Monday, February 07, 2011

In Europe alone: 23 in 1980 vs 23 in 2010

When I was 23 I went to Europe by myself.  Don’t be impressed; my mom arranged just about every detail of my trip before I even left.  A very carefully executed itinerary took me from one relative or family friend to another with German precision and planning, and the train rides from one place to the next were pretty much the only times I was actually on my own. 

In 1980, contacting home while I was in Europe meant either a very expensive phone call or a very expensive telegram.  This meant that once I actually left America, I wasn’t directly in touch with my parents at all. 

Fast forward a few (okay, a whole lot of) years and Peter’s alone in Europe at 23.  Except that he’s really, truly making his way from place to place and from minute to minute ALONE.  He’s met many people and made new friends, but no one has planned his trip for him and his itinerary (or lack thereof) is completely in his own hands.

These days, all Peter has to do is sign onto Skype or Facebook and we’re instantly in touch, in real-time. 

Quick. Easy.  Connected.

I know, for example, that he arrived in Kitzbuhel somewhere around 8 AM this morning, my time – and I chatted on Skype with him a bit after that.  I know that he’ll be going skiing tomorrow with a group of Aussies.  And I know that he’ll head toward Switzerland at the end of the week to hang with some people from Cirque du Soliel who he met in Munchen!  (No really, it’s true! Oh, if only he’d be a guest blogger…)

(Remind me to insert the a photo that Peter promised to take from the balcony of his room at the youth hostel.  Google Images says it should look something like this:


And Google Images says that if he has a chance to take a photo of the hostel itself, it looks something like this:


I just can’t post without pictures!  Can’t. Do. It.)

Anyway… it occurred to me today that when I was Germany in 1980 at the age of 23, I took off and left the country alone with Thomas, a man I’d just met three days previous… and I didn’t even let my parents know!  I just took off to Florence, Italy with this guy.  Granted, I was originally headed there to see a friend (who, in the oddest twist, turned out to be Thomas’ cousin!), so there was that connection.  But I basically left without telling anyone who should have known.  (Yes, especially Tom.)

Thomas and I did end up together for close to two years (and we remain friends still today), so it did turn out to be a significant relationship.  But really, if Peter were to just disappear now and if I had no idea where he was, I’d freak.  Because even though he’s very much on his own and completely independent, he’s also completely connected, if only for the virtue of modern technology. 

How did my parents basically plan my whole trip and then just say goodbye at the airport, with only air mail letters (that took two weeks to arrive!) connecting us?  How did they send me off to Europe alone without Skype and e-mail and instant funds transfer? 

These days, adult kids do tend to be connected to their parents for longer than in previous generations.  I can only guess that it has to do primarily to technology.  And as a mom with a kid alone in Europe, I have to say, thank goodness for that technology!

Now, excuse me while I find a webcam somewhere at the top of the Alps!

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Kirat Singh said...
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Goofball said...

I am so glad that I was on an exchange before the internet era with only letters to write which took 2 weeks to cross the ocean, so it took a month before I got an answer from my parents. Thank goodness, they would have given me way too much advice and comments and would have bound my independence and discovery too much! My mom wouldn't have given me any freedom (and no I'm not even talking about unapproved trips or so, just the number of activities I enrolled in, whether I had given enough thanks to the people around me, why I stayed up so late or didn't go there as originally planned, etc...). The entire exchange experience was exactly to gain the confidence to figure our things out of my own, make choices and deal with the consequences and learn from mistakes. If it were now, my mom would have constantly mingled so I'm so glad I am not an exchange student at this moment.

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