Year 4: Luxembourg

This is part 4 of my annual trip series! My brother, Jake, and I started a travel tradition in 2016. We decided to take an international trip to a new destination once a year together. Below is a summary of the trips we’ve taken up to this point. This blog will discuss Year 4 — the hardest trip thus far to plan — where we visited Luxembourg to walk across the country.

Year 1 (2016): The Pacific Northwest (Portland, Seattle, Vancouver)

Year 2 (2017): Cuba

Year 3 (2018): The Balkans — Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro (and London!)

Year 4 (2019): Luxembourg (and Paris!)

Year 5 (2020): Africa (South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania)

Year 6 (2021): Belize

Year 4 Background

“New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Hong Kong, Belize, Guatemala, Jamaica, and any location that the two of us could feasibly meet in or get to before New Year’s 2020. All of the above locations were on the table for this year’s annual trip. And despite both being abroad, we just couldn’t seem to make it work before now thanks to a crazy, nomadic, storage unit-filled year. Grateful for a brother who never fails to fly across the world at the drop of a bucket hat.

This past weekend, we walked a marathon across the country of Luxembourg from Belgium to Germany in the pouring rain (swipe to see our 12-hour route). On Saturday, we celebrated with a 4-course Parisian dinner, and then we took advantage of first-Sunday free admission to the Palace of Versailles, which we missed on our family trip to London and Paris 8 years ago. These trips continue to get more ridiculous, and I’m totally here for it. Here’s to Year 4 and the next 76 that I’ll hold you to.”

Above is my official Year 4 Instagram caption, and it sums up the obstacles that we faced on this annual trip. During this year, Jake was living abroad in Sydney, Australia, and I was traveling full-time post-grad.

Naturally, you’d think this would make it easier for us to find a spot to meet up and complete our Year 4 trip. Somehow, that seemed to be the opposite of the case. We suggested probably between 7 to 10 locations for Year 4 before we finally landed on Luxembourg as a last-ditch effort to make it work at the beginning of November 2019.

Our Itinerary

Below is a high-level overview of our itinerary from our short jaunt in Europe.

October 31

  • Jake departed from Chicago to Luxembourg
  • Kelsey departed from Milan to Luxembourg
  • Both arrived in Luxembourg City in the evening

November 1

  • Walked approximately 26 miles across Luxembourg from Belgium to Germany
  • Slept in Luxembourg

November 2

  • Saw sights in Luxembourg City
  • Caught the 16:00 train to Paris
  • Had dinner at À la Biche au Bois 

November 3

  • Woke up early to go to the Palace of Versailles with free admission because it was the first Sunday of the month
  • Jake took a direct flight from Paris Orly to Newark at 18:55
  • Kelsey takes a flight from Paris Orly to Geneva

Memorable Moments

As I reflect on our Year 4 trip now, I’m astonished that we crammed as much into that weekend as we did. During this period, Jake was serving in a managerial role with McKinsey & Co. after returning to the U.S. from Australia. As a result, he was balancing a highly demanding career with his personal life (i.e., he didn’t really have a personal life). To squeeze in Year 4, he took a big risk and flew to Luxembourg on a Thursday evening. He took a Friday off and found the right flights to make it back to where he needed to be by Monday morning.

In that weekend, we not only walked a marathon across one of the smallest countries in Europe, but we enjoyed a Parisian dinner and saw the Palace of Versailles, which we had missed on our family’s European trip years earlier. Year 4 was an anomaly and a memorable one at that.

A Year 4 Anecdote: Should’ve Started from Germany

At some point during my senior year of college, I saw this Yes Theory video about Walking Across a Country Without a Map. It illustrated that it was possible to walk across the country of Luxembourg in a single day. We used their starting point of Steinfort and took an early train out there around 6 AM to get started. Our destination was 25 miles across the country to the country of Germany. I had found a small town that had a train stop, and I knew that if we made it there, then we’d have a clear way to get back to Luxembourg City where we were staying.   

One thing I’ll give Luxembourg – the country has no shortage of sidewalks. Almost everywhere we walked, we had an easy path. For the few short kilometers where no sidewalks were present, Jake was especially nervous, but for the most part, we were in the safe.

For the entire day (and I mean the ENTIRE day), we walked across the country. It was almost amusing how thoughtlessly we both walked and talked as if it were just another day. During the middle of the journey, we reached Luxembourg City and stopped for lunch at a café. For the most part, food, coffee, water, and bathrooms were all accessible along the route. Our only task for the day was walking. On and on we went, talking about everything and anything that came to our minds.

The weather was terrible all day. The day began at around 55 degrees and cloudy and ended with us absolutely soaking wet. It rained on and off all day but never stopped enough for us to get dry. To add insult to injury, Jake limped along for the last half of the walk. He had injured his ankle while playing basketball in recent months, and the constant weight on his foot wasn’t doing him any favors. By the time we were nearing the German border, he was all but hobbling. He never complained though. We had both committed to walking this marathon for nothing but a cool story.

And it was cool (although, maybe not as cool as the video had made it seem). We saw the entire country in a single day and spent hours with our attention undivided. Unfortunately, as we neared Germany, the path forward was not clear. The sun had already set, and with roughly 1 mile or so left, we encountered a dark four-lane road with no sidewalks. There wasn’t a safe way forward.

We ended up the night at a local bar only about 20 minutes from Germany, calling a local taxi to take us back to Luxembourg City. I had felt so confident that we would reach that tiny town that had a train. I had been so set on finding a location that had transportation back that it had never occurred to me that maybe it should’ve been the place we began.

While I can’t say I’ll do it again to do it right, it was quite an experience in itself. We ended the trip by heading to Paris (a city Jake alone loves), having a spectacular four-course meal, and visiting the Palace of Versailles for free! For a weekend Year 4 trip, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Final Thoughts

After reading over the Year 4 itinerary once again, I thought, “Oh my god…we’re insane.”

Two years out from that trip, I’m not sure that I would do something like that again in that type of time frame. What a year 2019 was for travel!

Come back next week for Year 5 when we head to Africa right before the COVID-19 shutdown.