First Learning to Fly
Every traveler has their beginning. Mine happened when I was 19. After losing my shackles when I turned 18, I hastily searched among friends and family for anyone willing to join me on an adventure past American borders. Somewhere I’ve only had the luxury of reading in books. Maybe to Melbourne? How about London? Let’s go see the Eiffel Tower! And then I experienced what many who try to become a traveler will experience; I was met by fake promises, unfinished plans or just plain excuses of why they could not accompany me on my journey. I didn’t want to give up no matter how many doors were shut in my face. That is how I was led to studying abroad.
Step 1: Choose a Country
Where did I start? Well, I searched for what country I would be most in love with. The country that appealed most to me was Italia. I felt Italy had such a vibrant and rich history and I was in love with the culture. Oh, and food of course!
Step 2: Find a Program
I searched and searched for a program but the prices of most did not fit what I had to my name. I don’t know how much you had at age 18, but for me it was probably enough to buy a textbook for one class. I then searched at my community college to see if they had a study abroad program. To my amazement, I had found a program for the following year that was for Florence, Italy. This could not have bellowed “Fate” any louder.What were the odds that of all the countries they could have held a study abroad program, they had one for the very country I wanted to study in. So for the next year, I dedicated my free time to preparing and saving for my departure.
Step 3: Research
I began researching all I may need to know for living in Italy. What currency did they use? What were there customs? Were there any laws I needed to be aware of? I researched everything from common phrases in Italian to crime rates in Florence, even studying maps of the city that would soon be my home (thanks mom).
Step 4: Prepare to Leave
I set up travel insurance through STA, packed my bags thoroughly, made lists on top of lists making sure to pack the right attire, shoes, camera, laptop. I also notified my bank before leaving of all the countries I planned to visit. I would check up to see what your banks’ international fees are and if bringing over a lump of cash would out-weigh the cost of international bank fees. One thing I forgot to pack and recommend everyone to do is pack the right medications. I sometimes get severe migraines that return years apart. Lucky me, I was on a tour of The Palace of Versailles when mine returned. Having to travel back to another city that had a pharmacy and then attempting to explain to a french-only-speaking pharmacist of my migraine was no easy task. Along with having to take medicine I never heard of, all written in french naturally (which I did not read). So lesson learned: PACK ALL MEDICATIONS !
Now, For The Departure
This trip meant much more to me. It meant I was breaking out of my comfort zone. I was leaving all I had ever known, everything that was familiar to me. I was crossing uncharted territories.The day I left, I was a blended cocktail of nerves and excitement. My family took me to the airport; It was a whole posse coming to say goodbye. With one extra-large purple suitcase that held my belongings and one little girl with big dreams, I gave everyone one last hug. I walked through security and turned back to get one last glance of my family. I started to tear watching my sister cry, knowing that it would be months until I saw them again. But I knew this was an adventure I had to take, I had to do it for my soul. So I took a deep breath and walked through security, taking the first steps into a new chapter of my life.
On the airplane, I was all nerves and no excitement. I remember stuffing all my money in my bra because I hadn’t known the man I was sitting next to and after reading countless articles online about pickpocketers in Italy, I was in no mood to leave room for error even on the plane ride. I was exhausted but forced myself to stay up because of those articles. A few times I had briefly fallen asleep, only to have nightmares of being robbed and jolted myself awake once more. (Hey, it was my first time leaving the country so forgive my dramatized demeanor). So to keep me awake, I decided to indulge in movies on my long plane ride over to Switzerland (my layover)- one of the movies being Eat, Pray, Love. Watching this, my nerves began to fade into excitement once more watching Julia Roberts venture on her own soul-searching journey. As I landed in Switzerland and hastily searched for my next gate, I became even more excited when I saw a herd of young American girls looking lost as well and figured yes! I am not alone! I think I have found my classmates! From that point on, my nerves disappeared and I completely submerged myself in my incredible journey.
Looking back on the time I first learned how to fly, it couldn’t have been a more perfect beginning for me. You can learn to fly at any age, I just urge you to do it now. Life has an expiration date, so until then live your life beautifully and adventurously. Learn to fly!