The most thrilling thing I did during the summer of 2008 (and probably during my lifetime) was to tour Western Europe for twenty-five days with Explorica Student Tours. This experience with my peers, who at the time were all strangers to me, changed my outlook on meeting new people, exploring different cultures, and finding my true interests. From the day we began our journey in London until our last few hours in Madrid, I discovered that an entire world filled with adventures awaited me, and it would be my responsibility to take advantage of my newfound independence and curiosity.
Although I was initially apprehensive about journeying to an unfamiliar continent with strangers from across America, I soon found friendship from unexpected places. For the first time, I allowed myself to be socially outgoing and to get to know people on my own; there was nothing that I expected from my fellow travelers, and I did not fear that I would be excluded from the group since everyone was a stranger to everyone else. I only knew they were as excited about the trip, as I was. This alone was enough to inspire friendship and lasting bonds.
Furthermore, I observed that traveling with few adults to supervise us encouraged my independence as I began to take responsibility for myself. For instance, on the second day of the trip, four other students and I navigated London’s metro system without adults guiding us. Although I was fearful that we would get lost or pick-pocketed in a vast and unfamiliar city, I yearned for the opportunity to be let loose in a foreign country. We managed to not only to navigate the metro hurrying from Leicester Square on the Tube to the Westminster Station, but we also managed to explore London’s most renowned tourist destinations. This event highlighted our increasing maturity and enabled us to work together. Being trusted to meander through a gargantuan and intriguing city such as London gave me zeal for traveling and experiencing new places and cultures.
For twenty-five days, I saw the sites of Western Europe that most people can only dream of seeing. I took a cable car to the top of a mountain in Switzerland, and then took an exhilarating toboggan ride to the bottom; I ate gelato for lunch and then visited the Sistine Chapel; and I took an elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower after racing through crowds of people to see the Mona Lisa. I have been to an emergency room in Florence, and I have watched the sun set in Barcelona. These encounters have accelerated my maturity and appreciation for the world around me, while guiding me to act responsibly. I met a diverse group of people from across the country, while beforehand I only had friends from New York (now I have a dear friend who lives in Oregon). I am certain that my time spent in Europe has helped to prepare me for a unique and privileged college experience. I undoubtedly have a newfound fervor for learning as well as a capacity for the world’s offerings. So while before my trip I had lived in the world around me, I am now able to really see it.
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.