Hi guys, welcome back to another exciting story in the life of yours truly. This blog is going to be a little different as I’m not going to explain a recent trip. Instead, this post is focused on this blog and why/how it came to be.
Back when I was a junior in high school, I started this blog as a way for me to share my travel experiences and pictures with the world. But as I start thinking about what this blog means to me now, I think it’s only fair to explain my journey and how I came to be the person I am today.
It all started when I was in junior high, a 7th grader to be exact. I got a letter from this group called “People to People” detailing a program I was accepted to. This program entailed touring Europe for 21 days with other “student ambassadors” while adult sponsors, who were usually teachers, watched after us.
My parents were immediately skeptical and didn’t think much of the letter at first. However, the thought of going to Europe was REALLY exciting to me, so my mom and I checked out their website and she (thankfully) concluded that the program was legit.
After my mom accepted the invitation for me, I went in for a face-to-face interview with some of the teachers and they asked me questions about why I wanted to go and why this program would be a good fit for me. If I remember correctly, I think the interview was just another way for the sponsors to get to know me as I had already been accepted to the program.
I was then tasked with going to 2-3 meetings before the departure of our trip. These meetings were held in the middle of nowhere, a small town that I guess was the middle point for everyone from Nebraska? I’m not quite sure, but I remember my dad driving me out on Sundays to this dead-looking town and making our way to the old school-house building. There I would sit with other kids, probably 15 of us, and we would play get-to-know-you games and listen to our sponsors expectations of us.
My trip consisted of two Nebraska groups and a group from Alabama. (There might have been another group but honestly, I can’t remember anymore.) What I do remember, is feeling absolutely terrified as I went to the airport and realized I was actually leaving my family behind to go on a trip with strangers. It was my first-time abroad, my first-time on an airplane and my first-time being away from my family for an extended period of time.
But, even that feeling is only a small memory now compared to the hundreds of good memories I have from the trip. It’s not exaggerating to say this trip changed my life.
We left Omaha, had a connecting flight where we met the Alabama crew and then flew to Zurich, Switzerland. While there, we had a crash course in the language, explored the town and ate at a restaurant that was only accessible through a “ski-lift” mountain ride.
Our next stop was Germany where we saw WWll museums and historical sites. Germany was also the city of home stays. We were each assigned a family to live with for a few days to see what an average day in Germany looked like. We went to school with them, went to their favorite hangout spots and ate traditional German meals.
I admit I was terrified and nervous at the idea of staying with people I had never even met before, but they welcomed me into their home with open arms and were super nice. This is also the only part of the trip where I got homesick, probably because it was so different from staying in hotel rooms and I got to see kids interacting with parents again. Whatever it was, it definitely made me miss my parents.
Our next stop on the journey was the Netherlands. Here we rode bikes in the countryside, played soccer with local kids, toured the Ann Frank House and visited a clog and cheese making factory. Probably one of my favorite stops on the trip because of how beautiful the scenery is.
Our fourth stop was Belgium. Another one of my favorites actually. I specifically remember eating “Belgium waffles” and “Belgium chocolate” and thinking how amazing it was. We explored a few towns and villages and called it a day.
In France, as everyone does, we toured the Louvre, saw the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame and the Arc de Triumph. We also went to Normandy beach.
To get to England, our final destination before the states, we took an overnight ferry from France. London, although I’ve only been there once, took my breath away and made me feel right at home. England, I promise I’ll get back to you one day.
And while it’s really hard for me to actually remember everything that happened during this trip, this short three-week journey changed my life in ways I never thought possible. It opened my eyes to the possibility of traveling young. I guess before I always thought I would have to be in my thirties or forties even, to do the amount of traveling that I would like. I think it also made me more confident in who I am. Being in a different country where you know no one can be scary, but you must open yourself up and allow yourself to embrace change.
So, as you can see my journey into this travel world is something unconventional. I can’t tell you the exact moment I knew I would be traveling for the rest of my life, I don’t know if there was an exact moment, or thing, that made me fall in love. Maybe it was the way the tulips in Holland sway ever so slow against the wind. Maybe it was how the air in England perpetually smells like rain. Maybe it was the time my friends and I played tag throughout a walled maze. Maybe it was the all the back-of-the bus convos.
Maybe it was because for the first time I felt….myself.