I had the pleasure of winning the Ramsey Award in 1995, which was only the 2nd year that the Great Ideas Tour had existed. I was provided with a plane ticket and small stipend that I could use on my travels. At that time, the structure of the award and GIT was still coming together, so much of the planning fell on the shoulders of John Harris in Vienna. John was just a voice on the phone to me at the beginning of the journey – as he was curious to know where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see. Based on the fact that I had very little international travel experience at that time, I was open to the possibilities and essentially communicated that I wanted to see some of the major sites in Western Europe with a focus on meeting local people (versus feeling like a tourist at all times).
My trip ended-up exceeding my expectations in so many ways. I departed Atlanta, GA and arrived in London where I stayed with a long-time of friend of John’s who was a super interesting young woman who was a professional in financial services during the day and a concern cellist in her spare time. She lived near Trafalgar Square and was keen on ensuring that I saw all of the best sights and sounds of the city while there. I had the pleasure of connecting with 2-3 other friends of John’s in London while there who showed me the high-end private clubs (where I had to borrow a dinner jacket) and enjoy some amazing Russian food.
I departed London and took the “recently-opened Chunnel” (the train under the English Channel) to Belgium where I had a night on my own in Brussels before being picked-up by a wonderful couple (more friends of John’s) – both of whom where professors. They lived in a 200+ year old monastery far out in the country. We spent the day seeing the countryside and enjoying great discussions about UA and US politics over wine while looking over their amazing property. Unfortunately, my stay there was short before boarding the Orient Express and taking it to Vienna where I had the chance to meet John in-person. His hospitality and close connection to Dr. Ramsey, UA, and the GIT was inspiring and really made the trip. We really hit it off and became fast friends. In fact, we still travel to hang-out even today! My trip in Vienna included culture (an opera at the Vienna Opera house), attending an awards banquet when his close friend received an esteemed award in eye surgery, amazing food, and exploring the wonderful city of Vienna. I traveled out to Salzberg as well to explore the mountains and get a different feel for Austria.
My trip then unfortunately came to an end where I boarded another train and went all the way back to London where I explored a bit more before returning to the States with many new friends, incredible new members, and a close connection to Dr. Ramsey and what he stood for, including exploring the world with an open mind with a spirit of adventure!