All throughout junior year, my default answer to the question of how I’d be spending my summer was “the Europe trip,” which was what I had come to call the 10-day European tour of London, Paris, Florence, and Rome that I had signed up for as a sophomore. By referring to it by this vague title, I allowed myself to think of my trip as something that would take place at some point in the future but certainly not any time soon. Additionally, there were so many unknown variables that trying to imagine what it would be like seemed impossible. On the plane to London, I decided I would just “plan to be surprised.”
As surprises began to unfold, I felt that both the joys and struggles of traveling were magnified, more significant than anything I had encountered before. My experience was marvelous, but every time a friend or family member asks, “How was Europe?” I don’t know where to begin.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
There’s just so much to tell! But I get asked this question quite frequently, so I designated a single favorite story, the one about what happened in Paris when I didn’t plan for anything except surprise.
It was Thursday, June 21 and I was waking up in Paris for the first time. We had a 6:30 alarm and a full day of touring to look forward to. My roommate Megan and I were both in that half-awake state when everything seems fuzzy and the most important thing is trying to get just five more minutes when suddenly she jumped out of bed saying, “Natalie! I think the alarm failed!” I was up in an instant, and sure enough, the clock read 8:30, meaning we were two full hours behind schedule. Either the rest of the tour group was furious with us, or they had left us completely alone in the hotel. It seemed like a good time to panic. Megan had never been late to school, and I’m a huge goody-two shoes. What kind of punishment would we face?
But we kept our cool, sort of. Still in our pajamas, Megan and I rushed down the stairs. When we got to the lobby, the other people in our group were nowhere to be seen. Now it seemed like a really good time to panic. Suddenly, our trip leader popped out from behind a corner and said, “There you guys are!” He informed us that we had missed the bus by only ten minutes, but another group of boys was also missing so we had to find them before we could leave the hotel. He told us we would definitely miss the bus tour and most likely the Louvre as well. All we could do was wait.
That was when I thought I would lose it for sure. It seemed like my fault for not setting another alarm as backup, and I couldn’t stand the thought of missing the Louvre. Still, I knew that freaking out wouldn’t help, so I managed to stay calm and pray that things would turn out. By some miracle, the missing boys emerged and, with our leader, we found our way to through the maze-like Parisian Metro system, and we caught up with everyone in time for Versailles. We didn’t even miss the Louvre!
The most valuable lesson I learned from this experience was that when it comes to travel, what appears a crisis might really be an adventure in disguise. Taken in stride with humor and teamwork, these adventures eventually become memorable stories, often the ones we treasure the most.
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