The Tour de France is coming through our little village this year. Not only that, but it’s coming right down our street. We can hardly believe our good fortune. Tony’s already setting up a photo shoot in his head. He wants to catch a few bicyclists going by our house, with me and the children waving down from the window. Maybe he’ll make it a video.

Yesterday I sent out the annual newsletter for the study abroad group with which I spent half a year in the Middle East. We spent a semester studying Arabic in Damascus, Syria, and then took it on the road to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, and Spain. It was my first international experience (after adventuring with my parents as a toddler in Guatemala). I will never forget the day we first flew into Istanbul, and I saw the city all laid out like a set for Arabian Nights.

It was the first time I realized that people actually lived in places as old and beautiful as all my favorite stories. But this was real. I was forever entranced. I found the Middle East utterly enchanting. It was romantic enough for even the most ardent romantic. I loved the beautiful buildings, the ancient walled cities at the heart of every modern metropolis, the bedouin nomads who still wander in from the desert and then return. I also loved speaking a new language, living a new life, or as my parents put it, gaining a new soul.

We spent a day in Amsterdam and a week in Spain on the way home. Europe gave me the same feeling I’d had in Istanbul, of disbelief that people lived in what for me seemed like a land of fairytales. Only the European countries were clean, organized, democratic, and politically stable.

When I got home, I served a mission for the L.D.S. Church in Chile. It was a wonderful year and a half, and I will forever remember the people I met and the experiences I had. But the actual country didn’t attract me the way the Old World does.

I thought a lot about the foreign service. But I didn’t want attachments to some government preventing me from forming my own opinions and living my own life. Luckily, when I met my husband I was unaware that he was technically a citizen of Italy. Had I known, my reasons for marrying him would have been unavoidably tainted.

Now I live in what amounts to a daydream. Sometimes I look around and can’t believe I’m really here. Sure, there’s plenty of real life, red tape, fussy children, and a little culture shock thrown in. But I wouldn’t choose for it to be any other way.

What do you think?