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When I touched down in London town with the girl I’ve loved since college, the challenge was on: four countries and only two weeks to see everything.

I’ve always had a passion for culture and travel, but growing up in a big blended family where very few people shared that same passion certainly made it hard to believe that I’d ever actually step foot outside of the States.

It was just a few years ago when I realized that although I love being an Ohio boy, I’m also not a product of my upbringing.

This girl comes from a similar situation and helped me understand more about how this has affected me so much. But in spite of her upbringing, she has become a veritable world traveler. Those beautiful green eyes just want to see new places, eat new foods, and drink great adult beverages. I found her demeanor extremely contagious. She instilled belief that I could actually do it and quieted my trepidation of international travel.

And with her by my side, I did more than just step foot in another country. Sure, I took a lot of steps on my journey out of Heathrow, but my legs weren’t the things that moved me. I felt the thrill, for the very first time in my life, of what it meant to separate being alive and living. More often than not, tears of joy accompanied me at every stop.

Stop 1: London (UK)

London is a massive city—the most populous one in England and the United Kingdom. The Queen resides there; it’s got Big Ben, The Eye, and Wembley Stadium. It’s a capital that screams tourism—as my very first picture taken was one in front of Westminster Abbey proved, looking very much like a tourist with my arms outstretched and my open-mouth smile to boot. With all of London’s class and amazing structures, I wish we had spent just two days there instead of three, as it was a bit too city-y for me.

We made the adventure a few hours to the northwest, where the working class cities of Liverpool and Manchester waited for us.

Stop 2: Liverpool and Manchester (UK)

Liverpool is a damn beautiful city. Even as a passionate Manchester United fan, I am not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that, if given the choice to reside in Liverpool or Manchester, Liverpool wins 8 days a week. The River Mersey flows so poetically through the city, adding to the charm. If the opportunity presents itself, I thoroughly suggest visiting a restaurant called “Almost Famous.” You will enjoy the best craft cheeseburger ever, if that’s your jam.

Stop 3: Dublin and Galway (Ireland)

From Manchester to Ireland, where the next few days were spent in Dublin and Galway. We drank lots of Guinness, ate plenty of starchy-ass food, and enjoyed Irish tap dancing. The Guinness brewery was a fantastic experience, and the beer does, indeed, taste slightly different—better—than it does domestically. Dublin was great in its own right, but Galway was stunning. Standing to overlook the Cliffs of Mohr is one of the coolest things I’ll ever do. The scenery looked something out of Game of Thrones.

Stop 4: Edinburgh (Scotland)

If the views of Ireland were reminiscent of King’s Landing, then Edinburgh had Outlander written all over it. And that is probably because that is where several scenes from the show were filmed. So many of our friends mentioned that Scotland would be our favorite stop, and it’s evident why. Edinburgh has the most perfect mix of historic city feel, with modern city resources and attractions. It was the first city of the trip that I would consider visiting again.

Stop 5: Porto (Portugal)

Porto, Portugal was the final stamp on the passport after a whirlwind two weeks. Clearly, I am attracted to cities surrounding water, but the amazing wine and incredible tapas make this port city even more incredible.

Stop 6: Heartbreak

As beautiful as Portugal was, it will forever be the reminder that the girl I loved since college, doesn’t view love the same way I do. Shortly after our trip across the Atlantic, she mentioned that being on her own was what she wanted from life.

The excitement of being abroad for the first time was authentic, as was the heartbreak. And with all the ups and downs of both adventures, I still have zero regrets. From both love and travel, I grew as a man, and I’ll always love both for what they gave to me. This Ohio boy finally went abroad, and I guarantee it’s only the beginning.

Jonathan Newby

A proud Ohio boy living in the 410. Aspiring world traveler. Constant singer of all of the songs. My faith, family, and friends keep me grounded. Work hard, love harder. Go Bucks. Glory glory, Man United.

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