How is it that we put a man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?
Forty years ago this month, after graduating college in June, I went to Europe along with two other college friends. Jody, Robin and I spent a month in Europe, sightseeing in England, France, Italy and Switzerland.
To take you back in time, this was before luggage had wheels. (FYI: Rolling luggage started in the late 80s as a back-saving means to get your luggage through the airport.) Before 9/11. Before cell phones. We packed air-mail stamps so we could send postcards back home.
It was the first time I would be away from home for a long period of time. I remember being so excited to plan this trip with my friends. We had all the Arthur Frommer travel guides, we knew we wanted to leave coins in the Trevi Fountain (to ensure that we would return someday), and we hoped we could buy some leather in Venice, Italy. We were 20-year olds with some graduation money in our pockets and we were ready to be international travelers!
All these years later, I find myself wanting to rifle through my old photos to find our memories. Only bits and pieces are easily remembered. (Robin and Jody probably remember much more than me!) Robin was sick for a few days in Italy. We were exhausted carrying our luggage everywhere. I do remember attempting to carry my blue and yellow soft-sided suitcase (the 70s!) on my back like a backpack. The handles were on my back and the suitcase stuck out two feet when I walked. Not flat like a backpack, but like a suitcase. I also carried the ubiquitous Samsonite makeup case.
Throughout most of the trip, we stayed in youth hostels. We would spend our graduation money on frivolous, crazy things…not sleeping accommodations. We were young and willing to share a bathroom with an entire floor of other students. We didn’t know any better! We didn’t care!
We saw all the tourist attractions, museums and churches. We ate pizza in Italy and fish and chips in England, and we saw Anne Frank’s house in Switzerland. The most prominent memory, however, is sitting on the floor of a train station in Switzerland and hearing that Elvis Presley had died (forty years ago today). 8/16. I was not the biggest Elvis fan (although he shared my mother’s birthday) but that news was shocking to us. He gave his last concert on June 26, 1977, and a short time after returning home from Europe, I heard about my friend Marcy having tickets to see Elvis a few weeks after his death. Holy cow.
And remember, this was pre-internet. Pre-instant news. We didn’t hear about Elvis as it happened. We probably saw it in the afternoon newspaper at the train station, or someone heard it on the radio. The news might have been hours old, but at the time, it was almost as important as hearing about JFK being shot. (I was seven when that happened, and my memories consist mostly of still photos of the television.)
All in all, we had a great time on this month-long adventure. The whole trip, from start-to-finish, cost us each a thousand dollars. At the time, I told myself I’d visit Europe again, and I’m still trying to fulfill that promise.