One of the best parts about traveling, or maybe the best part of it, is the people you meet on your journey. You rarely meet someone who isn’t interested in where you’re from or what your life is like back home. We have only been traveling for a week and we have already had tons of Facebook friend requests and even a few trying to plan a trip to the States when we return.
While wandering around after dark in Brussels, we were standing on a corner, drinking our beers (no open container laws!), trying to figure out where we were. We ended up standing on that corner for quite some time after a group of Italians our age sparked up a conversation. The language barrier is irrelevant when talking to people our age. The two gentleman spoke broken English, enough to understand, while the girl spoke nearly perfect English and translated what she needed as we talked about anything and everything. They were in Brussels for a field trip to a European Union Parliament Session. After doing our best “it’s me, Mario” impressions, using our accents to try and say their names (my personal favorite was “Pasquaaaale!”), they began asking about our government, laws, and the President. It was fun to share jokes, hear their perspectives and share what our life is like back in Nebraska. We tried making plans to meet up but time constraints broke those plans. But some Instagram and Facebook adds will keep us in touch in the future.
We arrived in Brugge and went out after a quick nap. Our hostel was having a 31st birthday party that was “something you can’t miss.” A Belgian beer favorite, Jupiler, was free until the kegs ran out and we sure tried to finish those kegs, grabbing two pints at a time. The party soon spilled out onto the street, across the street, and down the block.
We met a guy from Chile on our walk to the hostel and soon found out he was staying there, too. He found us sitting on the curb, drinking our beers, and has met up with us several times since then. He was traveling across Europe on holiday after graduating from university. Super nice guy! And, yes, an incredible magician (no joke).
As the party continued to rage on, a group of about 6-8 guys speaking fabulous English were standing by us. I sparked up a conversation thinking they were American. I didn’t know at the time that these fellas would keep us up until nearly 5 am. While speaking perfect English, they began speaking with southern drawls and all kinds of American accents. I was so confused! I asked them, “where the hell are you guys from?!” They replied in French and Dutch. I was even more confused now. Since I had a few drinks, I began talking in a drawl, pretending I was from Texas. “I’m a cowboy from Texas, got my boots on, and I’m just riding that cattle train driving my longhorns up to Omaha!” I heard one of the guys ask what a longhorn was. Busted! They really were from Brugge! They said they watch Youtube videos of Americans and all their accents. Too damn funny! They were in “middle school,” which here means they were almost ready to graduate high school, but were anywhere from 20-22 years old. They said the bar here at our hostel is one of their favorites and they love to mess with English speaking tourists.
We continued to drink and smoke with these fun locals. They began asking questions about our life back home. We had to tell them we weren’t from the west coast, or the east coast, but right in the middle. “What is there to do in Nebraska? Is it rural? Do you guys carry guns? What’s the biggest city around?” Abby shared pictures of her shooting at a range, I told stories about growing up hunting and shooting guns with my Dad. They were so fascinated. One thing struck me: back home, our friends and family are worried about terrorism in Europe while these guys are worried about traveling to the US because they think everyone just have guns and shoot places up! We laughed, shared what its really like, and the conversations led from one thing to another. They want to visit Nebraska. We said American Football is our thing, so they would have to come in the fall. They couldn’t believe that Memorial Stadium, at 100k people, was our 3rd biggest city on game day. However, a couple of them will not be 21 until next year, so they were dead set on visiting next fall when they could legally drink (another mind blowing fact about the US they couldn’t believe: 21 to drink and no open containers). I hope they keep their word, we would love to show them around.
Funny enough, we did meet a guy from Texas on our second to last day. He was 20, traveling for a couple months on summer break from A&M. He was from Amarillo, and had even been to Abby and I’s old town of Garden City! He wasn’t a big drinker, but sure enough after meeting us we were keeping him up after midnight and sharing rounds and shots with our group of friends.
The love of travel and experiencing the world (I’m not talking about a resort on the beach in Mexico, I mean really traveling and seeing the world) is a connection that, if you’ve never done it, you have no idea how strong it is or what the thrill of traveling is like. It isn’t for everyone, I understand that, but it is definitely a passion and love that I will carry with me forever.