My Favorite Summer Vacation: Taking Europe by Storm!

by Embug2000 / Oct 13, 2008 /

In June 2006, I was a 24 year old Spanish teacher, who had just finished my second year of teaching. One of the other Spanish teachers in my building, Leigh, and I decided it was a good idea to take kids on a trip to Spain. So after months of planning, we were finally on our way. Lucky for me, Leigh had previously worked for a big educational travel company, so of course we went through them for our trip, and we got to travel for free! 

We embarked on our 10 day journey through Spain with 18 students and parents. What an amazing trip it was, only my second time to Europe and my first time to Spain!  The kids were great, the parents were awesome and we all had a great many laughs about the other group we were traveling with. July 4th, our last day on tour seemed to come too quickly. Due to the fact that I was traveling for free and that I was traveling with Leigh, who could safely get our group back to the states, I had made the decision back during the early stages of planning that I would take advantage of this awesome opportunity to finally backpack through Europe. 

So in the early morning hours of July 4th, 2006, I said good-bye to my group and headed out into the romanticism of Spain, France and Italy completely on my own, armed only with a Rail Pass, backpack and travel book. The next 3 weeks were the most memorable of my life so far. I achieved a dream of traveling as a vagabond through Europe!  I visited Barcelona, Nice, Milan, Verona, Venice, Florence, and Rome. 

I witnessed France lose to Italy in the World Cup finals, while standing on the main thoroughfare next to the rock beach in Nice, was the victim of a flasher in Florence and survived the night in the Rome airport. I braved hostels, some good, some bad, met wonderful people on the vaporetto in Venice. I spent hours of my evenings in the Piazza de San Marco in Venice, people watching, eating gelato and listening to the 15 piece bands playing to the patrons at their restaurants. I befriended a Princeton student while waiting in line for the Vatican Museums and then spent the next 2 days exploring Rome with her, visiting all the places that are "must-sees" on the travel lists; the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi, the Spanish Steps, the Colesseum, and the Roman Forum, to name a few. We walked up countless steps to the top of Saint Peter's to take in the sight of the Vatican and Rome from the top of the most important Catholic church in the world and wandered around the catacombs that hold the remains of the most powerful clergymen to ever set foot on the Earth. 

I waited in line for 2 hours to see Michaelangelos David, and once I did I was speechless. The most I could utter was the simple word “Libero?” to an elderly Italian women who was sitting on a bench not 5 feet from the masterpiece. This simple communication opened the flood gates. She went on for a good twenty minutes about how disrespectful these people were who were taking pictures and video of the masterpiece when there were announcements made over and over again in at least 6 different languages that said all of these actions were prohibited. The conversation was held completely in Italian, a language which I don’t speak!  But nonetheless, I understood everything she was saying to me.

There are no adjectives in the English language to accurately describe my adventure. Just as there are no words to express what my adventure taught me about myself. I only hope that someday, everyone has the chance to experience the awe-inspiring world of travel and share their experience with everyone they know. I came back from that trip changed, changed for the better. I have a better sense of who I am and what my life purpose is. I have shared these stories with my friends, family and my students. Most think I am crazy, but some are inspired. Most inspired are my students. My students, who live in the self-centered teenage world, now ask when I will take them on their favorite summer vacation ever.  

 

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