“And this is Amanda, next to some rocks,” my dad teasingly stated to my aunt, scrolling through pictures on his phone. It was a picture I had sent him when I was in England – in front of Stonehenge! Five thousand year old monuments constructed by brilliant human beings without modern technology? I think that they are more than mere rocks.
That picture brought back the familiar, beautiful feelings I’d had while traveling. It was at Stonehenge, a few days before the end of my trip, that this adventure had finally felt real. The past couple of days had been a blur of naps, baguettes, and “royal wedding rubbish.” This trip had been comprised of many firsts for me: traveling without my family, leaving the continent, speaking a foreign language to people other than teachers or family, and seeing the rest of the world.
I was with some of my closest friends on a trip led by my favorite teacher; I couldn’t dismiss the opportunity to go on this trip after I’d found out that he would be the chaperone. In ninth grade, he changed my life; a war veteran, he’d taught me that history no longer was only something for which I had talent, but something that I loved. History wasn’t just about memorizing battles and wars (though they were significant), but also understanding the people and the society shaped by them; history contained a human element, more so than any other subject.
We began our journey in Paris; day one included a Louvre excursion and a bus tour of the city with various bus stops for photo opportunities… immediately after we got off of the plane. Jet-lagged and running on a full day without sleep, we were all unavoidably exhausted. Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe l’Etoile, Basilique du Sacré-Coeur… I felt so small as I admired the magnificent, imposing architecture; I was just one person, like many others before me, who traveled from another continent just to catch a foretaste of magnificence and culture. Each day was packed with activities for us including a Seine river tour, dinner in the Eiffel Tower, and shopping; we were perpetually moving. The days passed, lasting for what felt like weeks, and I became increasingly attached. It hadn’t felt quite real yet, as if I were still home; this was where I belonged.
In Normandy, we resorted to a childlike state as we played in the WWII bunkers and craters created by bomb explosions. We walked along the breezy beaches where men as young we were courageously fought for our freedom. Down these same paths, soldiers valiantly walked, unsure if they would face death or freedom. We also saw the quaint and charming Sainte-Mère-Église, the first town to be liberated by the Allies.
We took a ferry to England and drove to the pleasant and historically significant city of Bath. I saw the ancient Roman baths, the Royal Crescent, and a side of England that wasn’t as bustling and wealthy as London. From here, we took the bus to Stonehenge.
I had gone to Europe feeling certain that I would see a superior, more appealing way to live. Instead, I’d discovered a deeper appreciation for America; while we do have ways to go if we want to catch up with countries like France and England in history and culture, our young country is still evolving; Europe speaks for itself. My journey opened my eyes to a world of which I had only dreamed. Until I can travel again, I will prepare for my next adventure: college.
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