Growing up in a small college town never seemed like such a bad thing. Having all those people around you created the illusion of diversity and always having new things to discover. State College provided a platform for amazing experiences, friendships and education. Until seventh grade I was completely happy there and I could have never seen myself leaving. The summer before that year I took a trip to San Francisco for my moms friends wedding. Dreading the trip entirely, I was afraid of a new place so far away from where I was comfortable. Even in the airport and on board the plane, there was a nervous feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. It was the furthest I had ever been away from State College besides Disney World and that idea in itself scared me. As soon as we met our friends, they took us on a tour of the city. I immediately fell in love. It was so beautiful, completely different from anything I had ever seen. The unique culture was evident in the city’s acceptance for all things diverse and different. People had their own uninhibited style. Being able to truly experience these seemingly minor differences from my normal life opened my eyes. For the first time I wanted to travel and explore and break away from the State College ‘bubble’ I was so accustomed to.
When the opportunity arouse to travel again, of course I took it without hesitating. This time I was going to go to France for ten days with my Aunt and her French students from Freeport High School. The summer before my sophomore year I embarked on the greatest experience of my life so far. Once again, I had those nervous butterflies in my stomach. I had no idea what to expect from this trip and the people I would be spending the next ten days with. On the plane I was uncharacteristically shy and mostly slept in avoidance of a scary new adventure. The first day or so in Paris I was homesick. Our tour was running around and trying to cram in the Louve, the Latin Quarter and Notre Dame in one day. I barely had time to breathe. I was miserable. But the second night everything changed. When we arrived back at the hotel after a whirlwind of a day, the three guys on the trip invited me to hang out in their room to play poker and watch French TV. Nervously I went, not really knowing what to expect. We all got along so well, laughing and talking just like we were old friends. Finally, I was no longer homesick or shy and knew this was where I wanted to be. I soaked it all in – from lunch on the narrow, winding streets of Mont. St. Michel to the stunningly blue and rocky beaches at Nice – knowing I would never want to forget any of it. At the end of the ten days no one, especially me, wanted to go back home; back to a life of comfort and familiarity.
These two trips made me realize just how important it is to expand your horizons. Now I know for sure that I want traveling to be a part of my life as I get older. Being able to go to new places is what allows you to grow and change. Never let the fear of being uncomfortable stop you. Instead, let that comfort you already feel be the springboard you need to keep your eyes open for any new opportunity you want, no matter where it is.
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