I sure will miss working with you, but I’m so excited for this new chapter in your life!
The gift I am giving you is nothing fancy. It’s rather plain, but it will become one of your most used tools as you travel the world. I cannot tell you how valuable a plain journal and working pen have become to me during my own international travels; and I am sure you will soon discover the same as you traverse through France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, and Germany.
There is something about writing on a piece of paper that a computer, tablet, or cell phone can’t compete with. How many times had I been on a bus in the middle of Central Asia when I overheard a new Kyrgyz or Russian vocabulary word I wanted to capture and look up at a later time? Or how inconspicuous was I when writing in a journal on a train to Budapest from Bratislava versus the unwanted attention I might have brought to myself by firing up a laptop to jot down a few thoughts? It would have been time consuming to sketch a picture of the giant reclining Buddha at Wawoojong-sa Temple in Yongin, Korea on a tablet versus the convenience a pen and paper provided me, and the ease of having a local write down in my notepad the address to the hole-in-the-wall sushi restaurant in Kyoto, Japan, versus having them type it up on my cell phone, was invaluable. My laptop, had I carried one with me, most certainly would have been stolen the night my campsite was robbed in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, but my journal—it was left untouched.
It’s easy to forget the convenience and value a piece of paper and pen still hold in this age of electronic everything. But you never know when you might find yourself in a city-wide power shortage in Lisbon or in a remote Austrian village with no wifi or internet.
This notebook, as plain and simple as it may be, symbolizes for you the freedom you will soon have after you have left Washington, DC. The freedom to think and write about things you haven’t had time to consider while living and working in this fast-paced city; the freedom to pull your journal out on the spot when you want to write down something during your travels; the freedom to fill its pages and decorate its cover with clippings from this big adventure you are about to embark on.
I am so excited for you, and I wish you nothing but the grandest experience as you explore Europe. Please keep in touch so I can live vicariously through your wayfaring.