The original babies with backpacks

posted in: Nostalgia, Traveling | 5

As I try not to freak the fuck out about worry about the fact that we are down to our last couple days in our house, it seemed like it was just about time for a trip down memory lane.*

*This is not at all related that I’m a procrastinator and realized today that our scanner will be in transit to Italy for approximately three months and it occurred to me that I needed to scan some pictures to give back to my mom …

Just as Chris can date his love of travel back to our honeymoon, I can pinpoint mine exactly to March 2001. My parents took me and my three younger siblings on a three-week backpacking trip to Europe. I was 13, my brother (M) was 11, my sister (T) was 9 and my youngest bro (J) was 7. I’m pretty sure a lot of people thought my parents had lost their minds (I’m going to interview my parents about this very topic next month, stay tuned). We went the week before, during and after spring break, so we got to miss two weeks of school as well. Worth every minute, even looking back now as an adult.

I would like to note for the record that ages, say, 12-18 were NOT A CUTE TIME for me. My siblings, on the other hand, weren’t in the middle of the horror that is adolescence so they look cute as hell in all these pics. 29-year-old Kasey is only marginally less irritated by this than 13-year-old Kasey was. #adulthood)

Apparently getting J to look at the camera was a struggle on this day.

My parents had been planning this trip for something like two years before we went, and it was inspired mostly by their own trip to Europe in 1986, shortly after they were married. They backpacked for a month and still tell stories about their adventures. Things got a bit busy for them after 1986 (four kids between 1987 and 1994, anyone?) but I think they always knew they wanted to take us once we were old enough to appreciate it and not be such a pain in the ass. (Not sure Chris and I will have this advantage with kids who are 4 and 2, but oh well!).


During the trip, we went to Paris, Interlaken (Switzerland), Cinque Terre (Italy), Rome, Naples/Pompeii, Venice, Salzburg, Vienna, a town in Germany that currently escapes me, Bruges and Normandy. And when I say we were backpacking, I actually mean backpacking. We each had all our stuff in our own backpacks, we caught trains using our Eurail passes and we stayed almost exclusively in hostels.

We did some homework on the trains, but also spent our time mostly looking out the windows, reading, playing GameBoys and talking. I was really into Greek mythology at that time, and spent a fair amount of time telling my younger siblings various myths. Also noteworthy: my mom and I got some of our souvenirs stolen on one train in Italy. In a different Italian city, the six of us tried to get onto a train during rush hour and my mom and youngest bro got left behind. Whoops.

A night train to Venice, if I’m remembering correctly. We were all very impressed by the three layers of bunks.



Speaking of Italy, these are of my mom and I in Cinque Terre. I feel I owe it to my 13-year-old self to include the only halfway-decent picture of myself here, haha. More seriously, Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life. I went back during my 2005 trip with my mom, and it is one of the places I am most excited to take my children next year.

The thing that strikes me most now as an adult is that my parents actually focused a lot of what my siblings and I wanted to do. One of us had been studying Pompeii and really wanted to go there, so we did, even thought it was annoyingly out of the way. One of us was interested in Venice, so we went there too. My parents had already been on the Sound of Music tour, but we hadn’t so off we went. my sister and I wanted to see the Spansih Riding school in Vienna? OK, let’s find a scalper and get some tickets. A bike tour in Bruges? Sure.

A note about the bike tour. My siblings and I spent a fair amount of time making fun of my mom for being exhausted by the full day of biking. Like, it’s a bike, Mom! What’s the big deal?! As someone who only last year got on a bike for the first time in at least a decade, all I can say is OMG MOM I AM SO SORRY.

There were some tricky parts, for sure. In Paris I got sick and ended up in a French hospital for a couple hours for medicine. (medical tourism?) We also got asked to leave by Louvre security because some of us (I’m looking at you, T) had been up all night watching movies on the plane and just wanted to lie on the floor in the lobby and rest for a while. Apparently lying around like vagabonds in one of the most famous art museums in the world is frowned upon. Travel is about learning, guys.

M and J, after we cleaned up our act to the Louvre

T, in front of Marie Antoinette’s bed, apparently.

Staying in hostels was a pretty amusing experience because it was usually a lot of younger adults and us. Our favorite hostel was in Salzburg and it played the Sound of Music more or less around the clock. The other backpackers got beers from the bar and played the Sound of Music drinking game; we got pizzas from the bar and laughed at them. The staying-in-hostels stories became even funnier when we got old enough for our parents to tell us what that funny smell was at one particular hostel.

Overall, I’d say the best part was just being together. Shut up, family members, I’m allowed to be corny. We had SO MUCH FUN together, and even now — 15 years later — we still tell stories from that trip practically every time we’re all together. Everyone has their own “thing” from the trip, whether it was getting locked in a bathroom, throwing up on flowers, sugaring french fries instead of salting them or getting a nose almost snapped off by a security door.


These are from a salt mine tour in Germany, which was super fun. My mom’s eyes in this picture were a source of mirth for five of our party for the entire rest of the trip.


M in Austria. He and J decided to try and fit in with the locals.

For whatever weird reason, we were SUPER IMPRESSED by getting to play with pigeons in Venice. “Forget the canals, THESE RATS WITH WINGS WILL LET US HOLD THEM, GUYS.”

My dad was pretending to be this statute in Pompeii, pretty sure.

J being adorable in the Alps.

This thing was amazing.

T, Mom and I were all pretty disgusted by the gigantic venison leg and pig knuckle my brothers and dad kept passing across the table here. We had potato soup.


In the lead up to the trip, my parents talked about this frites (fry) truck in Bruges that was apparently so amazing that they remembered it vividly 15 years later. They went looking for it and lo and behold, THERE IT WAS. And it was amazing. We ate there like four times in three days. I can’t wait to see if Chris and I can find it too! #goals.

Overall, I’d say the most impressive part of the trip is that we managed to be in each other’s company 24/7 for three weeks straight and didn’t end up throwing each other off the Alps. AND no one even fell off an Alp. That’s some parenting, guys.

The end

5 Responses

  1. Mom & Dad

    Loved this post of course! That trip was a dream come true for Dad & I. It also was a little scary at times. We were counting kids constantly. I always loved the look on peoples faces as we walked through a town like ducks in a row. Always counting to 4. Can’t wait to see Sicily with all of you!

  2. Denise Schilz

    What a great family. You did an amazing job showing the fun and frenzy of this family vacation. Bravo to your parents, who are wonderful in their own right, but were super parents here. I don’t know anyone who could have pulled this off except for them. You are blessed to have such a beautiful family.I look forward to more from you. You are an excellent storyteller.

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