Forty five years ago this month, I was preparing for an adventure. I was 26 years old, single, and a college graduate working as a registered nurse. My best friend and I had ben saving money for two years.We were going to Europe. Our mantra was "Don't be late in '68" That first month in 1968 was exciting in itself. Wyoming played LSU in the Sugar Bowl. One third of the population of Wyoming had descended on New Orleans. When the game was over, (Wy lost) so much Wy money was left in New Orleans that the City begged Wy to return the following year! And Super Bowl II was gearing up to see Lombardi's Green Bay Packers play the Oakland Raiders.
We got on the bus and rode to Denver. We got on a plane that took us to New York City where we stayed a week. We saw Broadway shows, (eye popping productions for two Wy girls) and visited the United Nations where we met people from all over the world.
Then it was on the plane again. We flew to Lisbon, Portugal. That is where our great adventure began. Picture us...me wearing a plaid car coat and trying to manage three pieces of red American Tourister luggage. My friend had one huge suitcase with wheels. Our guide was Arthur Frommer's book, "Europe on Ten Dollars a Day". We followed it religiously. We traveled second-class trains and stayed in small pensiones. We stayed four and a half months, traveled in seventeen countries and loved every minute of it. And it changed my life forever.
What I found was a sense of history I had not experienced on the high plains of Wyoming. Every country had its own language and currency (before the Euro) and culture. Some images that stand out in my mind are cobblestone streets, breath taking architecture, winding rivers, massive cathedrals, and art...oh the art! The Prado, the Louvre, the Van Gogh, theVatican...and Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, El Greco, Matisse, the entire Renaissance and so much more! My friend and I were like sponges, soaking up every minute.
We started in Portugal, traveled along the Mediterranean to Greece (have you seen the Acropolis in the moonlight?), then headed north, with special visas to travel in communist countries. And finally to Berlin and the Wall and across the Baltic Sea to Denmark and Copenhagen to see the Royal Ballet. Then back down to Belgium and the Netherlands and England and Ireland. Of course there was also Germany and Bulgaria and Hungry and Luxembourg and France and Scotland and Iceland and finally, home.We were never afraid, never robbed. We traveled on our own and we met wonderful people who shared their lives with us.
One of our last stops was England. We were there on April 4th, 1968. We saw a newspaper headline the next day that Martin Luther King,Jr. had been killed. Brits would look at us and ask, "what is wrong with your country?" I could not answer because I was wondering the same thing. We were home by the first of May. 1968 turned out to be a turbulent year. The Vietnam War was raging, the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, Robert Kennedy was assassinated, there was violence at the Democratic National Convention and Richard Nixon was elected President. The only constant was change.
Beyond the chaos that year brought, it was a bell-weather year in my life. My world view exploded, my vision of justice was born, and to this day, I am influenced by the global community. We are one and we belong to each other. I had a transformation, an epiphany on that European journey. My mind grew to include all kinds of places and all kinds of people. To this day I am a citizen of the world.
And that is my snapshot of 1968.