Going to Europe has always been a dream of mine and when the opportunity presented itself to go with my Spanish teacher, I was the first to sign up. I admit, had an unforgettable time, but It wasn’t always fun and games. Leaving the United States was more than a European cross country trip with my buddies. It was the thought of experiencing a completely different culture from my own, making new friends, and leaving the comfort of my parents protection. I never thought It would all lead to self-discovery.
I left for the airport that afternoon with a bulging anticipation In my heart. My other was looking more than a bit gloomy and dad was simply quiet the entire car ride, while my sister and I chattered away about what we would do when we got there. When we arrived and checked in our bags it all began to settle in, both for my sister and me as well as for my parents. To keep their minds off the upcoming event, small talk was thrown around amongst all the parents that were letting their children go on this trip; phone numbers were exchanged in addition to their growing fears.
When it came for us to leave for the awaiting terminal, mom began to openly bawl, which led to my youngest sister to do the same. I quietly cried to myself as we said our good-byes, then the group of students slowly made the walk deeper into the airport. Our sadness quickly dissipated when it finally hit us that we were taking the trip of our lifetime. We began to imagine what it would be like, what we would eat, see and where we would be spending our evenings. When our flight number was called to begin boarding, I had butterflies in my stomach.
I clutched my small carry-on harder and harder as I walked deeper into the corridor that would lead to our airplane. I was nothing but smiles as I looked wide-eyed at my surroundings. It took but a few minutes to get everyone settled in, but to me it seemed like an eternity. The captain and the flight attendants did their routine demonstrations as instructed to do so many times before and said the preliminary words that always had to be said before lift-off. When I heard those words preparing for take-off come over the loud speaker, I began to hyperventilate.
The excitement was rising to my head, making my eyes burn and my throat hurt. After a few minutes In the vast sky, my breathing began to regulate and all that was left was the all familiar feeling of popping ear drums. Eight hours later we arrived at our destination: London, England. I was so excited that I took pictures of everything and anything, Including the weird toilets. The first thing that hit me when I stepped outside was the peeling cold wind that Immediately gripped my very being and made me shiver down to the pit of my stomach.
The spent a good half hour waiting for the arrival of our bus and when it finally came no one was happier than me to sit someplace warm. That early morning we had our first bus tour and met the tour guide who would later escort us through all six countries s well as the gentlewoman who would be presenting London to us on a grander scale. Its sad to say I didn’t pay attention to the tour, partly because of the Settle and partly because the woman speaking was odiously boring. After two long hours on the bus we arrived at our hotel.
My sister and I were roomed together along with my Spanish teachers daughter, Helena; we immediately became the best of friends. The room was nothing more than two queen-sized beds placed side by side, a small bathroom, and a miniature television set that only picked up the weather channels. Once we dropped off our bags, we didn’t have much time to dwell on our rooms and how crummy they really were; it was time for our next tour and this time it was led by Johnny, our tour guide for the next two weeks.
The following fourteen days were all about getting acquainted with the six cities and their cultures. All of the tours were about visiting museums, cathedrals and famous monuments. The museums told the historical backgrounds of each city through the eyes of every painter and sculptor that ever lived. The cathedrals would give anyone chills up and down their spines and make their breath catch in their throats at the eight of the intricate details on the stained glass and the elaborate carvings with gold paint that lined the walls.
The sound of the melodious organ pipes would reverberate throughout the entire church; the sound waves bouncing off the walls and disappearing into the thin air. Aside from experiencing the culture through the historical artifacts kept under close watch, I was also able to experience it through the everyday actions of the locals. In England, we traveled from one end of the city to the other through the all famous Tube and we ate their typical dish of fish and chips; I even briefly picked up their dutiful accent. In France, the Eiffel Tower was a brilliant sight.
With its glowing majesty, towering over the entire city, it spread its romantic aspect to all that roamed the dimly lit streets. These cultures opened my mind to everything and helped me appreciate all that was around me. Making it to a different country was more than being a part of a different environment that carried its own vibe. It was about meeting new people, making new friends, and becoming closer with the current ones. One of the best things about being in Europe was all the free time we got to ourselves. For six hours on end we had the chance to explore on our own.
All the males and females would gather and begin our own explorations. Wed take the Underground or the Green Line to various locations in search of the best things to do. Since we had so much time, we got to know each other on a deeper level such as our lives back home, our friends, and what we did on our spare time and even what bothered us about each other. It became a bonding moment that went from train rides with farting roommates, stops at a local would Just look around at the expressions on everyone’s face and Just know we were exhausted from the extraneous day.
We even embraced our tour guide with love and shared many moments in which we did nothing but tell Jokes. We would sneak to each others rooms and stay up all night telling stories of our past and playing pranks on each other, although we knew we would not want to get up the following morning. The one thing that would either break me or make me on this trip was to leave my parents side. Those first few days were exciting, but then it began to set in that I was living on my own. I didn’t have my father carrying my suit case or my mom worrying bout my eating habits or even if I had clean underwear and socks.
I began to miss their incessant nagging and started to feel nostalgic about my room and the smell of shampoo on my pillow. I would spend time on my own crying about how much I wanted to go home, while I had everyone at my ear telling me to simply seize the day. At those moments I never realized how much I truly needed my parents by my side. In this short period of time I discovered so much about myself. I was able to learn and accept my flaws as my roommates pointed them out day after day; therefore, caching myself to take constructive criticism.
I was able to accept myself as the person that I am, while at the same time uncovering new parts to my personality. My friends helped me cope through the difficult times, which helped me realize I don’t always have to go to my parents for comfort, that I have friends that would also understand me and take me as I am. The customs from each country proved that there was more out there aside from the melting pot of Miami. It expanded my mind to a whole different way of thinking and I became culturally informed. I learned that here was more to a person than simple courteousness and that true hospitality came from the heart.
As I went through these six cities, I was able to take with me a little of each culture embedded in my heart and mind. I now have the luxury of engaging in a conversation and truly saying that I visited the Louvre and stood before the simple, yet enchanting, painting of the Mona Lisa. My parents, on the other hand, can say it was money well spent. In the end, the road to self-discovery isn’t always an easy one and it can take unexpected turns. I Just never thought it would come in the form of an incredible trip.