I Chose Italy Over Junior Prom: My case of the travel bug

October 10, 2013

For those like me who have been hit with the travel bug, any kind of getaway is highly anticipated. Whether it’s a long weekend or a two week excursion, I get equally excited. Looking back, I chose to go to Italy for the first time over the junior prom and driver’s ed. As I think back, this makes a lot of sense.

This weekend, Frank and I are road tripping to Reston, Virginia for an industry conference Frank is attending for school. The town is small and we won’t even have time to visit any surrounding areas, but just being able to visit and spend time in a place I’ve yet to see is exciting to me (besides the fact that I get to take two days off from work…)

This got me thinking. Why do I love traveling so much and where did it start? Why do I love experiencing new cultures and finding out so much about where other people have lived?

When I was young, my family made a few trips to Cooperstown, New York. Some of my favorite memories are of the annual harvest festival, where I remember having fresh corn, tasting syrup, and dips made from fresh herbs. This probably explains my affinity for fall. The air turns crisper and I instantly feel the need seek out all festivals, eat fresh fruit, and buy honey and cider-related products. I also feel the urge to travel somewhere outside the city, to see the leaves turning bright colors and apples growing on trees (like the real apples sans shiny, waxy skin). We also used to go apple picking in northern New Jersey, something I still love to do. I mean, there’s also fresh donuts and pies involved, so that’s a given.

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We also went to Delaware for a number of years in a row, to Fenwick Island then Bethany Beach. I found out I love being by the ocean and eating all kinds of seafood. Crabbing in the Assowoman Bay (yes, it that is the real name), para sailing, seeing the dolphins swim by the Cape May ferry.

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As for cheerleading, we competed in competitions up and down the east coast and in the Midwest. We would all pile into a bus for hours, making stops along the way in the most random of small towns, taking over the rest stop for about 30 minutes before piling back on the bus toward our destination. Beyond the team work, the friendships, and excitement of competitions, that time allowed me to see other places that I had never been before, and would probably have had little reason to visit. I went to Baltimore, Philadelphia, North Carolina, Maryland, Orlando, St. Louis.

At some point in high school when my cheerleading days were done, I decided I want to see Italy and Ireland. I got my opportunity at the end of sophomore year and signed up for a school run trip to Italy. I was 16, I got myself a job, and I chose Italy instead of the junior prom, if that gives you any indication of my preferences! It was a 12-day tour that stopped in main cities including Venice, Florence, Rome, and Sorrento, and countless towns in between. I could write about that trip for days, maybe weeks. My mind and feelings about travel were completely changed and I knew I wanted to keep going.

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The next year, they announced an alumni trip to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. My sister and I went together–she for her 21st birthday, I for high school graduation/18th birthday. It’s hard to describe just how much fun we had on this trip. What made it special was that we did it together and now have memories that we still laugh about today. We kissed the Blarney stone and saw dozens of other ancient castles, toured the Guinness brewery, took a haunted tour of the vaults underneath the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, and saw the village where author Beatrix Potter lived. This trip began with Guinness, ended with the crashing of a Beatles party.

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A couple years ago, Frank and I took a cruise in Europe. It began in Barcelona, where we spent a couple of days prior to boarding. The cruise hit several ports in Italy then circled back to Palma de Mallorca and then back to Barcelona. Being on a cruise ship, it was a way of traveling I had never experienced before. I remember being completely overwhelmed on the first day aboard the ship. It was a constant flood of entertainment. The first day alone, we went on the water slides, watched the actors perform Motown songs during dinner, watched the Blue Man Group, and had snacks at midnight. We woke up in Italy the next morning and each day brought us to a new location. One of our favorite moments was using our break after a tour in the small town of Lucca to sit down and have lunch—instead of buying even more souvenirs. We sat in the piazza and had fresh pasta and cappuccinos–the perfect Italian lunch. While you can’t physically take a lunch with you, it’s the best kind of souvenir in my opinion. Our passports were almost thrown away “on accident.”

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But it’s not just these big, well-planned trips that matter. I enjoy taking day trips and long weekends just as much, even if it is just a couple hours away to the Poconos or to a part of Manhattan that is new to me. Frank and I took a road trip to Cleveland in 2009 and even that was a trip that brought us somewhere completely different. I took a service trip to New Orleans in 2010, and had another mind-blowing experience, again in a place that was totally unknown to me.

I am so grateful and consider myself incredibly lucky to have traveled this much so far. To have the opportunity to meet new people, get to know your friends and family better, to see the famous sites around the world, to experience different cultures–it is all a gift.

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