THE BIZARRE TRIP TO EUROPE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

When I was in high school, my parents didn’t travel. A good friend, nick named ‘Cookie’, was going to Europe for three weeks over the summer with her family. She invited me to join them. I was 15 and thrilled.

The first week we were going to stay on our own in Surrey, England, outside of London, with friends of Cookie’s family. Then we would travel with parents to London, Paris, Geneva, Zurich and Vienna.

Me and the family in Surrey, England

As soon as we arrived in Surrey, Cookie pulled the rug out from under me. She told me she was jealous of me and hated me. She said she planned to make the trip as miserable for me as possible. This was like a kick in the gut to me. Where did this come from? And what was I supposed to do now, alone in a foreign country with a declared ‘enemy’?

Cookie tried to ingratiate herself with the family and exclude me. It didn’t work. The two kids, a son around 18 and a daughter around 21, liked me better and complained to me about Cookie. But I still felt the hostility and the tension. It was very uncomfortable and scary.

When we were traveling alone with her parents, Cookie tried to turn them against me. She tried to sabotage me at every turn. Again, it didn’t work. Her parents just got annoyed with her. She kept on trying though.

Me on the trip in Paris

I couldn’t even write home about my situation because I always shared a room with Cookie and she hovered over me. My letters home are all chatty and upbeat except for a few hurriedly sneaked sentences at the end of each letter. The postscripts were short cries of anguish and pleas for help.

I had never been exposed to this degree of negativity, competitiveness, and outright hostility. It was an unpleasant and weird and particularly difficult for a 15-year old. I must have been more mature than I realized to have survived but even enjoyed some of the trip. We saw beautiful places and did  cool things. I just tried to ignore Cookie as much as possible.

To add insult to injury, we came home on the ocean liner, Queen Mary. There were no activities for kids and it was mind-numbingly boring. On top of that, and having to deal with Cookie 24/7, the food was became inedible. They ruined eggs for breakfast! We lived off candy from the vending machines.

Photo I took in Geneva, Switzerland

I’m grateful this trip didn’t turn me against traveling. In fact, it whetted my appetite. If I enjoyed traveling under these circumstances, imagine what it would be like with a friend as my traveling companion!

8 thoughts on “THE BIZARRE TRIP TO EUROPE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

  1. Golly, Ellin. What a bummer!! Did you ever learn why Cookie turned on you? Have you seen her again to unravel why she behaved in such a manner? My first trip to Europe….in the 60’s… was with friend from the college radio station. He was a fun travel mate. We were Americans in Paris.

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    • I talked to Cookie many times after the incident but we never discussed it. She was pretty blunt that she was jealous of me and hated the fact that her parents thought so highly of me. So it wasn’t really a mystery. She became an architect in San Francisco and I believe she never married, or a least not into her forties.

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  2. What an unpleasant side to your travels, Ellin. There must have been something eating away at her. You handled it well for a 15 year old. I’m glad you were able to find the many positives of travel in spit of it all.
    Leslie

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    • Cookie was obviously a very troubled person. I think other people saw that in her too, which was why everyone always gravitated towards me when we were together – which made her madder. My husband asked me why I didn’t just go home. It frankly never occured to me. I would have had to tell her parents what was going on and get them to buy tickets for me, etc. I would also have had to travel home alone, which would have been scary for me. Going over was the first plane I’d ever been in. Thank you for saying I handled it well for my age. I didn’t know what else to do!

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  3. We’ve had bad patches on vacations and occasionally, things like a 5-day nonstop rain which (ahem) can really dampen the whole experience. But yours was one terrible companion from start to finish. I’m glad it didn’t ruin you for further adventures!

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    • In some ways, the hostile social environment made me focus more on the things we were seeing. I really enjoyed the architecture and the art. Seeing so much that was centuries old was new and very exciting for me, especially since I loved history. That may have been a coping mechanism for me, but it made me an alert and sensitive traveler. So it wasn’t a total loss.

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  4. What a dreadful experience for a young girl on her first big trip overseas. It is good that you were able to find pleasure in what you saw and what you did and that Cookie was unsuccessful in turning people against you but a horrible atmosphere to be in all the time. I am interested in your comments about the Queen Mary. I’m thinking that this must have been not long before she went out of service so perhaps things were winding down. Cruise holidays were in a bit of a decline at that time I think and so were line voyages as flying was becoming cheaper. I’d have loved to have travelled on one of the “Queens”.

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