November 30, 2022
Author: Bailey Hetzel
When I was eight, our family took our first trip outside the United States to Europe. My parents had no clue if they could navigate six suitcases and two children through a continent they had never stepped foot on, but when we arrived in Rome that first day, the city’s magic erased any fears or anxiety that came before. Though many years ago, I still remember this trip like it was yesterday. These 3 days in Rome are forever etched in my heart and mind!
Here are a few of my favorite moments in Rome!
In Rome, Everyone Speaks Pasta
We were exhausted and hungry on the first day in Rome after our 8-hour flight, so we took a quick nap and then set off to find food. My parents let my brother and I lead the way, and embracing the foreignness of the city, we chose the path less traveled. Skipping through the cobblestone streets, we finally landed on a small restaurant that smelled like heaven, and the pasta tasted like it. Nobody spoke English, and the menu was little help, but unsurprisingly, everyone spoke pasta.
Learning Made Fun in Rome
The next day in Rome we visited the Colosseum, and that morning, our parents gifted us a small notebook with individual cameras to document our travels. We took it very seriously. Waiting in line, we wrote down our favorite Italian words. With our necks craned, holding our ears to the audio guide, our hands scribbled dates and names. After, we challenged each other to find the three different column styles on our walk back to the hotel: doric, ionic, and corinthian. That notebook holds almost as much knowledge as any history book I’ve studied in school.
We sprinkled in gelato stops between exciting new sites. I think this trip caused my brother’s current gelato obsession. To this day, my favorite photos from our travels consist of big smiles surrounded by chocolate-stained lips. As a meal rule, my parents never let us say, “I don’t like that.” Using gelato as bribery, they taught us to at least try everything. After this trip, my brother and I were never referred to as picky eaters.
Children Are Always Watching
Visiting the Roman Forum was my favorite site in Rome. Each structure had a story, and though they were just stones, my youthful creativity could envision the grand palaces and open plazas that once were. I felt the presence of the Roman gladiators walking the same cobblestone streets thousands of years before us. I knew we were someplace special when I looked over to see my mother’s tears of joy and wonder as my father hugged her. It dawned on me that I was only a little girl getting to experience this, and my parents, in their thirties, were here for the first time.
A Wish Come True
Our last night was spent gorging on gelato as we admired the sun slowly disappearing behind whitewashed buildings from our cozy spot on the Spanish Steps. Then we navigated the crowds posing for pictures in front of the Trevi Fountain for the chance to make our wishes. I’m not one for telling my wishes, but since it’s already come true, I will. I wished my family would take a trip to a new country every year. So far, we have! It would be so easy, and much cheaper, for our parents to travel without my brother and me. But they don’t. Instead, they take little local trips without us and always bring us along for the big adventures. The gift of travel is the greatest gift my brother and I have ever received.
We’ve taken so many incredible trips together as a family over the years. We unanimously agree, though, that our first European adventure will always be our favorite.
When I returned to school in the Fall following this first trip, we studied ancient Rome. Right there in my history books was the Colosseum! I was there and saw it with my own eyes. I walked where animals and gladiators once stood. It was so much more than a piece of architecture, and the background knowledge I possessed from this trip provided the perfect canvas for my teacher to paint the story of ancient Rome’s culture.
Now twenty years old, I seek out those different from me. I enjoy people from unique backgrounds because I know we have so much to learn from one another. Travel will always be a part of my life; it’s a priority that I plan, schedule, and budget for. Travel feeds my soul and has molded me into who I am today. I will forever be grateful to my Momma and Daddy for this most precious gift!
Travel changes you! It’s that simple. It stretches your mind and heart in ways you never dreamed possible. Your capacity to see different perspectives and understand other points of view and the depth to which you care about things that used to seemly not apply to you grows exponentially. Now, imagine your children or grandchildren experiencing these gifts. Think about the life-altering path you could put them on.