I won’t back down; becoming more than a memory

James - Fort Wright, Kentucky
Entered on August 14, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

Boarding a plane for Europe, I was giddy and I was terrified. I had never been on an airplane before, at least not one that would be moving and flying through the air like a bird amongst the clouds. Beside me stood two of my friends, some students, and a few teachers. My parents? They were stranded back at the airport, watching the airplanes take off and fly away. My Sister assuredly stood with tears in her eyes, my Mother frantically worried about her first born being half a world away all on his own, my twin brothers thought of all the fun they’d have infiltrating and wreaking havoc on my room, and my Dad stood proud of the boy his son was becoming. Equipped with a Visa card, my very first passport, 7 disposable cameras, and an a blank journal ripe for filling; I buckled my seatbelt and began my first and only panic attack of that day. “Oh my God”, I thought and more than likely chanted to myself while all my friends and some other passengers watched on, some in laughter and others with a calm and caring disposition. I believe one of my friends even made a point of nicknaming me “the plane virgin”, signifying that I had never before flown on an airplane. The plane began rolling, I started shaking, and the tarmac became a surreal blur as the speeds picked up. For the first time in my life, I was on a nine hour flight destined for Munich, Germany and never before had I felt so grown up, felt as though I was being submersed in a world where the only person I would have to rely on was myself and my ability to navigate through different countries and budget my spending.

Throughout that fateful trip to Europe, I discovered more that you could fit inside a textbook. Until that point, what little I knew of the world around me consisted of words, pictures, and other people’s recollections. But now was my opportunity to visit things and see first hand what most people only read and dream about. Throughout my trip, I became a spectator at the Roman Coliseum, bore testament to a Nazi concentration camp, tasted fresh German beer courtesy of a German McDonald’s, sailed throughout the canals of Venice, and sung along with French Pink Floyd fans while swimming naked through the Mediterranean Sea. Granted, this was only the cusp of the iceberg. Many more memories were had throughout that fateful trip. It was this trip in accordance with several other travels that preceded it, that made me realize that I believe that our experiences in life make and shape us into the people we are to become and you have to truly see something to believe it.