June 23, 2017

‘Oh the places you’ll go:’ International travel is a path to self-discovery

My heart was pounding so rapidly. I thought it was going to jump out of my chest. The excitement throughout my body left me smiling from ear to ear. The pilot came through on the intercom saying we had reached our destination. Germany. That’s the day my life changed forever.

One day I received a Facebook message from my cousin. She moved to Hamburg, Germany, with her husband and three children for a new job. She asked me if I wanted to come live with her and help take care of her children. Along with tending to the kids, we would also go on a three week trip throughout Europe. I immediately said yes. I waited patiently for the day to arrive. I saved every last penny I had. I thought long and hard about what outfit would best fit for a walk down the streets of Paris.

The day finally came. I got off the plane and I saw my cousins waiting for me. I had never been out of the country before and  I had no idea what to expect.

Everything was different. The street signs have different symbols and meanings. The only people who spoke English were young teenagers, and that’s only if they were learning it in school. The air is different. It was refreshing.

Illustration by: Sarah Blankenship

Illustration by: Sarah Blankenship

While I was in Europe, I took a few online courses so I wasn’t missing much. I got to travel the world and also continue my education. According to Forbes.com, 20 percent of international tourism is young travelers. It is very possible to travel and go to school. As long as you’re connected to Wifi you can do just about anything.

Not only is it an amazing experience, but you learn so much about the place you are in and about yourself. My mom is the person I go to for everything, but she wasn’t there while I was in Europe. I had to figure out things on my own. I had to take care of myself, stay on top of my school work and explore this new country on my own. I even learned how to use a European washer and dryer.

My family and I traveled to seven beautiful countries. All of the historical buildings and stories I read about in history books were suddenly right in front me. I was excited for everything, but I was most excited about Paris, France. The Eiffel Tower is something Americans dream of seeing one day. At least it’s something I always dreamed of seeing. I remember taking an elevator up to the very top of the Eiffel Tower. The view was the most breathtaking thing I have ever seen. You could see the entire city for miles and miles.

My trip to Paris was the best experience and the worst. It rained all day. It was cold, but I was too wrapped up in the beauty to really care. After walking around all day, the last stop on our list was the Louvre Museum, where the famous Mona Lisa is kept. Although I was exhausted, cold and hungry, I managed to get a memorable picture with the portrait.

There are 196 countries in the world. Thousands of years filled with history and memories take shape in the Earth. Under each nook and cranny lies a story; however, we only have one life. Only one life to see the beauty and see everything the world has to offer. If the opportunity arises, then take the risk and travel.

My heart started to rapidly pound again. I looked out the plane window to discover the Statue of Liberty. The pilot came through on the intercom saying we had reached our destination. I was filled with life changing memories, but my heart was home again.

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