I have been listening to the news reports this evening. It is the 10th anniversary of the US fight in Afghanistan. It has also brought a lot of memories back for me. 10 years ago we took our first trip to Italy. It was also the beginning of my association with Slow Travel.
We had decided to rent a house in Italy in 2001. I had used the internet to research our trip to New Zealand in 1999 and it turned out wonderful. It was such a kick to be able to email half way around the world and arrange an airport pick up and place to stay. We found the Great Ponsonby B&B and it is still one of our favorite places to stay. We were able to plan our trip around the North Island visiting gardens and attending the Ellerslie
In 2000, I traveled solo to Nice France to join up with Walking Softly Adventures (now Mountain Hiking Trips) and hiked the wonderful maritime Alps of France. It affirmed my love of this area where we would return in 2007.
In 2001, we decided to go to Italy. We wanted to rent a place to stay for a week. I turned to the web again and found Parker Villa. I wondered if there were any reviews for rentals and searched the web. I found Pauline Kenny's website Slow Travel. I looked over the website and knew I found the perfect place. I had spent 2 months in the Netherlands and remembered how important it was to understand both the difference in culture and simple difference living in an European country. It was her pages on how to run an Italian washing machine that won me over.
We sent off our reservation in June for an apartment outside Castellina in Chianti and started planning. I poured over the forums learning about the difficulties of driving through Siena and where to park. I discovered the beautiful La Foce gardens.
The September 11th occurred. All flights were canceled. Our parents asked us - "Are you still going?". We answered "Why not?" After two weeks, flights resumed. And early October we were on our way.
We landed in Milan and spent the night. Next we were off via train to Florence where we spent two nights at Dei Mori B&B. It was at breakfast the next morning we learned that we had sent troops to Afghanistan. We stopped at every newsstand during the day to find the latest headline. We ran into many other Americans during our two weeks - often at the newsstands. We would share stories and wonder what repercussions we would have during our travels. The Italians were so helpful and sympathetic. There was a sense of brotherhood as we started to absorb fully that the world would never be the same.
I can not help but start to compare the 10 years in Afghanistan with Vietnam. Growing up in the 60's so much of my teenage years were molded by the Vietnam war. I remember my brother-in-law shipping out to the Gulf of Tonkin around 1965; the protests across the campus culminating at the horrible killings at Kent State and so many of my friends and schoolmates facing the draft. The nightly broadcasts and the protest. So different from today. Officially the Vietnam war was one of the longest US wars but it felt shorter than 10 years. It gives me shivers to realize that we have been in Afghanistan potentially longer. The body count does not compare - but the cost to our economy does not even compare.