European Travel Memories…The Journey Begins!

Okay, nobody laugh at our fanny packs, high waisted shorts, and white socks! It was the early 1990s, and we were young, innocent, and embarking on a European adventure of a lifetime… somewhere in Austria here (no smart phones to track information).

It was always a dream of mine to travel through Europe with friends. My fascination with overseas adventure began my junior year while taking an Ancient Medieval Civilization history class at Fayetteville High School with my favorite teacher, Susie Stewart. After learning about distant lands, I was smitten with the idea of traveling abroad. Last year’s mandatory Covid ‘shelter-in-place’ provided time to track down old photos and remember the wonderful adventures from my young adulthood, especially since the whole world seemed to be home bound, too.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, I pledged Chi Omega sorority and met two of my life long friends, Wendy Wilkinson Smith from Denver, Colorado, and Kim Knoffloch Garrett from Wichita, Kansas. The three of us struck up an instant friendship (even if they did make fun of my Arkansas accent:)) and became roomies. At the beginning of our junior year, we hatched a plan to travel Europe after our 1992 graduation. We shared a passion for talking, laughing, walking, meeting new people, and traveling; it was a perfect combination for adventure. But to our dismay, Kim had already accepted a ‘real job’ after graduation by the time we planned our trip. Even though she had to move back home, we vowed to plan another adventure and sent her postcards along the way.

After working at Subway sandwich shop the year before, I had saved enough money to pay for the youth hostels and food. The airline ticket from my supportive parents was my graduation gift: Thanks Mom and Dad!

So off we went with our journals (still looking for mine), maps, and travel books. Of course, my travel books are long gone after getting married, having three kids, and moving several times. But I’m pretty sure we had something that looked like these books below. Never travel abroad without Rick Steves:)

Although recently, I’ve discovered a new travel abroad authority… The World Was Here First. Check out Maggie and Michael’s travel philosophy and ways you can travel ‘off the beaten path’ while immersing yourself in culture…without breaking your budget. They provide information on traveling through Germany, most parts of Europe, and other cool destinations.

It’s amazing that 30 years have flown by since our parents trusted us enough let their young daughters go on such a far away adventure. We weren’t even signed up for a tour! It was just two young Americans abroad figuring out how to manage getting around Europe by bus, train, car, and foot, with roller suitcases and backpacks in tow. We became experts at reading detailed road maps and bus and train schedules, even in foreign languages.

We had a plan and knew where we were staying every night, and we did have plans to meet up with family friends and Wendy’s boyfriend and now husband, Tim. And I had just gotten out of a long relationship and met a wonderful guy named Lance, who is now my husband. We met a few weeks before our departure, and he shared his experience traveling in Europe after high school… Life was certainly moving along!

I have since had the opportunity to travel to Europe with Lance and our kids. Here’s a family trip we made to Germany several years ago. But still to think we were there for six weeks mostly on our own still gives me a sense of accomplishment. Our mothers, Sharon and Margo, made us promise to call home (usually on a coin pay phones in a dark alley) every other day so they could ‘track us’, as they called it. That was a very small inconvenience looking back now.

Farewell from the Heinzelmann family’s front porch in Fayetteville, Arkansas. My dad, Pete, helps pack my roller suitcase and backpack into our Dodge Caravan before driving to airport. Is anyone laughing at my NINE inch zipper?!… it was the style, y’all!

Another person in our “travel support group” was our family friend, Gabi Shafer, a German native and expert European traveler. She helped plan the six week itinerary that took us through Germany, Austria, Italy, France, and Spain. We were thankful for her assistance as she knew exactly where to have us stay, which sights and museums to see, and gave us wonderful instruction about how to be savvy travelers.

Gabi suggested flying into the Frankfort airport and taking a train to the quieter city of Nuremberg, where we stayed for a few nights to get oriented to European travel. We stayed in a youth hostel that used to be a women’s prison and met many friendly people and other travelers–many traveling solo. Traveling solo is a big thing these days, but it certainly isn’t a ‘new’ way to travel. It was easy to meet people in the youth hostels, especially during meal times. Shared discussions about where to travel, what to see and do, and most importantly what not to see or do, were helpful during the early days of traveling. We felt a camaraderie with these other traveling souls.

Pictures below from top right clockwise: The front youth hostel we stayed in, inside our hostel room, me getting ready for the day in hostel bathroom, main bridge into Nuremberg centre.

Check out the links below to help plan a trip to Nuremberg, Germany, and other general information about European travel.

General information about Nuremberg click here.

Nuremberg guided tours Nuremberg lodging Nuremberg Hostels Nuremberg Restaurants

How to pack for a European vacation. The World Was Here First Best Packing Tips

Traveling Solo offers fresh travel experiences. Learn from expert solo travelers.


Connect with Sarah Heinzelmann on Instagram–seekbalancesea

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Wendy says:

    What fun we had, thanks for reviving some of the best memories I have 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. putting this pictures to words has been on my mind for 25 years! It is such fun looking back at the adventure we had:)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ellen says:

    Thanks for sharing, Sarah! You’ve boosted my appetite for returning to Europe! Spain, Italy and Portugal are on my list… let’s go!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Let’s do it!!! I would love to see more of Spain and have not been to Potugal😃

      Liked by 1 person

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