As identical twin sisters, we’ve had our share of adventures. Sometimes it does feel like we have double the fun.
Our journeys began as Rotary Youth Exchange Students, back in 1993-94 and 1995-96.
As grade schoolers, we vividly remember a teacher’s daughter returning from a summer exchange to Mexico and dancing in a vibrant dress for Cinco de Mayo. We were both fascinated by the idea of being able to travel the world so young. At age 15, Miel didn’t hesitate to apply to study abroad. It didn’t matter that we had only ever traveled to California to visit family, plus couple of weekends in Reno. She was ready to go wherever they sent her. We did a lot of community fundraising to earn the $2700, which felt like fortune to us (although you got a $100 monthly allowance, and it included everything, so it was really a steal). There was only one slot per year, so I had to wait (although I did earn my own solo train trip to Boulder, Colorado…I wasn’t going to let her have all the fun/freedom).
Miel’s year abroad in Finland was eye opening to the world for us both. She wrote home to me with every detail, and we both learned about the unique Scandinavian culture. When I saw her beaming smile in northern Lapland, I imagined what reindeer milk would taste like. I temporarily forgot about my teenage troubles and small town boredom. We were only allowed to talk once a week for just ten minutes. It was always scheduled on Sunday evening, and one occasion she called at a random time and I knew as I heard the ring that it was her, and that she was sick/homesick. We did miss each other, but we had spring break to look forward to. Our Mom and I traveled to visit Miel for two weeks at spring break. We explored Helsinki, Turku, sang karaoke to The Beatles on an overnight ferry to Stockholm, and marveled at the Finnish culture, which Miel had become fluent in over the course of her exchange. Even though she only saw twice briefly in the month of December, Miel thrived in Finland. It lit a lifelong spark to explore.
When my turn came to study abroad, I was eager to live in Scandinavia, but didn’t want the chance of being just 100km from the Arctic Circle, as Miel had been. Yet, with Rotary Youth Exchange, you don’t just get to choose which country you want to go. In most cases, you submit a lengthy application that shares your perspective and experience with foreign cultures, your hopes and fears, and why you want to be an junior ambassador. Then it’s up to the selection committee to decide. As it happened, Miel had volunteered to serve on the districtwide committee. In the end they actually put the decision in hands, and she couldn’t help but feel that she next found me up late with the only two Danes. Darcy is still in love with Danes, and went back with her family five years ago on an amazing trip. She is still trying to figure out how to be able to get paid to travel back regularly…
Miel has had the travel bug her entire adult life and Darcy has stayed in Oregon, with two magical years in Denmark, along with a few adventures in Fiji and Ghana with Miel. Miel has traveled the world over, but as a development professional working long and hard hours instead of as a tourist. We both have a desire to travel with our families and teach our kids through the lens of cultures foreign to us.
We may not have traveled much as hippie kids, but we learned the art of adventure and being open to different types of people from early on (because we were the counterculture in a rural logging community). After more than over twenty years of traveling nearly more than not, travel is second nature to Miel. She can still appreciate sharing the art of travel to an eager novice traveler, especially new Moms wanting to travel with a little one in tow.
We do live vicariously through each others’ travels, and it’s amazing to swap stories and make connections from across the globe. We want to plan some international travel together both of our families, starting with a trip to the British Isles, where our ancestors are from.
After wonderful exchange experiences, we both now serve through Rotary International and are so very grateful to be part of the world’s largest volunteer service organization. It planted an undeniable seed in both of us, making us want to get out of comfort zones, connect with diverse people and learn about ourselves along the way.
We still remember visiting with our Grandmother after coming back from our adventures in Fiji, just before Darcy was set to spend another year in Denmark. She was in 80s and considering traveling to Europe for the first time to meet Darcy. She had plenty of money, but her health was starting to waiver and she simply didn’t have the confidence to travel. At the end of our summer patio visit, she gave us her big broad smile and laughed to herself, saying, “You girls have taught me the most important thing! Do it when you’re young!” Twenty years later, we both still love the adventure of travel, and treasure our life experiences.
Peace & Love,
Darcy + Miel