There I was, standing alone at night on the corner of a busy intersection in Madrid, with an injured foot and no crutches. Standing near me were several promiscuously dressed women and a group of Spanish vegan activists. Looking back on this experience I laugh, though at the time, it was one of those eye-opening moments where I realized my vulnerability. I was alone in a foreign country, capable but apprehensive of my Spanish-speaking abilities, under the care of a crazy chaperone who had temporarily deserted me. Despite all the chaos and confusion, it was the most thrilling and invigorating trip I have ever taken.
Junior year, my Spanish teacher mentioned that his daughter was taking a trip to Spain and France in April. We were welcome to take some information, if we were interested. A group of students from Falmouth and Bourne High School was partaking in a school sponsored trip through a student oriented travel agency called NETC. All accommodations, i.e. air, hotels, food, and daily activities, were included in one reasonable price. After traveling to Spain the previous year and staying with a wonderful host family, I was determined to find a way to go. With quite a bit of negotiating and a big decision on my part to finance the trip, I convinced my parents to let me go.
The first six days flew by as I immersed myself in French, and then in Spanish culture. Visiting historical monuments as we traveled through France and entered into Spain, I was having the time of my life sharing these experiences with good friends. So when I took that fated step off a ledge at the Gaudi Museum in Barcelona, I thought to myself, “This would happen to me,” as our next stop was the disco-tech for a night of dancing. Doctor’s orders said I was not to walk on my foot for the next two weeks, but without crutches, this was a nearly impossible feat.
When we arrived in Madrid, our final destination, and I still had no crutches, I had reached my breaking point. I had traveled without my mom before, but never had been faced with a situation where I really had to advocate for myself. I naÃ¯vely thought common sense would prevail and someone would get me crutches.
Standing alone on that corner in Madrid, I came to some conclusions while waiting for the chaperone to return. First, I now have a greater appreciation for all that my mother does for me and how sheltered I have been. I learned that in the real world, you can only rely on yourself to get the job done. I also realized my thirst for understanding of all walks of life, whether it be the Spanish vegan activist or the French art connoisseur. I am hopeful that next time I won’t feel so helpless and naÃ¯ve standing on that corner!
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