How Traveling to Europe Changed Me

How Traveling to Europe Changed Me

One month after graduating high school, I fulfilled one of my biggest dreams in life: to travel to Europe. For a month my best friend and I toured England, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Austria, The Netherlands, and Greece with 30 other people ages 18-24. To say that this trip was incredible is an understatement; as of now, it is truly the highlight of my life. Here are a few ways traveling to Europe changed my life:

1.     I gained independence and conquered my fears

Prior to this trip, I had only been to places in North America, and that was always with family or friends. For this trip, I was to fly alone, spend and handle my own money that I had made from working during high school, and basically fend for myself during our generous “free time” from the tour group in each city. Taking taxis, buying all your own food, navigating through foreign cities, communicating with those who don’t speak any English, and managing time and money for an extended period of time really matures a person. I learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of through this trip.

2.     I learned the value of memories and adventures over physical belongings

Much of our generation is stuck behind their screens- instead of really enjoying life they are constantly texting, playing smartphone games, and taking selfies. Almost all of us are guilty of doing at least one of these a bit too much. I had to learn to put down my phone (even to take pictures) and see the beauty of the world through my own eyes, which is an amazing thing to see. With a limited amount of storage space in my suitcase, I also had to learn that some of the best souvenirs are those that are in your mind. The experiences you have while traveling will always be more important to you than those soon-to-be-lost key chains and snow globes.

3.     I learned how to enjoy the moment

I am a very healthy person- I like to run every day and eat very cleanly. While in Europe, I had to learn to relax and go with the flow. Gaining a couple of pounds isn’t a big deal, especially when you are trying new, delicious local foods and exploring foreign cities instead of going to the gym. While traveling, it is best to not worry too much about your schedule- sometimes things will come up that cause you to miss a certain activity you wanted to do, but you have to learn to just take it in your stride and move on. The world is a big place and there will always be fun things to do and incredible things to see!

4.    I learned to appreciate home

While traveling to such beautiful, historical cities, I have to admit that home was the farthest thing from my mind. Although I did miss my family, I have never been one to get homesick. After seeing some poverty-stricken areas and civil unrest, though, I realized how good I really do have it. I appreciate the little things about my life that I used to take for granted so much more now, like hot showers, washing machines, clean tap water, and even freedom of speech. Traveling has made me rearrange my priorities and want to do something to help make the world a better place.

Never ask yourself is traveling is worth it, because it always is. Go out and explore. Have adventures, let loose, make new friends, and enrich your soul. Let the world change you. I promise you won’t regret it.

Raised in Boston and currently residing in Atlanta, Courtney is a senior in high school. A self-confessed bookworm and history geek, her passions also include running, acting, painting, playing guitar, and photography. Courtney dreams of one day traveling the world as a journalist and working for NBC's The TODAY Show. As an Irish Catholic whose ancestors struggled against discrimination and poverty upon immigrating to America, Courtney enjoys befriending those of different races, religions, and backgrounds in hopes of creating a more unified, educated world.

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