“It will never be the same later.”

My first trip on a plane

My first trip on a plane

This week I reminisce for my younger friends.  I congratulate and am stimulated by those whose blogs I read.  I appreciate those who read mine even though we have such a difference in age.  And for all those who might stumble on this but have not yet started their careers or family, I say “it will never be the same later.”

Congressman James F. Battin from Montana told his top assistant in 1966 to fill a vacant job in the office with a “starving law student.”  The timing was perfect.  I was broke and needed a job.  In the end, the job became the basis for my entire career in Washington.

A year later, however, I still needed to borrow $2300 for tuition (Remember, the numbers in this post are 1967 dollars).  Instead I borrowed $3000.

Timorously, I went in to see this generous man who helped a broke student to say I wanted to take six weeks off in the summer to hitchhike in Europe.

“Yes, certainly,” he replied.  “Go now.  It will never be the same later.”

I bought a round-trip ticket on Icelandic Air, the last airline flying propeller planes to Europe.  My buddy Erhard hitchhiked a thousand miles from Graz, Austria to meet my plane in Luxembourg arriving at five in the morning.

Together we hitch-hiked through Germany and Austria.  We stayed in youth hostels where we also could get a cheap breakfast and dinner.  We bought bread, cheese and occasionally meat in the local markets for lunch.  We visited free attractions and took advantage of student discounts.



I left Erhard in Graz and continued down through Italy.  Finally, down to forty dollars, I spent twenty-five to get a second-class ticket on an overnight train from Rome to Paris.  Even in 1966 dollars, fifteen was not much for three days in Paris, but I was there.

I came back with a lifetime of memories.  There are too many highlights to mention them all in this post but here are a few:  having a glass of wine in a castle cafe above the Rhine River; seeing fireworks streaming from a bridge and castle in Heidelberg; hearing a world famous opera singer in Vienna; climbing an Austrian mountain with a group of students; crossing the border into Communist Yugoslavia for a cheap steak dinner; sharing breakfast with two lovely Canadian girls sitting above the 1960 Olympic pool in Rome; talking to a sculptor in a shed on the grounds of the Circus Maximus; and almost bumping into Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s.

Battin, who was an outstanding man in many ways, told me I would never see it this way again.  He knew I was facing the draft, would likely get married and have career and children.  These would be some of the last moments I would be free of responsibilities to anyone but myself.

But the same message applies to us all at every stage of our life:  whatever opportunities come our way, “it will never be the same later.”  Places will change.  Opportunities will change.  We will change.  Take advantage of what you can — now!


About ralietravels

Ray and Alie (Ralie) are a retired couple who love to travel. Even during our working years, we squeezed a trip in whenever we could, often when we had to stretch the budget to do so. We have been fortunate to vacation in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada and one territory and a little more than 50 countries. We like to drive, but we particularly love to travel back roads to find unusual sights, people, and experiences.
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One Response to “It will never be the same later.”

  1. The Vienna photo looks great.


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