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During the high-intense travel portion of our trip, I indulged in a bit of romance reading, a la Nicholas Sparks’s The Lucky One. Ashamedly, it was the first book I had finished since living in Texas. Sweeter than honey and a bit more corny than the Minnesota fields I get to return to (yep, even more corny than most of the posts I write, and those can get a bit silly).

To get to the point, when the book was finished and the credits rolled through, the list of his previous works appeared. All those juicy romances, like The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe, Message in a Bottle, and then… Three Weeks With My Brother.

Isn’t that funny timing? At the end of our first three weeks together, I am reminded of a life changing journey Sparks shared in his novel, and I become even more thankful for this experience. Because this really was something that will be forever appreciated and remembered.

Le Magasin, built for the World's Fair by Eiffel (the same architect as his namesake) and brought to Grenoble in 1900.
Le Magasin, built for the World’s Fair by Eiffel (the same architect as his namesake) and brought to Grenoble in 1900.

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After graduating from high school, Ben went 11 hours away to Purdue for college, and I stayed in Minnesota for my last two years of high school and then for college. I worked in Texas and Colorado, and he worked in Indiana and France. Since I was sixteen, we’ve spent much more time apart than together. Parts of summers, a week in Indiana and a road trip to North Carolina to see our grandparents, Christmases, and a trip last year around Italy and Grenoble. Other than that, the past 11 years of our relationship has been based on phone calls and very occasional emails.

To be able to spend that time together and not not have any (very) sour notes is indescribable.

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A view from the top
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A View From the Bottom (Looking Out Ben’s Living Room Window)

Our trip didn’t always go smoothly- We learned that the Benelux bus pass we’d splurged on was useless. We put up with a bag that weighed way too much (I’m to blame) and with one that might not have really been meant for backpacking (not gonna point any fingers). We crammed ourselves into tiny rooms, ran through cities in search of the perfect chocolates at the sake of potentially missing a train (it’s on the list!), and walked far out of our way because of silly directional errors (Ben taught me how to use the sun and a watch as a compass- practice makes perfect). Our trip to Den Haag turned from 1 train in 3 hours to a combination of 4 trains and a bus in 10 hours due to an electrical issue, leading to some frustrations (to say the least).

(The following photos show a digression of enthusiasm with 3 of the trains we attempted on the same day) 

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But really, these are it. Not so bad at all.

Because more than that, we’re left with a fulfilled passion of learning and traveling, a plethora of pictures and knickknacks, and a pretty great list of “remember when”s to be created.

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Donkey Sausage. Tasty unless you think about it. “Then don’t think about it” 😉

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We ended up the month long sibling journey back in Grenoble. Ben working (oh yeah, that thing…) and me hiking to the mountaintop Bastille a few times, and relaxing through those last few European days. We enjoyed a dinner with his coworkers, a night at Andy and Emily’s with Kiri and Jean Marc, and we had one last toast at Shakesbeer.

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At 4am Sunday morning, alarms went off, eggs were made and a lunch packed (thanks Ben!), and we hiked through what was left of the city’s Saturday night bar-goers to the bus station. Ben loaded in my bag and I hopped on to try and catch a quick snooze before taking a flight from Geneva to the states.

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Lucky. Happy. Thankful.

What a trip!

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