The summer of 2007, my life changed.
I was traveling with a delegation through People to People Student Ambassador Programs. I took advantage of the available window when we flew into Shanon. It certainly didn’t look like a city – everything was green.
Five days we spent in beautiful Ireland. The first time we got off the bus, at the Cliffs of Moher, we witnessed what Irish weather was like. Gale-force winds threatened to topple people over and rain stabbed at us, cold and unforgiving. I don’t think we noticed.
Ireland felt like home to me. The people were friendly, and the experiences unique. Few can say they’ve cut peat in a peat bog or sang a lullaby in Irish Gaelic.
We were in Wales one day – long enough to go through the Full On program, whose goal was to make us leave our comfort zones. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with my comfort zone. It was, well, comfortable. But I left it. Barely.
England was everything I hoped it would be. Warwick Castle was the best of all, a medieval fortification where we slept in tents and learned to fight with swords. I was in my glory in London, where the history of everything ran like an undercurrent of electricity through the city, giving it an unseen power. On the Isle of Wight we trained at the United Kingdom Sailing Academy, where the staff specialized in humiliating their students.
My roommates and I were welcomed to France with blaring opera music. We spent the following day in Caen, visiting the D-Day Museum and learning about the attack on Normandy, topped off with visits to Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery for the Dead and Pont Du Hoc. Then we went on to magical Paris, where we saw the Eiffel Tower, ugly as dirt by day and shining like gold by night. My favorite piece in the Louvre was the Winged Victory of Samothrace, but I marveled at everything I saw.
In Belgium we went to Bastogne, site of the Battle of the Bulge. Our tour guide said after the battle everyone just dropped what they had and left. I bore witness to this when I cut my pants on some barbed wire in the forest. Brussels was charming, and their fries and waffles were fabulous.
Then came the day when I had to say good bye to it all. But I had gone through an awakening, making me more brave, curious and crazy than ever. I miss those places, that specific point in time. Whenever life starts getting to me, I wish myself back to Europe, where there were no responsibilities, amazing friends, adventure and history around every corner, and money was no issue.
That is my happy place.
In the Netherlands we visited a clog and cheese factory – odd, but interesting. Our last stop was the Anne Frank house. I was shocked that some had never heard of her. It seemed like I’d known my whole life.
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