Story highlights

Trump's first presidential foreign trip lasted nine days

He traveled to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, Belgium and Italy

Taormina, Italy CNN  — 

Swinging over the green Ionian sea Saturday, his first foreign trip behind him, President Donald Trump was in a valedictory mood.

Behind him, perched on the hillside, was the former Dominican monastery where G7 leaders had just finishing haranguing him to abandon his campaign promises to withdraw from a major climate agreement. He didn’t give in.

Ahead was a crowd of US troops stationed on this rocky Italian outpost, eager to hear their commander in chief reprise the foreign agenda he’d spend the last nine days considering.

After nine days of talks with calculating foreign leaders, Trump was eager for the affirmation of an applauding audience.

trump speaks to military in italy
Trump on foreign trip: We hit a home run
01:08 - Source: CNN

“We have been gone for a long time,” Trump declared at the Sigonella Air Base here. “Everywhere I go – we have been gone close to nine days, this will be nine days – I think we hit a home run no matter where we are.”

It was an upbeat message for a leader fresh from meeting with his new club of foreign counterparts for the first time. But underneath the point-by-point recap of his trip lay uncertainty over his agenda and disputes with his foreign counterparts.

Trump’s first voyage abroad was a story told in chapters, each successively less pleasant for a President still taking stock of his standing on the world stage.

Beyond a scattering of formal remarks, none of the story was told by Trump himself, who refused to hold a news conference and, by his advisers’ own admission, revealed little of his thinking to top aides as he hopped from nation to nation.

Instead, it was a trip told in pictures with the volume on mute. By the time he departed Sicily, Trump had delivered four major addresses but clarified none of the questions that surround his foreign policy.

In some ways, uncertainty amounted to a win, at least in the minds of Trump’s aides. As Trump prepared to depart Washington last Friday, there was little surety among his staff that the nine-day odyssey could proceed without failure. Trump himself, who hadn’t slept in a bed that wasn’t his own since taking office, remained skeptical a five-country itinerary could end well.

A homebody with little appetite for discomfort, Trump was imagining the worst. Unpleasant foreign food, withering jet lag, and an unfamiliar bed had been his experiences as a businessman abroad. Even in the days leading up to his departure, Trump asked whether the trip could be truncated. He vented about the ambitious schedule to his senior advisers in the days leading up to his departure.

But by then it was too late. With meetings locked in and the world anticipating his global debut, Trump settled into his quarters on Air Force One for a flight four times longer than any he’d taken as President.