Bonjour! By the time some of you read this, I’ll be on my way to France!
For the next four weeks, I am traveling with a team of Kentuckians representing Rotary International District 6740 on a Group Study Exchange.
Myself, and three other young professionals — Jessica Tretter of Lexington, Brandi Berryman of Lexington, and Tabitha Baker, of London — along with our Rotarian leader Jon A. Bennett, of Edgewood, were chosen last October to be guests of the French Rotary District 1780. In April, a French tean will arrive here in Kentucky completing the exchange.
We are bound for the southeastern Rhone-Alpes Region, located along the borders of Italy and Switzerland. We will spend time in large cities including Lyon and Grenoble, both hubs of culture, history and modern industries. Three towns on our itinerary have hosted Winter Olympic games. We’ll explore small villages nestled in the shadows of the Alps and visit the tallest peak in the range, Mont Blanc. We’ll foray into Switzerland to visit Geneva and tour the United Nations.
Our mission is one of goodwill and understanding. We will share the culture of our nation, state and region with our hosts, while being immersed in theirs. We will also have the opportunity to see our professions are practiced there. Jessica is a financial advisor, Brandi, an urban designer for Lexington, Tabitha a social services clinician, and Jon an engineer.
It is the trip of a lifetime, no doubt. I am incredibly humbled to have been given the honor to represent this community. I feel a have a responsibility to do it well.
For weeks, I'’ve been (attempting) to learn French. Thanks Amanda! I know I’ve been driving everyone around me nuts muttering and repeating words they don’t understand, and that I’m most likely pronouncing very wrong. My husband has begun looking at me much like our Golden Retrievers do when I chatter to them. Hopefully, my hosts will understand key phrases.
With the help of many locals, I’ve been gathering up items to take with me as gifts for my hosts. I’ve got books from the Jesse Stuart Foundation for the French professor of English whose been planning our trip, a half dozen prints of Ashland’s parks, bridges and downtown, there are bluegrass CDs and a box of carved coal magnets. I made packing tiny bottles of the state drink, Bourbon, a priority.
The Independent will travel with me, too. I’ve plucked editions featuring some from the best events of the year to use as wrapping paper for my gifts.
Now, finally, after months of anticipation, all my bags have been packed, weighed and (hopefully) are bound for France.
Our adventure is finally under way.
I’m excited, curious and nervous. I’m worried about my home, my husband and our pets while I am away.
Mostly though I am exhilarated by the prospect of the unknown experiences that await me and my companions on the other side of the Atlantic.
That’s the thing about adventures, no two are ever the same. Each journey changes and sculpts you in ways that are never imagined — no matter how hard the possibilities are pondered beforehand.
That’s what I love about traveling. Knowing that no matter what happens along the way, I will return home with a soul that’s be enstretched and opened wider to the world.
My heart, mind, and stomach are ready for the challenge.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached somewhere in France for the next month. Email her at email@example.com.