Going to Europe
My name is Sara, I’m 23 years old, and I’ve just recently graduated from college. I’ve been living in the rural Upper Peninsula (UP), Michigan for my entire life, an area known for its vast dense forests, waterfalls, immense fresh water lakes, scenery, and mind-blowing snowfall. While I can’t argue that it is beautiful, it can definitely feel secluded, and even boring from time to time. For this reason, any UP native harbors a dream of one day escaping the chilly forest to visit warmer, more populated, or just plain different areas. A few years ago, I began to feel this urge for myself.
One early summer morning, just as the sun was stretching its rays through my window, I woke up in a panic. I wasn’t sure where the panic had come from, I just had an overwhelming feeling that there was something that I needed to be doing, as if I was behind on a deadline or about to miss a bus. Once in a while I get the feeling that my life is stagnating, like I’m stuck in some sort of rut, and I need something to change. This was that feeling.
I was in-between my junior and senior year of college, and decided that perhaps it was time that I take a vacation for myself. I’ve always loved to travel, even if it was just an eight-hour car ride through dull farm land in Wisconsin to visit my grandparents. The chance to breathe air that’s just a little bit different from home, to eat food and see animals or scenery that is different has always been exciting to me.
So, as any good millennial would, I took to the internet to find myself a travel destination. From the time I was young I always told myself that one day I would stand in front of the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, or even Big Ben. I eventually came across a travel company called Education First that seemed reputable, offering an educational tour through Europe where you could learn the history, tour the cities, and taste the foods of different cultures. Of course this sounded extremely appealing to me, and with the possibility of a payment plan I was immediately sold. Within 45 minutes of waking up, I had scheduled myself a month-long tour through nine countries in Europe, and I was going to be doing it completely alone.
I spent the next 11 months before my trip bouncing back and forth from excited to terrified back to excited again. I had never taken a vacation by myself, I had only left the country once before, and I really had no idea what to expect. The night before I was supposed to leave, I remember trying to talk myself out of going. I told myself that it was okay if I decided I didn’t want to go, and that the decision had been spur-of-the-moment, and that sometimes things seem right in the moment but sometimes weren’t right in the end, and that it would be okay to change my mind. But the next morning, I woke up, drove to the airport, and boarded my flight, palms sweating the entire way.
That spur-of-the moment decision ended up being what I consider to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Aside from the amount of understanding you can gain for others and for the world around you through travel, you can also gain an incredible amount of understanding within yourself.
The great thing about traveling alone, even in a group tour like the one I went on, is that it gives you a greater amount of freedom than traveling with a partner or a group of friends would. You have the opportunity to do everything you want to for every minute of your trip every day. The opportunity to spend 32 days absolutely free to learn about and understand and immerse myself in different cultures gave me a much different perspective of the world. To learn that even all the way across the ocean, where people speak different languages and different foods and have different customs and ways of being, there are still so many similarities to home that it’s incredibly eye-opening. For me, taking the time to travel made me a much more understanding person, and I think for this reason travel can be beneficial to everyone.
Along with the greater understanding for other cultures, I also gained a boost in self confidence. To be able to successfully navigate a foreign country, and to interact with the locals in a way that you know is respectful is something that’s extremely empowering. Knowing that you are capable of achieving your goals in a foreign environment (even if that goal is just finding a restaurant) gives you a feeling of independence, and a boost of self-confidence.
Personally, I think that travel can benefit everyone. Along with providing educational opportunities to learn about culture, religion, geography, or politics, travel can also provide opportunities for self-growth, and gaining a greater understanding for other people. Though stepping outside of your comfort-zone is definitely nerve wracking, it can provide irreplaceable benefits alongside incredible memories.