When I joined the social service agency I currently work for, I never could have imagined just a couple of short years later I would be preparing to head to Europe on what they call a pilgrimage. I’m not a religious person, so I struggle a bit with calling it a pilgrimage – I prefer to think of it as connecting to the roots of the agency, roots that lie at least as much in feminism as they do in Catholicism.
Tomorrow I leave for 3 weeks, first spending 11 days in France learning about the history of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and the story of the fiery young woman in the 1800s who started it all. I’ll meet people from across the world who are all part of the global network of Good Shepherd agencies working to help vulnerable people in their own ways. I’m hoping for a lot of cool history, personal connection and reflection, and minimal God talk (fingers crossed). As an introvert, I’m a bit nervous about all the ‘people time’ on top of the exhaustion of jetlag, but I’m counting on my ipod and running shoes (and wine!) to help me get through it.
After France, I head off on a whirlwind solo adventure through Spain, Andorra, and Portugal. I’m excited to check off three new countries on my bucket list, marvel at Gaudi’s Seuss-meets-Tim-Burton architecture, hike in the Pyrenees, and sip port in Porto. I can’t wait to taste real European pastries again – it has been too long! – and have fresh baguettes and cheese in France (apparently a daily menu offering where we’re staying).
My ipod has been updated to include new-to-me music by Morrissey and Mindless Self Indulgence which are sure to provide an interesting soundtrack to my travels. I carry with me a new travel angel to keep me safe in light of the sporadic attacks in Europe, letters from coworkers to be opened when I need a hug from home, and a promise to send awkward photos taken with handsome locals at the special request of one of my staff. (I love how we all embrace and celebrate each others’ weirdness!)
Today, as always before leaving on a trip, I’m so anxious I have to keep reminding myself to breathe. But I think this trip is going to be full of awesome, potentially life-shifting moments that I will do my best to document on the go. I invite you to join me on my European adventure. Allons-y!