Long time, no see! It’s been several months since my last entry, I know. I wanted this blog to be about the most incredible experience of my life: a 12-day trip to Europe! Truthfully, it was so amazing, I was a little reluctant to write about it because I didn’t think my words could give it justice. I didn’t think I could really describe how emphatically it opened my eyes to how huge this world really is, filled with knowledge and beauty and opportunity. I still can’t, but I’ll try anyway.

Heading Out

To be a little more specific, a school-organized tour group of about 35-ish people (including my mom and I) went to Switzerland for a couple of days, then to Italy for the remaining time. At the airport, I could hardly contain my excitement; it was my first time ever seeing a different country. Even still, I had no idea of exactly how wonderful our journey was about to be.

But first, we had to get the worst part out of the way. The flights to get there were, altogether, twelve hours long. They were cramped, gross, and sleepless. It certainly didn’t help that (no matter how much deodorant I applied) I still felt like I was sweating like a pig. Worse, I couldn’t go number two the whole time. Twelve hours. Blech!

Arriving in Europe (Finally)

Even though it was pretty rough being so jittery/having my body completely betray me, it was well worth it. The days to follow were unimaginably awe-inspiring and magnificent.

We arrived at our beautiful hotel nestled in the Swiss Alps, led by our awesome tour guide. We visited Zurich and Lucerne in Switzerland, then traveled to Italy. There, we explored Lake Como, Venice, Florence, Assisi, Rome, Pompeii, and the island of Capri. We marveled at huge cathedrals and basilicas and museums and learned the history as well as the ancient legends and old secrets these places kept.

And Oh My God, Europe Was Pretty

Of course, our trip was equally stunning as it was knowledge-provoking. Like the time we took gondolas down the river-roads of Venice. Or maybe when we chugged up the lush Swiss Alps on a train to reach the astonishing views at the peak. Or possibly when we took a motorboat around the crystal-blue waters that surround the natural beauty of the island of Capri. What about that time we hiked up a hill in Assisi to freely explore the chambers, dungeons, and towers of a 1,000-year-old castle? We got to enjoy all of that, and so much more. And oh my God, the time that the tour guide at the Pompeii ruins coaxed me into singing for the tourists IN THE AMPHITHEATER OF THE POMPEII RUINS (probably a whole other blog on its own)!

It was also really intriguing to people-watch. The civilians helped give each city a very distinct vibe. They tended to be very animated (also really attractive, wow) and each held a lot of pride for their hometown. I mean, who could blame them? The history behind their country was so ancient but astoundingly well-kept, and their cities looked like they came straight out of a painting. Many also had a general distaste for U.S. citizens, due to our current political circumstances. And – again – who could blame them? Despite that fact, it was incredibly fascinating to be surrounded by all of these people who spoke different languages and adopted different cultural values.

 

Our fantastic view of the Alps in Switzerland

 

Gondola rides in Venice

 

Walking around the Island of Capri

 

Moments I’ll Always Remember

With all of these wonderful and new journeys, there was one moment that really sticks with me. It was during the evening hours of our time in Rome. All in one day, our group had visited the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Vatican. Already, the adventures we’d had there had made it the most eventful and enjoyable day yet. Then, instead of returning to our hotel for dinner as we had in the days prior, our super-amazing tour guide Sonia let us take the evening to walk through the cobbled streets of Rome on our own.

My mom and I, along with a couple of friends of mine, ate some delicious dinner at a lovely restaurant. After we went sightseeing – we visited the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and some various local shops. But, my favorite was the Pantheon.

When we arrived at the Pantheon’s square, the sun was setting as Rome was coming alive. The hum of people laughing in shops and outdoor eateries mingled with a violinist who was playing in the middle of the plaza. A dad with funny round glasses and a smiling black mustache held his giggling son to his chest as they danced in wide, jolly circles. Older couples swayed along to tunes familiar to them as well. Facing all of this heartfelt motion stood the Pantheon, looking positively regal against the pink sky, like a benevolent divinity. Honestly, my friends and I couldn’t help shedding a few tears, reflecting on our trip and how fortunate we were to live in that very moment.

 

The Pantheon

 

Tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain

 

I’m so grateful I got to go – I’m forever changed by this trip. I’m still awe-stricken by how much we were able to learn and see in a relatively short amount of time.

You see, this trip really came at a good time in my life. Before we embarked, I was feeling probably the worst emotionally I’d ever felt. After facing a situation where I felt damned if I did and damned if I didn’t, I made a decision that resulted in losing something really important to me. On top of that, I was sick and tired of living in a place where I felt so uncomfortably isolated.

And yeah, in some ways, it was pretty disheartening to return home after getting to go somewhere that opened my eyes and expanded my horizons. I did feel really disappointed to come back, but now, I feel much differently. Now, I know that the world is so much more than small-town Missouri, and there’s a multitude of people I’ve yet to meet, places to go, foods to try, and opportunities to take. Now, I’m hopeful and ready for takeoff. Now, I’m ready to start a new chapter: the beginning of the rest of my life.