The end of our time in Europe was hard. It was extremely difficult having to say goodbye to my beloved classmates and friends, even if it was only for a couple months. I had a hard time going back to normal life in Fort Worth after experiencing the exciting new places and people we did every single day in Europe. The more I’ve thought about it though, our time in Europe was merely a beginning. Just because we’re not all together in a picturesque mountain town in Switzerland or Italy’s bustling capital doesn’t mean we aren’t living out Cultural Routes as I type this. Cultural Routes was the beginning of some of what I anticipate to be the most important relationships in my life. It was a master class on how to travel which I will carry with me into the future. It was thought-provoking and eye-opening. It taught me how to live in the moment and approach and appreciate every day. It was the start of so many things that I like to think of CR as the end of the beginning. Now we move onto the next stage of our shared journey through this next adventure as we move into the school year. As we enter this next phase, we carry with us the lessons we learned on CR and thus continue the ̶t̶r̶i̶p̶ experience.
Far and away my most important takeaway from Cultural Routes was the relationships founded during the experience. Going in, I was a near stranger to most of the group. I had met most everyone at one point or another, but had never really done more than engaged in small talk with any of them (with the exception of eating kiwis in the bathroom but that’s a whole different story). I was nervous, but I had no reason to be. My companions turned out to be the most authentic, honest, intelligent, passionate, and understanding group of people I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with. Being in Europe together was a shared experience upon which we began the never-ending process of building these special friendships. My previous view of true friendship was tossed out the window and instead replaced with a brand new one. Friendships shouldn’t be based solely on who you feel comfortable being around. Obviously being comfortable around friends is important, but that comes with time. If comfort is the only factor, new friends will never be made. Reaching out and charging straight into the discomfort of being around new people is the only way to better yourself. The best friendships are the ones where two people challenge each other. Friends should motivate each other to be the best version of themselves. I found these friends on CR. We weren’t scared of difficult conversations, but we also spent a lot of time having fun together – the perfect balance. I love these people and can’t wait to see every one of them soon.
Lessons about travel also came to the forefront during the course of CR. In order to get the most out of travel, we had to be all in 24/7. To me this meant taking every opportunity to learn and approaching each day with a sense of curiosity. One of the huge benefits of traveling with this group was the fact that we all have such a huge drive to learn. Sharing this thirst for knowledge meant that we discussed the things we were seeing around us and sought out answers when we had questions. Having those people with whom to debrief after each site we visited was hugely beneficial to my experience on CR. Additionally, traveling with a professional is highly recommended. Dr. P knows the places we visit extremely well and was a great resource throughout the duration of the experience. He also arranged for us to have several experiences we would not have been able to have without his connections. For this, I say thank you, Dr. P. On CR we learned through group exploration and were able to self guide, but lean back on support when necessary. It was an excellent approach to travel and one I will try to emulate in my travels in the future.
Finally, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to Dr. P, Bea, and my 15 amazing companions for an incredible experience. Thank you for the memories and lessons. I will cherish you all forever.