Breathing in was like breathing in a new culture, adventure, and life – taking it all in at once. Here I was, along with twenty-one adults and students I’ve known most of my life, experiencing this. This is a place where there are millions of lives I am surrounded by and I don’t even know as much as their names. The life I left on ‘pause’ at home in the United States seems so much smaller as I see new areas of the world unfolding before me.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
The young man playing violin on the side of the street smiles at me as I pass by, and thanks me as I drop Euros into his open case.
Children run up and down the side-streets as their mothers watch from afar and smile dearly at their laughter.
I see that even though our lifestyles are different, we’re human. We are the same in more ways than not. We all live within this world and although we are invisible to most of it, as I traveled new countries I see pieces of each of us in each other.
Three French women sit at a coffee table in a local café discussing their week.
An elderly man is buying flowers for whom I assume to be his wife.
We grow up unaware of what’s to come in our lives. Who were these people before I walked by them? Before I said hello? Who will they be when I say goodbye and travel back home?
My eyes are wide as I take in what they see as their small little world. The history in each of these buildings travel back to thousands of years ago. As I make my way through Rome, Pompeii, Versailles, and Paris I learn more about the beginning of the people here. The studies I’ve done in school were dimmed in comparison to actually being at the Colosseum, the Palace of Versailles, Hall of Mirrors, and the Eiffel Tower. I was in the presence of my education like a pop-up book.
Yet even as I travel back home, I take these strangers with me because they have impacted my life multiple ways and they will never know that. I see we are all just trying to make it in this world; not with money, but with the overwhelming desire for life. They are in my heart like old friends you may never see again, because you won’t and that’s okay. Strangers taught you more than you once knew just by inviting you into their daily lives as a background character, but that’s all you need to be and that’s okay.
The rooftops of Rome at midnight show you the stars that look exactly the same at home. You realize it is so reassuring to know you aren’t the only one who looks into that infinity.
The Paris sunrise brings warmth upon your skin and it feels like it does at home. You’re thankful that even when you return home you will close your eyes to the same sun on your face.
Then you realize you are still growing and you are still alive. You have so much exploring of this world left to do. There will be new times and new people, but you won’t forget the old. You can’t forget the old even if you tried because it is a part of you now.
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