Early in the summer of 2007 my step-mom announced that we had the opportunity to travel to Italy through a company called Adventures by Disney, a family-friendly tour group company. I was thrilled at the prospect of going to Italy, but the thought of having to stay with a group of strangers for ten days made me nervous. As the date of our departure approached, excitement for the sights, food, and shopping overtook all of my nervousness and I was literally bouncing with anticipation on the flight- much to the annoyance of those trying to sleep around me. We arrived bleary and jet lagged and collapsed into bed after meeting our tour guides who would lead us on adventures through Rome, Tuscany, and Venice. That evening, we gathered in one restaurants of the beautiful Hotel Exedra for a welcome dinner. As I walked into the room filled with six other families, my nervousness came flooding back to me. I was not shy around people that I knew but put me in a room with a bunch of strangers and I would instantly clam up. Despite my fears, I survived the introductions and dinner and even found myself having fun once I had relaxed and met some kids that were about my age.
I won’t take up space explaining every hour that we spent touring museums and eating delicious Italian food, but I will say that sight-seeing in the hot weather for twelve hours a day has a way of bonding people very quickly. By the end of our first day of tours, all of the kids, aging 5 to 17, were inseparable. It was amazing for me to realize that I could make friends this quickly and that meeting new people was nothing for me to be afraid of. We spent the rest of the week spending every waking moment together; numerous games, movie nights, and cups of gelato in the most amazing cities in Italy.
Now, I have to confess that the entire summer I had been procrastinating working on my summer assignment for my upcoming AP World History Class. I had put it off until the final week of summer, which, unfortunately, coincided with our vacation. So, while everyone else relaxed I outlined my textbook. As it turned out, one of the chapters I had to read was on Ancient Rome and as I read the paragraph about the Coliseum, I realized, “Hey, this isn’t just some fact in a textbook. This is real, and it’s about three blocks away from me!” In that instant, that whole book changed for me, it was no longer a jumble of facts and words that I was forced to memorize; it was real. Although most of the places and people no longer existed, others like the ruins of Ancient Rome, pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall in China, I realized, all stood as symbols representing a real time in this world that we need to remember. As I kept reading, I was inspired and interested, absorbing everything I could. Sure it wasn’t pasta making or Venetian mask decorating, but reading those chapters late into the night was one of the most significant experiences of that trip.
By the end of the vacation, many aspects of me had changed. History was not only interesting but quickly became a passion of mine after visiting sights like the Vatican, Piazza San Marco and Renaissance artwork. Traveling to new places, meeting new people, and trying new things were no longer scary to me anymore; it was fun! I came home eagerly anticipating the life-changing, or just plain fun, adventures that life had in store.
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