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Local Family Reflects on Month in Europe

With the sun shining down on their faces, Liz Kerns and her sons, 15-year-old Caden, 14-year-old Grant and 12-year-old Jacob, floated down the canals of Amsterdam, Netherlands, last month and gazed at the historic buildings surrounding their rented boat.

A few days earlier, the four spent some time at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, and stood at the exact location the Berlin Wall fell over 30 years ago.

But the family’s adventures didn’t stop there.

Copenhagen. Athens. London. Stockholm. Berlin. Amsterdam. Brussels. Paris. Dublin. Reykjavik.

From the Acropolis in ancient Greece to the Eiffel Tower in France, the Kerns saw it all on their recent month-long trip across Europe.

And according to Liz, Indiana Wesleyan University’s Director of Venture Development at the Kokomo Thriving Center, it was a trip that was needed after the busyness of the last few years.

“I was trying to finish up my dissertation for my doctorate, and I had been absent from their lives a lot while that was happening,” she said. “I hadn’t been going to as many baseball games, and I think I went to one track meet. I wasn’t at (Boy) Scouts as much as I wanted to be. And that’s not the type of mother I am. I feel like I’m ‘Supermom.’ But I just hit a wall.

“I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel, but I knew I just needed time to reconnect with my boys,” Liz added. “And I knew it just needed to be them and me. So, my husband stayed home because he couldn’t get a month off. … We had ‘use it or lose it’ airline tickets because we had tickets to go to London that got cancelled because of COVID, so I said, ‘Welp, looks like we’re going to Europe.’”

But Liz also admitted that the family’s plans to spend a month in Europe did raise some eyebrows, especially as it pertained to the financial side of the trip.

“I had people ask me, ‘Why are you doing this, and how? That’s a lot of money, isn’t it?’” she said. “But I just told them, ‘I can make more money, but I won’t get this time back.’ This one (pointing to Caden) is already driving. At some point, you lose it. I’m losing them. So I want them to remember me and our memories and not just that I was absent.”

But going on such a trip isn’t as easy as just hopping on an airplane either, Liz noted.

Each of the boys had a wish list of what they wanted to do and see during the month away, and Liz said her husband and she made the logistics fit into the schedule.

“I’m in the wrong field,” she laughed. “I should be a travel agent. But really, it wasn’t as hard as it seemed. … What I did was look where we were flying out of and what the cheapest way was to get into Continental Europe. But once you get there, the flights and trains, those are super reasonable.”

And while Liz and her sons each had their own favorite parts of the trip, they all agreed it also gave them a deeper appreciation of what they have here in America.

“We take so much for granted,” Caden said. “When we go to a restaurant here in America, we get free water. You pay for it over there. People here, for the most part, they have a washing machine. I can’t tell you how many times we had to go to a laundromat just to do our laundry over there. There’s just so much that people in the rest of the world don’t have that we’ve just come to expect.”

Liz nodded her head in agreement with her son.

“We’re more alike than we are different,” she said, when asked what lessons she learned about humanity and different cultures during their trip. “I think to me, that’s the biggest thing. When you get a chance to look at different cultures, different religions, different views, it helps open up your eyes to acceptance.”

Like the time the four traveled to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp while on their visit to Berlin.

According to the camp’s website, over 200,000 were interned at Sachsenhausen during the Holocaust, and approximately 50,000 of those individuals were killed.

“You know how you can take an old picture and use color to make it look modern?” Caden said. “They did that with all the pictures there, and so you could see what the person actually looked like.”

And it was in the faces of those 15- and 16-year-old Jewish children that the boys saw a lot of themselves, Caden noted, an emotional experience for all of them.

Perhaps that’s the biggest lesson Liz said she hopes her sons took away from their month-long visit to Europe.

While the trip was an exciting adventure, it also helped expose them to different ways of life.

“This trip wasn’t for the bragging rights,” Liz said. “It wasn’t for them to check this off their list. I tell them often that they, in how they’ve been born into life, they’re innately more privileged than a lot of people elsewhere in the world. … But I wanted them to see and experience what that actually looks like. When you’re abroad, you’re on somebody else’s turf. So it’s important for me to teach them that they are part of a larger global society.”

Liz continued.

“This world is sort of small when you think about it, and we’re a big melting pot,” she added. “So the more I can prepare these young men to be global citizens, the better off they’ll be. … And as they’ve gotten older, there’s less and less time I get to spend with them to teach them that. So that’s also one of the reasons why we did what we did.”

Source: Kokomo Tribune