The Trip of a Lifetime

It’s December 12, 2012

Sporting our Tiger Pride with our plane and the Austrian Alps behind us

Sporting our Tiger Pride with our plane and the Austrian Alps behind us

Brendan, Carlisle, and I are in the Innsbruck Airport in Austria.  Our flight departs to London around 12:40 at which point we will switch airports from Gatwick to Heathrow.  We’ll then have a late night flight to NYC where we will have to switch from JFK to LGA in the AM before heading to CLT and driving back to Greenville.

This past month has been crazy- tons of travel.  We’ve done it just about every way you can- by foot, car, bus, train, metro, taxi, plane, and even gondola (ski lift).  We will have been in five countries (USA, France, Switzerland, Austria, and the UK) and eleven cities (Greenville, Clemson, Batesburg, Easton, Miami, Paris, Zurich, Innsbruck, London, New York, and Charleston) by the time December is complete.

I’m exhausted to say the least, but it’s an exciting and worthwhile feeling of tire.  I feel more cultured, worldly, educated, tech-savvy, ambitious, brave, and most importantly, more blessed than ever.

I’m 23 years old, and in that short time, I have been so fortunate to experience what many don’t have the chance to throughout the course of a lifetime.

During our trip this past two weeks with my two best friends, we’ve had more than a handful of “once in a lifetime experiences.”  Here are just a few among the many that I’ll never forget.

In Paris:

A great view of the Eiffel Tower from atop the Arc De Triomphe

A great view of the Eiffel Tower from atop the Arc De Triomphe

  • We attended a 3-day, world-renowned, international tech conference called LeWeb.
  • We drank wine from the bottle in several small parks throughout Paris.
  • We viewed the entire city of Paris from atop the Arc de Triomphe.
  • We saw the Eiffel Tower during the daytime and at night, shimmering it’s lights at the top of every hour.
  • We drank gluhwein and ate German brats and Norweigein plank-smoked salmon at the Christmas markets.
  • We dined on escargot and drank fiery B-52’s along the Champs Elysses, all lit up at night with a beautiful view of the Christmas markets and the Ferris Wheel guarding the Lourve.
  • We saw two shows- one kneeslapper and one just downright sexy.
  • We went to the top of Notre Dame, marveled at the stained glass windows inside St. Chapelle, and explored Montmarte’s magnificent basilica and the surrounding Christmas markets.

    Carlisle before attending a service at Notre Dame

    Carlisle before attending a service at Notre Dame

  • We attended the Swedish House Mafia One Last Tour Concert in the Palais de Omnisport in Berci. This was the most incredible concert (or possibly even overall event) I’ve ever been to in my life…a true sensation to the senses.
  • We were able to view the city through the eyes of of both a tourist and Parisian thanks to our newfound friends. They took us to a “locals” nightclub and served us an authentic home-cooked French meal.
  • We walked for dozens of miles, exploring the city by foot and taking hundreds of pictures and videos.
  • We became pros of the metro system.  We sang along with the underground musicians, and Brendan even taught a girl how to shag dance on board.

    B Lopes climbing the stairs to Montmarte

    B Lopes with the Basilica at Montmarte behind

  • We made friends from Alabama, London, Maine, Washington, Ireland, and Paris.
  • We learned how delicious Crepes with Nutella and Bananas are, and ate handfuls apiece.
  • We drank tons of espresso and coffee to fight the urge to fall asleep.  We fueled ourselves on adrenaline and opportunity.
  • We danced like we never have before, and absolutely crushed it might I say.
  • We learned (and practiced…) several French phrases, both proper and slang.  A couple of my favorite below:
    • J’tudie la bona vie francais – I’m studying the good French life
    • Voulez-vous dancer avec moi – Would you like to dance with me?
    • Jolie fille – pretty girl
    • Bella femme – beautiful woman
    • Hey Merf- What’s up girl?
    • And a couple more that I am probably better off not writing down.

In Austria:

A pit stop at the Christmas Markets in Zurich, Switzerland

A pit stop at the Christmas Markets in Zurich, Switzerland

  • We rode the train from Paris to Zurich to Innsbruck.
  • We ate ridiculously good food both nights and had heavenly brunches in the mornings.
  • We skied (or realistically toppled down) the Alps.
  • We explored the malls and Christmas markets.
Some of my key takeaways from the trip:
  • Take any opportunity to travel that you can.   There will always be things that come up, people that say you shouldn’t go, and financial uncertainties.
  • Learn to speak another language.  Almost every person we encountered while abroad was fluent in their native language and English.  Many spoke three or more languages.  We are definitely behind the ball in America.
  • Talk to everybody and anybody.  There are incredible people everywhere.  Hear their stories. Learn from them.

    Skiing the Alps!

    Skiing the Alps!

  • Slow down an allow yourself the time to take a walk in the park.  Enjoy the things and people that surround you.
  • Explore more, plan less.  As three busy guys, Carlisle, Brendan, and I had planned little more than our flights and the tech conference before landing in Paris.  We didn’t even have a hotel booked until the day before we left.  Living on the edge is a rush and avoiding overly-booked itineraries allows you time to fully enjoy the things and people you encounter.
  • Try a crepe with chocolate Nutella and banana.  Seriously, those things are riculously awesome.
  • Take the chance to dance.  Almost everybody in Paris danced together.  Not everybody was the next Usher, but everybody felt like it.
  • The world is a big place, but not really that big.  All of us are connected by an innate desire to give and enjoy the company of others, regardless of what we do or don’t have.
Thank you to everybody who made this trip possible for the three of us- to God, our families, friends, and professors (and credit card companies).  Ya’ll are awesome, and we couldn’t be more appreciative.
And what a great way to come back to the States we have ahead of us.  Carlisle, Brendan, and I will all be in South Carolina this weekend- Carlisle and I to celebrate Christmas with his family at his Uncle James’ home in Charleston and Brendan to enjoy a wedding in Columbia.  Brendan and I will then return home to PA and Carlisle to Batesburg to spend Christmas with our families.  It will surely be a great finale to holiday season.

Now, more than ever, I truly believe that “Life is all about the experiences we live and the people we share them with.”  I encourage you to get outside of your bubble, go experience the world, and share it with someone new.


C’est la vie et c’est si bon.  (This is life, and it is so good.)

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