“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” – Neale Donald Walsch
That quote is the perfect description of my experience this summer. Traveling has always been a dream of mine and it was not until summer of 2011 that I decided to make this dream a reality.
I was sitting at Starbucks with my best friend, Alexis Sands, when we both realized that “real life” was approaching fast and there were still so many things we wanted to do before we graduate. We were orientation leaders at the time and loved every minute of our job, but could not help but feel that we needed to put work aside for once and do something for ourselves.
We had both worked every summer since we were 15 years old and realized that next year we would have one summer left before we graduated and became adults. It was at that moment that we decided to take on the challenge and started planning our trip abroad. Planning this trip was probably the most stressful experience and the fact that we were both broke college students did not make it any easier.
After switching countries at least 5 times, we found the perfect program with CISABROAD called The European Experience 2012: Ireland, England, and Spain. The total amount for this trip was going to cost us each $15,000, which had to be paid by May of 2012. It took a year of planning, fundraising, paperwork, phone calls, emails, more paperwork, wanting to give up, not giving up, and research. However, we forgot all about that when we first landed in Ireland and realized, we made it.
The amount of “bumps” along the way was enough to make us go a little crazy, but we were determined to make it happen. Although many people were supportive, there were people who told us we would not make it. Most of them said that it was crazy for two poor college students to raise that amount of money, and they were right. It was crazy, but it was possible.
A month before our trip began, we realized we were short on our payment and the deadline was a few days away. We spoke to our program director and we made a decision to cut off the Ireland portion with the group, and to begin our study abroad in London. What we forgot to mention was that we had already bought our tickets to Ireland a week before, and now we had to figure out how to get to London from Ireland. We could not switch our tickets because it was too expensive, and so we decided to take a flight from Dublin to London since it was cheaper. Now it was just surviving in Ireland for a week by ourselves with no plan.
The year passed by quickly, and soon it was May 19, 2012, and we were off to Shannon, Ireland. We had no place to stay. We did not know anyone there and everyone continued to talk about the movie “TAKEN” and told us that we were completely stupid for going to another country without any plan.
We were both nervous but for some reason, neither of us was scared. I could go on and on about adventures of our trip and have stories for days, but there are no words, pictures, or even videos (which we have since we recorded every waking minute of our trip) that would let you fully understand how amazing this experience was.
Our week in Galway, Ireland was absolutely perfect, and is now one of my favorite places in the world. Everyone there is so happy and helpful. They could tell we were tourists but did not make us feel like we did not belong. We found a cheap bed and breakfast on Quail Street and spent the week exploring and learning about the beautiful country.
Time was passing way too fast, and it was unreal to us that we just survived a week on our own with no plan, in another country. We both cried when we had to leave Ireland and a piece of our hearts definitely stayed behind. Our next stop was London, at Roehampton University where we lived at for a month and then Spain for another month. Every day we woke up we thought we were dreaming.
It has been over 2 months since I have been back and I still cannot believe that this actually happened. I stood where Prince William and Kate got married at Westminster Abbey? I was in London for the Diamond Jubilee? I was screaming in the streets “Olay! Olay! Olay!” in Spain when they won the Euro2012? I went to Paris for a day while in London, just because I could. I still can’t wrap my head around it. The most amazing part of the experience was meeting all the different people on the trip.
We studied with about 40-50 different students from all around the US and all around the world. I now know people from about 15 different states and even met a girl from Iceland. I don’t know why that is so exciting to me, but it is.
Having the trip come to an end was probably the most depressing thing I have ever had to go through, and every day I wish I could go back. It is weird not being able to just step outside and explore a new city or stand in a place that is so important to history. I miss the feeling of traveling, getting on a tube or bus and waking up in a new place. Most of all, I miss the friends I have made who were there with me through every adventure.
I look back at my experience and thank God everyday for giving me the opportunity to have my eyes opened. Although we had to give up a lot to go on this trip, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I was always an optimistic person, and this trip showed me all the possibilities that are out there, and now that I have had a piece of it I know that if I work hard, I can do it all.
There is so much out there that we need to see and we are the only ones stopping ourselves from seeing it all. I realized how small I am compared to everything around me and how much more I need to learn. This trip was one of the most inspiring and life changing things I have ever done, and I honestly do not think anyone can understand the feeling unless they did it themselves. We proved everyone wrong; we showed that it was possible to make your dream a reality and we actually lived life this summer. It was scary at times. I did get homesick a few times, and I only came back with .78 cents in my account, but it was an experience like none other and I would do it again in a heartbeat.