April 13, 2015 I made my first trip to Europe. Three weeks, six countries, and I saw five minutes of a lot of things. It was the most incredible trip I had ever taken. An experience for which I will be forever grateful. Changed my life, my perspective, and my work. That trip also took me on a spiritual journey unlike any other and opened my heart and soul up more than it had been. The soldiers who were already communicating with me, were now doing so at a higher level. It was a little crazy, unnerving at times, and amazingly cool. The writing I did during and after that trip allowed me to heal things within myself but also others through my books and programs.
Before I left Amsterdam on 6 May, the universe already had plans to bring me back in October. Having never traveled solo overseas, this idea was both scary and exciting. A good friend had been telling me for a year to travel alone, but it wasn’t time yet. I wasn’t ready until October 2015. Too many other things had to be let go of and healed or written before I could go.
On 13 October 2015, I boarded a plane in Chicago and flew back to Amsterdam, alone. Sitting on the plane, I knew the next three weeks would change my life in unexpected ways, bringing blessings, sadness, joy, inspiration, incredible experiences, relaxation, new opportunities, many new friends, an opportunity for balance, and the opportunity to release things which no longer served me. The trip also provided another major spiritual shift in my life. I invite you to travel with me in my soldier’s footsteps.
13-14 October 2015
Planning a European trip has its challenges from booking the flight, car rental, places to stay, and what you want to do. Add a layer of lecturing four times and another layer of scheduling time to meet a lot of Facebook friends who do WWII research, while I was there. I went with the flow, which a year ago I would not have done. My schedule changed daily the last two weeks before I departed, often between 3 and 4 a.m. as my friends in Europe would message me to confirm or arrange something. I even finalized details of my final speaking engagement right before I boarded the plane! While some people (and the me a year ago) might not have done well with this ‘go with the flow’ attitude, it absolutely worked for me.
I departed Chicago after 6 p.m. and arrived in Amsterdam by 9:30 a.m. their time (2:30 a.m. our time.) Made my way through customs and headed across the city-like Schiphol Airport to the car rental area. It all went smoothly. Soon I was on my way to my first destination, about 3.5 hours away, BASTOGNE!
As I drove south though the Netherlands into Belgium, it snowed! Not much, just enough to cover the trees and look beautiful and magical. Driving after being up, technically at 2:30 a.m. is not so fun, but there are nice gas/restaurant station areas along the highway in the Netherlands. These are excellent places to stop for coffee and a yummy lunch. Stopping half-way to Bastogne as the snow fell was a good idea. I counted my many blessings over that lunch and pinched myself a lot because I couldn’t believe I was actually in Europe by myself!
When I arrived in Bastogne, I checked into the Hotel Melba. This is where everyone said to stay. I’m glad I listened to their advice. The staff was wonderful and helpful, room was comfortable, with a view from the back of old homes and a field with donkeys. They could be heard at all times of the day.
I spent part of two days in Bastogne in May, so had an idea of where things were. Since it was late afternoon, to stay awake, I took a walk down to the tank and main street. First stop, with my journal in hand, was the Boulangerie Courtois for a coffee and piece of something decadent. I stayed in the bakery about an hour, again counting my blessings and pinching myself, while writing and enjoying my dessert.
When the dessert was gone I walked back to the hotel by way of the 101st Airborne Museum – Le Mess – probably my favorite place in Bastogne. I did not go inside because they had just closed. My visit was planned for Friday. Instead, I returned to my room to catch up on email and prepare for the next day when I would meet Tom Scholtes and Doug Mitchell and see the Sauer River Crossing sites and visit my cousin James Privoznik in Luxembourg Cemetery.
Hotel Melba has a restaurant and I went down before dinner to enjoy a Jupiler beer at the bar while listening to a conversation by an American family. Dinner was a fantastic steak with loads of vegetables. I enjoyed it immensely while again, listening to the conversations of those around me. The American family was seated at the table next to me and I heard about their visit to areas around Bastogne. Now, I used to be quiet and not interrupt total strangers conversations, but we all grow and change.
I heard the son say they would skip the museum in Bastogne the next day and at that point I had to interrupt and ask, which museum. He replied Le Mess. At that point I inserted myself into the conversation and told them they absolutely could not miss Le mess. That led to a longer conversation about why we were both in Europe, what I did for work, and them assuring me they would visit the museum. At that point, I finished my coffee and went upstairs to bed.
The son and I are now Facebook friends and we followed the others trips and had interesting conversations. You never know who you will meet when you travel. Or how it will change your plans and experiences.
At the end of my first very long travel day I was completely content. Look what I had done! Traveling solo! Who knew what the rest of the three weeks would bring. I was sure as I drifted to sleep, thanking the Gods and Angels for the amazing day, the trip would change my life and in some way, the lives of all those I would meet or encounter, including my army of soldiers, sailors, and Marines, who are always with me.
© 2015 Jennifer Holik