When I was thirteen years old, my parents informed me that my family was moving to Europe for a year. I was devastated. I couldn’t imagine leaving for eighth grade; in my thirteen year-old eyes eighth grade was a pivotal moment for a teenager and to leave it was an absolute tragedy. I had to leave my friends, my “first kiss,” and my life. The world was basically ending, and I was convinced my parents were ruining my life.
But boy was I wrong.
Although I was apprehensive at first, going abroad as a child completely changed my life. Growing up in a small town, I never wanted to leave. The town was my whole world, and there were very few things outside of that world. As soon as we got on the plane to fly to Europe, that world suddenly grew. Over the course of my year abroad, I would learn copious amounts of history, be immersed in different cultures, be acquainted with different languages, find my passion (it’s food), and it would increase my cultural competence; I understand what is like to be in a place where no one speaks English. But, most importantly, traveling as a child sparked a desire to travel more.
When I came home from Europe, I knew two things: I wanted to learn another language, and I wanted to learn about food. As the years passed, I went to college knowing that I was going to study abroad my junior year. Little did I know, I was actually going to study abroad twice. Travelling as a child gave me confidence that it’s okay to push yourself in the directions of your dreams. As I stood in the airport waving goodbye to my dad, I almost turned around. I almost refused to go. But, this small, inner voice told me, You got this. You’ve done this before. Although my fear didn’t completely disappear, most of it was replaced with exhilaration—exhilaration filled with desire for adventure, and a desire to succeed.
As a 21 year-old college senior who is about to begin her life in the “real world” very soon, I also realized one last gift travelling as a child gave me: my family.
Very few things bring you closer together than travelling to and exploring a new place. Sure, I spent my eighth grade year away from my friends, but I also got to spend the year with my family. The time spent travelling abroad strengthened my relationship with my brother (who is seven years younger than me), and he continues to be one of my closest confidants and favorite people in this entire world to this day. Lastly, travelling brought me closer than I ever thought possible to my parents. Instead of spending 8th grade attempting to alienate my family, I spent the year under the Eiffel Tower, chasing Sussex chickens, and watching the Almalfi Coast sunsets with them.
Travelling gave me time with my family, which is the best gift of all.