I wish that this scholarship was not due for another month for I am still traveling through Sicily. I have managed to experience so many firsts on this trip and since it’s not over I am sure that I will get to witness even more (I hope).
This is my first trip outside of the United States. This is my first trip on a plane that lasted more than 5 hours. This is my first trip on a plane with three separate layovers. This is my first trip where I lost my luggage. And that was just on the way here! I have tried so many new and delicious foods – fish that tastes like it jumped right out of the sea and onto my plate that it’s so fresh, cheese that is so soft I could use it as a pillow and not wake for days, gelato that is so rich and creamy in texture, yet so balanced in flavor.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
In the days leading up to my trip I found myself constantly wondering, “What will Sicily be like? Will I find romance? Eat tons of food? Get a tan?” I live in Washington; that little nook in America that cowers away form bright lights, so a tan would be nice. Point is I was fantasizing about my trip months before I even got on the plane. I filled my head with this romanticized delusion of Sicily, completely convinced that when I got off the plane I would see tall, dark, handsome men and luscious, healthy women with radiant smiles and small kids wandering the twisting, curving streets with their families at their sides and gelatos in their hands. An overall welcoming ambience that just floated over the whole country like a cloud.
Can you guess what I actually saw? A butt-naked boy, probably no older than four, bathing in the public water fountain just outside. When I saw that I stopped dead in my tracks. Was this the Sicily I was so excited to see? With broken families grouping around public facilities to wash their dirtied children? It couldn’t be… Where were the smiling faces? The happy, dancing kids? The couples that were head-over-heels in love? (Mind you, this was all my first impression of Sicily. It is not as horrible as I make it sound.) And from that moment on, I learned even more. My first day was spent recollecting my thoughts and reviewing everything I had learned thus far about this “faux” Sicily. “This is not the country I had hoped to see. Will everything be this…bad?” I am ashamed to say those were some of my thoughts before drifting into a restless sleep.
I wrote this essay because the trip I have experienced so far has been wonderful, but what I have learned and what I am going to take away from this trip is even more rewarding and will never leave my thoughts. Coming to Sicily has opened my eyes and has made me aware of cultural differences that my ignorant self back in Washington would have been unable to even begin to comprehend. It’s now my mission to explore as much as I can and become more understanding of the people that I meet and the places that I go and the cultures that I experience and the religions that I hear of and the general ways of life of others. Whether I agree with them or not. Because even if I don’t agree with the ideas, I can at least try to add my efforts in breaking down the barrier that divides us all.
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