Ben Ratliff knew from the moment he graduated high school that traveling would be a lifelong passion. After taking off for two months across Europe with a Eurail Pass, this love was cemented in time.
Cut to a decade and some years later. Ben reached out to Rail Europe to create a blog series for two reasons: documenting his travel and sharing his passion with others. We hooked him up with a France Rail Pass, European East Pass, and both Paris Visite and Paris Museum Pass to get around the City of Light. This new blog series is a testament to his journey and love of trains.
“Mom, don’t panic. I’m going to Europe for two months the day after I graduate from high school. I’ve got a Eurail Pass and enough money to pay for a studio apartment in Paris.”
Looking back fourteen years ago, the decision to leave Tulsa, Oklahoma and travel Europe alone as a young adult changed my life forever. Independent travel not only jump started my desire to take suitable risks outside my comfort zone, but challenged me to become a global citizen as I became a legal adult in the United States. Upon my return to The University of Oklahoma, I made the decision to follow in the footsteps of my mentor and teacher, Madame Leonard. I found teaching the perfect avenue to spread my love of language and culture.
Throughout my young adult life, I was determined NOT to study abroad, rather, live and work in France for an extended period of time. My internship at the French Embassy in Washington, DC opened the opportunity to teach English in Bordeaux, France for two years. While teaching and living abroad, I spent school holidays traveling Europe by train pushing my experiences further across the diverse continent. Determined to have an immersion experience, I made a conscious effort to get to know fellow European travelers on the train.
Upon my return to the United States, I decided to share my love of language and culture with students at an urban school in Tulsa. As the World Language Department Chair, I developed an almost non-existent French program while sustaining a thriving Spanish curriculum. After three years working for the public schools, I now work at a private boarding school in Westchester, NY. Although the atmosphere and resources are completely different, my students still experience the same zeal for exploration and cultural understanding. My passion for travel and teaching continue to make a difference in my students’ lives.
Last summer, once again, I decided to travel alone to Eastern Europe. After two weeks of exploration, film editing, and blog writing in Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, I was able to meet my fiancé (Michael), family friend (Julia), and future in-laws in Paris. Their presence in Europe gave me tremendous pleasure; I was able, once again, to be a teacher by showing them how to navigate France’s extensive rail system by traveling to Giverny, Versailles, and Provence.
Traveling alone takes courage. Pushing the limits of my comfort zone makes me feel alive. Sharing a travel experience with friends and family remains a priceless souvenir. I will continue to choose train travel in Europe for its unique opportunity to see not only the landscapes of various countries, but for the convenience it provides international travelers. Lastly, in my opinion, train travel in Europe extends a true and unique connection between world travelers.
“Mom, I’m going to Europe again in March. Do you want to come?”
Ben’s European Travel:
First Stop: Bulgaria
Second Stop: Paris Giverny (Claude Monet’s house)