When I was four years old, my grandma gave me a 300 piece puzzle of the world. We spent night after night, hour after hour for months twisting and turning the pieces until they fit together perfectly. As the time passed and we completed each area or region of the world, my grandmother shared her stories of traveling with me. As she spoke, her words allowed my imagination to run wild as I envisioned the magical paradises and dreamscapes she spoke of. I promised myself that I too would one day travel the world and make memories of my own.
Today, I stand before you, 12 years later very much farther in reaching my goal then I ever would have expected. I have seen the Queens jewels at the Tower of London and the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace. I have spent hours trying to make the royal guard laugh with knock knock jokes from my kindergarten class. I have ridden a horse carriage through the lakes of Killearny in Ireland. I have kissed the blarney stone. I have visited William Butler Yates grave and searched the area around his tombstone for four-leafed clovers. I have strutted down the streets of Paris, like a model, admiring the pastries in each bakery’s windows. I have seen the great masterpieces of Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael at the Louver Museum. I have raced my brother and sister up the 142 steps of the Eifel tower. I’ve spent time in the Paris Emergency room, after my older sister face planted down the last 8 of these steps. I have celebrated St. Stephen day in Budapest, and watched an incredible fireworks display over the Danube River in Hungary. I have played the giant organ at the Church of St. Nicholas in Prague. My siblings and I challenged and beat a set of Czech Republican triplets in an Oreo-eating contest. I have been to the FIFA world cup of soccer, or football, in Germany of 2006. I attended a game between Spain and Germany, where after Spain’s defeat I saw the entire streets of Berlin flood with incontrollable fans. I have taken pizza classes in Italy and swam in Lake Como. I have climbed to the tops of pagodas and shrines of Japan. I have been to atomic bomb memorial sites at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have dressed as a traditional geisha girl and even been to Tokyo Disney. I have fed giant sea turtles in South Africa and swam with dolphins off the coast. I have sailed on a pirate ship for four nights around the Seychelles islands of Africa. Most recently, I have even ventured to the land down under. I climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I have eaten shrimp on the ‘barbey ’. I came face to face with a kangaroo after making a wrong turn at the Toronga Zoo in Sydney. I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef. I ate a vegemite sandwich tin the Dane tree rain forest. I have hiked to the top of Cape Tribulation, the only place in the world where 2 World heritage sites exist side by side. Ski races in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and St. Patrick’s Day in Boston. I have been to Luaus, fiestas, and carnivals. I have Traveled by plane, train, car, feet, and animals. I have explored six of the seven continents, swam in three of the four oceans in the world, traveled to over 15 countries and 150 cities.
However, despite where my travels have taken me I have learned that there is no place I would really rather be than home. Being away has put things into perspective and I realized I believe home truly is where the heart is. I know that may sound cliché, but for me, the traveling has made it to be more than a hollow phrase. I believe it is important to know where you came from in order to know where you are going. I believe in Dorothy and her ruby slippers when she says “there is no place like home,” and O.A.R when they sing home is one of the few pure places left in the world. I believe I have never felt more comfortable then when cocooned beneath the sheets of my twin bed in Bronxville. I believe I have never eaten a better meal than my Aunt Mary Kate’s spaghetti and meatballs. I believe I have never been more proud of a battle wound than those given to me by my ten year old cousins on thanksgiving at the Regan family football game. I believe that I have never been more inspired more than by the stories of my parents, grand parents, and ancestors. I believe my parents are the best teachers I will ever have, and my dad’s jokes and my mom’s recipes are the most valuable lessons I will ever learn. I believe that even though I’m very different from and rarely get along and with my older brother and sister, they will always be my best friends, lifelines, and bodyguards. I believe I have never had more fun than singing spice girls in Charlotte Knobloch’s minivan or with Lucy Flanagan on April fool’s Day. And for that matter, I believe I have never EVER laughed more than I do with the girls who sit in the back of the gym today. I believe I have never been happier than when surrounded with my the people I love. And without out them, I believe I wouldn’t be here today.