It's difficult to wholeheartedly understand what traveling does to your soul until you've done it. As your mind wanders and your heart is exposed to inspiring experiences you slowly become accustomed to the feeling of change and the exhilaration of leaving your comfort zone. Your obligation as a traveler is to deeply observe the world around you, take notes, and record what you are drawn to, because to expand your mind is to expand your universe.
As cliché as it may sound, after nearly a month in Europe I have returned to Los Angeles a completely different person—and for the better. I spent twenty-fours days learning to navigate through nine countries alongside more than a hundred individuals— majority of whom I had neither met before nor was I close to: as someone who seeks comfort in certainty this single factor made my long anticipated trip more than daunting (so much so that I was questioning my decision to go minutes before I drove to LAX). There’s not much to it besides the fact that I was scared: scared of being the outsider, scared of being miserable, and scared that I would waste away this opportunity as a consequence. Not even an hour after landing in London did I recognize how naive I was for allowing my nerves to nearly get the best of me.
From the fashion forward streets of Paris to the quaint, colorful villages of the Italian coast I grew. Vulnerability drove my curiosity opening my heart to new people and new places. In each city I challenged myself to venture beyond the strains of tourism into the hidden gems that the locals deeply treasured. On the days I explored alone I threw my camera around my neck, packed my metro card, replenished my liter water bottle, and walked the city with no specific destination in mind. There were times where I felt completely at home and other times where I was constantly looking over my shoulder as I tried to escape the incessant cat-calls, but not once did I regret my decision to board the Air New Zealand flight departing LAX.
Our travel days were long: early mornings, frantic afternoons spent running between platforms during quick changes, and hours asleep on trains (3-4 hour naps were our new 8-10 hours of sleep). My moments awake where consumed of thorough reflection recorded in my travel journal. I’d compare the first and last day in a specific city and goosebumps blanketed my skin; I could feel parts of myself slipping away from my grasp. The butterflies filling my stomach encouraged a reversal to my reserved self, but the pictures and videos crowding my group’s photo circle constantly reminded me how much I needed the change Europe was nurturing.
I’ve learned to look at the world through the lens of a traveler rather than a tourist. I’ve learned to be okay with making a fool out of myself and laughing at my quirkiness (I mean lets be honest who else would go to a Parisian club wearing Birkenstocks? None other than Ninable). Most importantly, I’ve learned that spontaneity trumps control; theres a beauty in surprising yourself and allowing life to take an unexpected course.
My heart has never felt so full; Europe brought me unparalleled happiness and life lessons that have me head over heels excited for the next chapter: UCLA let’s gooooo!