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, I 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. After eight hours on a flight we arrived at our destination: London, England.
I was so excited that I took pictures of everything. The first thing I noticed was how odd it was that they drove on the opposite side of the road. That early morning we had our first bus tour and met our tour guides.
It’s sad to say I didn’t pay attention to the tour, partly because of the jetlag 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 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 our actual tour guide, Johnny. The following fourteen days were all about getting acquainted with the cities and their cultures.
All the tours were about visiting museums and cathedrals and famous monuments. The museums told the city’s historical background through the eyes of every painter and sculptor. The cathedrals would give anyone chills and make their breath catch at the sight of the details on the stained glass and the carvings with gold paint that lined the walls.
The sound of the melodious organ pipes would reverberate throughout the entire church. Aside from experiencing the culture through the historical artifacts, I was also able to experience it firsthand. 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 picked up their beautiful 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 streets at night. These cultures opened my mind to everything and helped me appreciate all that was around me.
Making it to another 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 the free time we got to ourselves. We would all gather and explore for hours on end. We’d 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. It became a bonding moment that went from train rides with farting roommates, stops at a plaza where pigeons landed on your head, to moments on the subway when we would look at each other and know we were exhausted.
We even embraced Johnny with love and shared many moments in which all we did was tell jokes. We would sneak to each other’s 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 about my eating habits or even if I had clean underwear. I began to miss their incessant nagging and started feeling nostalgic about my room. 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.
On this trip I discovered so much about myself. I was able to learn and accept my flaws as my roommates pointed them out every day and I taught myself to take in 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. The customs from each country proved that there was more out there aside from the melting pot of Florida. It expanded my mind to a different way of thinking and I became culturally informed. I learned that there 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. 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.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.