From the time I was four years old my dream was to travel.
I remember taking trips with my father to the bookstore and begging him to buy the latest edition guidebooks of Europe, and Asia and..well.. everywhere else. Due to my consistent nagging, he finally gave in. I would spend hours flipping through each page, absorbing all the information I could. I would plan out vacations to my future destinations and dream of all the things I would encounter. What can I say? I was a child consumed by wanderlust.
By age seven, I had a complete vacation planned out. There was a large world map pinned to my pastel pink wallpaper with pushpins in each and every destination. I had a plan to travel the world. Living in a small country town there’s not much to see….or do. So I thrived off of my future plans.
Then one day everything changed…
I was fourteen years old and it seemed as though it was a normal day, I had just stepped off of bus 248 when I saw my father waving to me from the porch. I made my way to him and he announced my mother and him had something to talk to me about. They sat me down at our yellow kitchen table and explained how they had seen all the interest I had in traveling. I slowly nodded confused as to why they were saying this.
My father announced that we would be taking a trip this summer to several parts of Europe for my fifteenth birthday. My heart nearly burst at that moment! I scrambled out of my chair and ran to my father, and then my mother, wrapping them both into the tightest hug I think I had ever given. My dreams were finally coming true!
When it came time to board the flight I was overjoyed. Our first stop would be Paris, France. I had composed a list of all the monuments and shops we HAD to visit. When we arrived, my father told me we would be staying with a host. Once we arrived to the hosts house she introduced herself as Adeline. Adeline was a tall, thin woman in her mid 20’s. She had long blonde hair that went to the middle of her back and bright blue eyes. I looked up to her in awe, amazed by her beauty. She had a soft French accent that rolled off the tip of her tongue with such elegance. That night we all had a typical dinner and when it came to bed time she showed me to my room. We sat and talked for an hour about my dreams of travel and all my plans for France. The next morning, off we were…
Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower. We went to the tip top and sat down on a rose garden patio with a view over the city. The view was exhilarating. I felt on top of the world. The rest of the day consisted of tiny little shoppes and site seeing. Overall we spent an entire week in Paris. I came to know Paris and its ways, but one thing I found along the way was what truly made my adventure an adventure. That’s Adeline. She showed me all the best places throughout Paris and truly came to be a role model and friend. We went shopping together and site seeing throughout Paris. She became the highlight of my time spent in France. Next stop was Rome. Unlike Paris, we would only be in Rome for 5 days. Also unlike Paris, I decided not to make a formulated plan of my vacation. Though I was over the top excited I wanted to go with the flow and truly experience everything to the fullest.
Our host for our time in Rome was named Jace. He was a short and stout man, a bit more aged than Adeline. His accent was also a bit heavier than Adeline’s. His house consisted of bridge collectibles and small fern plants. Throughout my time in Rome I learned that all of these bridges he collected had purpose. Jace had always wanted to be an architect. As a child, him and his father went on a small tour around Rome, one of the stops being the bridge Ponte Sisto. From that moment on Jace was hooked. He would sketch out thousands of drawings of all shapes and sizes of bridges. Though he never accomplished his dreams of becoming an architect, he had a collection of all the bridges he had ever encountered. Jace and I would stay up late into the night flipping through sketchbooks and discussing the worlds most fascinating bridges. One day, my parents agreed to let Jace take me on a tour of Rome and all the places he and his father had adventured to. To end our journey, Jace took me to Ponte Sisto and bought me my own bridge souvenir. When it came time to say goodbye, we promised to keep contact and see each other once again. Jace had made my entire journey interesting and truly held a new place in my heart.
Our final stop would be Brussels. I could not believe my trip had almost come to an end. Time seemed to pass so fast when you were traveling. Our final host was named Holly. She was a young woman in her early 20’s. She had a short black bob and always wore bright red lipstick. Holly was very bold and welcoming. She asked me and my family questions about America and our passions. The night I arrived she took me on a bicycle tour of the main village close to her home. We sat on a bench near the river and ate the best gelato I had ever tasted. Throughout my time in Belgium, Holly made me laugh and smile through every day I spent with her. Finally, my journey had come to an end…
As we drove off in our cab, I watched Holly waving goodbye from the front of her cobblestone home. This is when I realized, its not about what you see on your journey, its about who you meet along the way. Never bypass those you meet along your way, they can truly be the meaning behind your adventures.