As I think back to this year and the travels, some things come to mind. I think about the joy of arriving in London and seeing a different world or first driving into the Swiss Alps and being in awe. I think about road tripping with some of my best friends or underestimating how long it takes to climb a mountain. Twice. I think about joining a drum circle in one of the strangest towns I’ve ever been in and spending the night with hippies, on the whim, that were protesting a pipeline. I think about bonding deeply with my family in a cabin in Arkansas and bonding deeply with friends in car rides to Austin or across Europe. I think about exploring Baltimore with my cousin or stumbling onto rich history in Washington DC. I think of the sunset at the Griffith Observatory and late night drives all over Los Angeles.
I have a deep bond with the places, people, and experiences this gap year. I even get teary eyed reminiscing on these trips or listening to the songs I listened to on these trips. I’ve grown to have a deep bond with traveling and collecting experiences. Fortunately, I never had to find this passion, because it found me.
Junior year of high school, there was an informational meeting about a trip to Europe. I knew some people that had been on this trip before, and as cool as they made it seem, I didn’t have much desire to go. I had never traveled except for school or to visit family, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around paying so much for another educational trip that would take me away from my friends right after graduation. My mom insisted that I go and even offered to pay for half of the trip (my parents ended up paying for all of it, whoops).
June 2016 rolls up, I take the two week trip across Europe and it was the best experience of my life. I learned so many things that you can’t learn in school, bonded deeply with people that I never knew before, and got to see, feel and smell a real part of the world that most people never take the time to experience. To this day, I still bother my friends with stories from my adventures in Europe. Traveling across Europe is a tick in my personal timeline that changed the rest of my life and kicked off my best friend’s and my pack to take at least a trip a month during our gap year.
I can confidently say that my life is going in a vastly different direction because I made time to travel and had parents that encouraged me to. I am a different person because I paused life and chose to build in adventure.
Forbes outlines it perfectly when talking about adults that regret to travel… “Most folks stay close to home. They don't travel all that much. Yet, big trips with friends and family - to Disney World, to Paris, or even to the lake - are the stuff that memories are made of later in life. We're all thrown in to some new unfamiliar situation together. We've got to figure it out as a group - and it's fun, even when it rains. We really remember trips.” Those trips and adventures shape us and teach us things that school never can or will. Being immersed in a culture that is unlike yours opens your eyes and helps you feel for the world.
One of the churches I have been involved in the this past year often says “The adventure of yes is more alive than the safety of no.” I have found that so true this year. I hope that after reading this, seeing the photos and hearing the stories, you feel encouraged to set aside money and time to pursue your own adventures.
Below are tons of photos and stories from the trips.