Getting Unspoiled

The trip I'm embarking on this time is unique for me: My family and I are "on our own."

As most of you who have followed in the magazine and online over the years, you know that I have traveled extensively for my job. Trips have taken me to 45 out of the 50 states and to 20-plus countries in Asia and Europe, most of them multiple times. I remember one year making eight overseas trips. I’ve racked up a lot of plane time.

When you get this issue of PM, I again will be winging my way to Europe. However, this trip is different since I’m doing it “on my own.” Let me explain.

We metalworking press are sort of a corps, although we are much fewer in number than we once were. Because we are a U.S.-based press corps, and the U.S. market is hot, many international manufacturing OEMs and some foreign governments trying to promote their national metalworking trade shows want to get us to their plants and shows to see firsthand the cool new things they are doing. Since many of these companies and events are overseas, we get invited to visit.

We arrive and are met at the arrival lobby by someone with the company we are visiting. Usually, they are holding signs with our names on them, although sometimes we get our wires crossed.

I remember flying to Milan to see a runoff for a multi-spindle builder, and there was nobody from the company there to meet me. Having been in Milan before, it was no big deal. After waiting a reasonable time, I took a bus to the main train station and purchased a ticket to the small town where I was to stay.

After getting to my hotel, I called my host who was panicked thinking I was lost. He was impressed that I (an American) could navigate well enough to find my way to the hotel in this relatively small town. He then sent a car to take me to the plant, and the trip resulted in a good feature article for the magazine. If one travels enough, there are many such stories to tell the grandchildren.

The trip I’m embarking on this time is unique for me. I’m the first to admit that I’ve become rather spoiled in my travel because I am always so well cared for by my international hosts. This time, my family and I are on our own.

I’ve mentioned this fact repeatedly to my wife and family with the caveat that as a family we can’t travel in the style to which I’ve become accustomed, but to no avail. We’re donning our Griswold outfits and heading, en masse, to Europe. It’s going to be interesting.

Let me introduce the cast of characters embarking on this adventure. We have varying degrees of experience traveling to Europe, ranging from none, to extensive (in my case).

First up is my wife of 37 years. She has never been in Europe. I can’t wait for her to learn some of the vagaries we will encounter—plumbing fixtures being a big one. She’s pretty adaptable so I’m not too worried, but it will be somewhat of a culture shock for her.

My oldest son and his wife have never been across the pond, either. Our plan is to first visit London where my youngest son has been living for the past year and a half. He has a tour all lined up for us to visit the sights. I was able to visit him last November, and he really has a good handle on this massive city.

After my oldest son and his wife do London, they plan to venture off by themselves to Paris. Why not? Who knows when they’ll be this close again? They will meet up with the rest of us later on the trip.

One of my daughters has been to Europe several times and has a built-in wander lust. She loves to travel and visit new places. I think I know who she gets that from. It’ll be fun to experience our trip through her eyes.

My second daughter, and her husband, are also joining us on the trip. She has never been to Europe, but her husband has. They are bringing my one-and-a-half year-old grandson, which should add to the complexity of the logistics, but also make the family experience more interesting.

This trip will last around two weeks and will be the first time I’ve been away from work that long in almost 40 years. At this point, I’m trying to get my ducks in a row. Yes, I’m spoiled, but I’m looking at this trip without my usual support group as another way to experience Europe.