I would need to stay for a long time. $1000 was the figure I came up with. I secured brochures describing the different European countries and got a passport. Although I was going to college full time, I worked at a Fotomat kiosk 20 to 30 hours and made $1.65 an hour. However, I did not apply myself to my studies as much as I usually did. Still, somehow I maintained a B minus average, which was really a miracle when I think about it. But that was not up to my usual high standards of B’s and A’s.

It took me a ful year to save enough money to go because of so many other expenses. My VW Bug often needed work. I had my wisdom teeth taken out. I was in a bicycle accident which caused a painful injury to my leg and emergency room charges. I stepped on a stingray while I was surfing…another emergency room charge.

The most dramatic thing that happened–which did not cost me a cent, but could have easily stopped me from going on my trip, occurred only two months before my departure date. When I was driving my car, I hit and killed a little old man crossing the street. This was totally traumatic to me, of course. I went to court and the judge decided that because of the dark night, no street lights, and the fact that the man was wearing dark clothes–it was impossible for me to see him. Thus my only charges were involuntary manslaughter. No jail time or fines meant freedom for me to go. But I was beginning to believe I was not meant to go.

Yet it would seem that a higher power was at work, because in the end, I did leave as scheduled, against tremendous odds. But it was hard going. Going to college was so boring except for my volley ball class. I had to work full time during the summer to save up enough money. But even then, because of all the unexpected expenses, I was $500 short of my $1000 goal. I really wanted to stay a long time, and didn’t even think of the possibility of working or finding cheap ways to travel. So when my parents gave me the extra $500 I thought I needed, I was overjoyed and grateful to them.

Although I was dropping out of college, they knew traveling would be an educational experience for me. I am so glad they did not try to hold me back so I would live a more conventional life. I know that earlier in their lives they had lived in adventuresome ways, and I think they wanted to give me the same freedom. My older sister was already in Europe, and I was planning on visiting her, so perhaps that gave them more confidence. My parents taught me about how to be responsible. But little did they know that they were assisting me in a bigger adventure than any of us ever expected. I am so grateful to them.

I was determined to go alone on this trip. My thinking was this: if I went with someone, what if he or she wanted to do something I didn’t. I did half-heartedly try to find a traveling companion as my time drew near for my departure because I was becoming nervous about a solo trip. After all, I had never even lived on my own! I was still living with my parents at the time I left on my journey. How else could I have saved that money! When no one was able to go with me, I was relieved. I was 19 and totally ready for adventure and the unknown–and above all–freedom!

Finally, the long awaited day arrived. It was August 28, five days after my birthday. My parents took me to the airport in Los Angeles. I was so excited! My glamorous new life was about to start, and I could not wait to get there.

I remember little of the eleven hour flight except that we stopped in an obscure town that I had never heard of, Bangor, Maine, and that the passengers were friendly. Some of them were seasoned travelers. Landing in Paris seemed so exciting. Little did I know that I was in for a big let down.

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