Rome, Italy. June 2008.
Touched down on European soil, life changed f o r e v e r.
Thinking back, we were the tourists that every native or seasoned traveler hates: we were a group of fifty-one American high school students, we were led around the city in a massive tour bus, we blocked entire sidewalks while shouting ignorantly in English in our flip flops & short shorts. Our tour guide even walked in front of us with a little flag to keep us all together. We were probably so obnoxious it’s almost cringe-worthy, but this first trip to Europe in June 2008 was my first taste of flight and my gateway to the world.
In high school, our Latin teacher led us on a trip to Italy and Greece the summer after junior year. We started in Rome for five days, then made our way down to Pompeii, Sorrento, Capri and eventually a few stops in Greece. In Rome: winding skinny streets, indulgent gelato post-every meal, Trevi Fountain coin tosses, goggling at the designer stores dotting Via Condotti, the sun beating down and roasting my fair east coast skin in a Mediterranean summer, legally drinking alcohol (at 17!), endless pasta and PIZZA, more old churches and cathedrals and museums steeped in culture in history than we had ever seen in our short time on this vast planet. I was with all of my best friends — who are still my best friends — and we were having the time of our lives.
I haven’t been back to the Eternal City since that trip, and though I visited Venice in 2012, Italy and I aren’t even close to being done with each other yet (then again… is it possible to get tired of Italy?). I’d love to return to Rome as an adult and take it all in with eyes that have seen lots of new European cities since our initial meeting in 2008.
Travel is really important because we, as humans, can get too comfortable in our own little worlds. I think if you don’t meet people in other places, other cultures, [the world] becomes something that you’re ignorant about, and it becomes easier to treat people like “the other,” and that’s dangerous.
Have you been to Roma?