Mary and Mary…taking on the world one country at a time

While I wouldn’t say that I am particularly “well traveled,” I have had the opportunity to venture to a few foreign countries over my last couple decades. I’ve been to Chile (this only slightly counts since I was far too young to remember, but I heard stories), England, France (x2), Italy and now Australia. I think my European adventures have given me a good start, but I have a feeling I will be adding quite a few stamps to my passport over the next few years.

Perhaps what is more interesting than the number of countries I’ve visited (because, admittedly, it’s a relatively short list), is the people I’ve visited them with, or rather, the two people I’ve visited the most of them with.

My Nana and Papi always loved traveling. Ever since I can remember, they were always planning these grand adventures to new cities, states and countries. At one point or another, they stepped foot on all 7 continents and over 60 countries. Their travel stories and pictures are absolutely incredible. And what’s even more amazing was their passion for sharing the experience.

My first trip abroad (not counting Chile when I was only 2years old) was when I was 13 years old. My Nana and Papi had a plan to take each of their grandchildren in pairs to any two foreign cities of their choice for a week each (European ones preferably). My cousin Alex and I were the first up for the trip abroad, and I must say, I think it’s pretty incredible that my Nana and Papi kept their promise to the other grandchildren after dealing with two teenage girls for two straight weeks in foreign countries. Picking perhaps the most predictable, tourist-ridden destinations, my cousin and I ended up in London and Paris for our two weeks.

The trip was filled with inside jokes, laughter, whining, SO MANY photos, at least two crepes a day (in Paris), and memories that will last a lifetime. We returned to the states boasting to our fellow cousins about how there was no way they could ever top our trip. Afterall, we were the FIRST.

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While I wouldn’t say any of my cousins topped our trip, every adventure my Nana and Papi took the grandchildren on had its own special meaning to the travelers. There was another visit to Paris, along with a river cruise to Amsterdam, a flight to the Galapagos islands, and a couple other countries I can’t remember off the top of my head.

Beyond this initial trip to France with my Nana and Papi, I somehow convinced my Nana to be my travel buddy on a vacation to Italy one summer when I was in college. We spent months planning out our dream Italian adventure, and my Papi decided to let us ladies make the trip solo. We flew into Venice, travelled around Rome, and took a cruise along the Amalfi coast of Italy. On board we wined and dined (thanks Europe for that young drinking age), made friends, did daily tours through Sorrento, Positano, Pompeii, and I even became a certified scuba diver. Another amazing adventure with my Nana by my side.

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My other European travel experience was with my small family unit. My parents planned a month long vacation in France where we did all the non-touristy things by staying in two small towns in Southern Provence. We even rented homes within the towns, and spent our days amongst the locals, and our nights eating bread, olive oil and fresh meats. We traveled all around the South of France for two weeks. Surrounded by people whose English was only marginally better (sometimes) than our French, we endeavored (well, my dad and I did anyway) to speak only French. Since we had all studied French as our second language, having the opportunity to put this learning to use was an amazing experience. A couple weeks into our French adventure, my Nana (of course) and one of my cousins joined the family. We enjoyed another week and a half in France, hitting up Paris for my second time because, well, why not?

So you see, I have been very blessed with my travels. While each trip was uniquely special, every single one had one thing in common….or rather, one person in common. My Nana. Every country I’ve ever set foot in, she’s been there beside me.

Well, every country but one.

Australia has been my first trip abroad without any family, and perhaps more significantly, it is my first trip abroad without my Nana. Thankfully, however, our travel streak will soon be back to perfect. My Nana is due into Sydney Australia September 25th of this year, and I cannot wait.

Ever since I learned Australia was a possibility, my Nana and Papi had been planning to arrange a visit. My Nana’s “mum” was a native Aussie who moved to California for love early on in life, but left behind all her siblings in Sydney, Melbourne, and Tassie. While the older generation has passed on, my Nana has many cousins (my cousins twice removed) who now have children who all live in Australia. So me possibly moving to Australia gave my grandparents yet ANOTHER excuse to hop a flight to Oz. Unfortunately, my Papi passed away shortly after I finalized my decision to move here last year. He was so proud of my decision to pursue a PhD and even more so that I had chosen to earn it while living abroad. While I wish more than anything he was here to make the trip to Australia, I know he’d be so happy knowing my Nana and I are adding another country to our buddy travel check list.

Living abroad is an exciting adventure. It is a learning experience I wouldn’t trade for anything…but on those days when the homesickness hits a little harder than usual, it’s nice to know I only have a few more weeks before I will see someone who encompasses all that my home really is. We have conquered five countries together (counting the US, because, why shouldn’t that count?), and I am so excited to add my new home country, Australia, to that shared list. My friends think they’ve had enough to handle with this American Mary….wait ‘til they meet the American I’m named after!

25 days and counting until the Marys take on Australia. See you soon Nana

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