Pack Your Bags

Alina - Willowbrook, Illinois
Entered on April 24, 2008
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: change

Pack Your Bags

Alina Greab

This I Believe…

Miriam beard, who wrote the first international cultural history of the businessman in 1938, once said that “travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Traveling is an experience that opens your mind and soul to see the world’s beauty: real, raw, and ravishing. I, Alina Greab, experienced first-hand a deep transformation after my travels this past summer. I am a sixteen year old who was more than privileged to witness and explore Europe in all its glory. For six weeks, I traveled by train with my two older sisters, and every memory is forever etched in my heart. Whether it was the impoverished country-side of Romania, walking on the famous Champs-Élysées in Paris, standing in awe in front of the Roman Colosseum, I learned to be grateful and that true beauty can only be found when you allow yourself to stand still and actually enjoy living. By that I do not mean spending a fortune on everything from clothes to entertainment, but truly enjoying a quiet evening at no cost. There I was, on the steps of Sacré Coeur with a view of the entire Paris while live bands cheerfully played throughout the evening. From the steps of Sacré Coeur to the yachts of old money Cannes and Monaco to the homeland of Swiss army knives and watches to the pigeon-filled San Marco Plaza to the crystal-clear waters of Cinque Terre, my eyes were finally attuned to my soul.

I did not merely see the sights, but connected with the places embedded with history and culture. As I walked through the rooms of Romania’s Peles Castle (the best preserved medieval castle), I realized where I came from and celebrated those roots. From there, my journey continued with the Rhine Valley cities in Germany and the ruins of castles reminded me of a nation once completely devastated. In France, Place de la Concorde, among other sites I visited, held significant historical importance since Marie Antoinette was beheaded there. Taking the gondola through the small canals of Venice, I learned that men such as Marco Polo, Casanova, and Mozart, lived in the city and walked the same streets. Moreover, being in Rome, I relived history as I wandered through Palatine Hill (the birth place of Rome), Colosseum, Vatican Church and Square, Pantheon, and so much more.

Yet, more than those sights, the ways of the people and the memorable moments marked my life. I cannot forget as the whole town of Vernazza, Cinque Terre tried to find sour cream for my painful sunburns. I cannot forget one of the hotel staff in Germany learning a few words in English just to be able to greet us in the mornings given that we were the only non-native speakers. I cannot forget the way people took pride in their work whether they were waiters, salespeople, store keepers, or other professions. I cannot forget how these people took time to live life and here I was a sixteen year old too worried about the future, too mature to enjoy life. Whereas my purpose was to discover Europe, Europe discovered me. It taught me some basic lessons and even though I am not able to enjoy two hour lunches in America, take great walking trips, hop on a train and meet the most wonderful and kind people, mask-shop for hours, watch glass-making in Murano, just knowing that it is possible, makes me stop at every turn and enjoy the simple things in life.