I hopped onto the musty-smelling charter bus and searched for a seat. I sat next to the window so I could wave my parents goodbye. We pulled out of the parking lot and headed to LAX. We left our small, quiet, mostly Caucasian town in southern California for something much bigger. None of us knew what to expect.
We boarded our red-eye flight with ease. My friends and I vowed to pull an all-nighter, anticipation inhabiting our bones. A few hours into the flight, after we had our fun playing hanky-panky and watching the in-flight movie, we all drifted off to an uncomfortable, unwelcome sleep. We woke up, and landed on the other end of the country. Little did I know, I was stepping foot in the city that would change my life forever.
One day in particular, the one my friends and I refer to as The Friday, was the day I discovered myself. Spending the past seven years in a small town made of dust and orange groves, where there is little to no diversity, it’s easy to become narrow-minded. However, on The Friday, I was reminded again of what it means to live in America.
The Friday took place in New York City, New York. That day, we bargained in Chinatown, had dinner in Little Italy, saluted The Statue of Liberty, and watched The Blue Man Group perform an amazing show. All of these events had a crucial impact on my life.
Going to Chinatown and Little Italy reminded me of the diversity that exists in the world, and elicited my love for learning about new cultures. I thrive on new opinions, outlooks, and rituals. I eat philosophy for breakfast. I dream of a world where people don’t start wars over differences of opinion. I had left this love behind when I moved to Yucaipa, California, but I brought it back when I came home from New York and have not abandoned it since.
The Statue of Liberty instantly brought tears to my eyes. I’m not a particularly patriotic person, but seeing Lady Liberty made me the proudest American I had ever been. I couldn’t help but imagine myself as an immigrant, nervously awaiting inspection at Ellis Island. I imagined myself seeing the shores of America, and being filled with hope, relief, and pride. That one statue represents everything America stands on. That one statue has been seen by millions of people. That one statue has inspired many to live the American dream. I was inspired, too, because to me, it stood for the many opportunities I have and I felt grateful for my life and all that it has to offer for the first time in years. This, too, I have never forgotten after my trip to New York.
The Blue Man Group represented my freedom: my freedom to have fun, my freedom of expression, and my freedom to be unique. It stood for everything strange that has happened to me and is going to happen to me, and I learned to embrace it and to laugh and appreciate when hard times arise.
That one day in New York City has changed my life forever. It wasn’t a just a class trip, or a week away from my parents. It wasn’t a reason to be in a hotel room with my best friends and no adult supervision. It was me discovering myself, and what I believe in, what makes me stand taller every day, and that, I will always thank New York City for.
Note: The website put the wrong date of the trip, and won’t let me change it. The trip was actually in 2007, not 2009.
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.