In June 2014, I was onboard a plane transporting me to London, England to begin a WWII European Tour. I had been told multiple times previously that this would be, “the trip of a lifetime”, but I didn’t realize this truth until I reflected on what I learned on this trip and how it propelled me into adulthood.
When the trip was first suggested I strived to go on it. I am reminded of the character May Bird from the book series May Bird by Jodi Lynn Anderson. May had to cross a patch of briars to start her adventure. Though difficult, she was able to work through them. The briars I needed to cross included raising funds, writing essays, acquiring letters of recommendation, and reading books to review. I thought these obstacles were keeping me from my adventure, but they were part of the adventure itself.
This trip also gave me a lesson in time management. Without adults I learned to be punctual when there wasn’t anyone to keep you in check. While it’s still important to be on time, it’s sometimes more important to worry and take advantage of the time you’re given.
My second day in Paris, we decided to visit Montmarte, located on top of a tall hill with only steps to reach it. It reminded me of my time spent in detasseling. Even though it was a difficult, I persevered because I knew it would allow me to raise money for the trip. The top of Montmarte also made the trek up worth it. In both, I learned you have to work to receive what you want.
I experienced events in Belgium and Germany that reminded the ones that occurred in the book The Odyssey by Homer, translated by W.H.D. Rouse. In this book, Odysseus wants to go home, but obstacles stood in the way of this goal. Our own obstacles were a bus driver that was 3 hours late and friction with a friend in Cologne. We were able to smooth things over but this disagreement, with the late bus driver, made for some frustrating days. I was feeling like Odysseus, wanting everything to go as planned, yet knowing they can be achieved with determination and adaptability.
On the return home, I had time to reflect on the trip. I felt like Bilbo from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Both Bilbo and I weren’t sure where our adventures were going to lead. Unlike Bilbo, I had an itinerary, but nothing could have prepared me for how this trip turned out. With each place we visited, knowledge about culture and history were added. I also could have never anticipated the moments and memories that would come from them. Along with the knowledge and memories, I learned about myself. Like how Bilbo was able to awaken his sense of adventure and take a journey that changed how he perceived the world, I awoke my own sense of adventure and grew. The combination of the preparation for this trip and the trip itself forced me to make decisions and actions that made me think for myself and, in the process, make me more mature.
Tales of adventure have always captivated me, but when I was younger, I only liked the story. Now that I’ve grown older I realize that I am in charge of my own story, choices, and experiences that define it. After this trip, I am confident that I can work with whatever opportunities may come.
Author’s note: I’d just like you, the reader, to know that this is an extremely condensed version of an essay that was previously over 4,000 words. I think it’s pretty impressive that I could do that, but I ended up cutting out many important points, so if you want to read the whole paper, just let me know in the comments bellow.