When I booked my flight path to the tiny town of Ubrique, Spain in late October 2018, I thought "I'm young. I can do this". "This" was a 30 hour journey from Cincinnati, Ohio to Ubrique, Spain, that included three flights, two train rides, a bus ride, and a lot of my patience.
This self-designed honors experience was the first time I had traveled internationally without a parent or adult figure. The research, ticket bookings, accommodations, and itinerary were all up to me and my sisters to figure out. It was a learning experience for all of us on how to be a savvy budget traveler, not look like a tourist, and how to get along with your family for three weeks without a break.
My younger sister and I set out on our 30-hour journey on December 15th. We traveled to Ubrique to meet my sister and her wife, who taught English there for nine months. Together, the four of us crisscrossed Spain and Italy for a once in a lifetime tour of some of the most breathtaking spots Europe has to offer. Our travels included Seville, Barcelona, and Madrid, Spain, as well as Venice, Florence, and Rome, Italy. I could go into depth about the winding bridges of Venice, the breathtaking beauty of seeing “Birth of Venus” in person, or how the dancing light at Sagrada Familia might convince even the most die-hard atheist to seek a higher power, but you’ve probably heard all that before.
I say that not to dismiss the privilege that comes with being able to see these incredible sights in person, but rather to draw focus to the lesson I learned during my extensive travels. Travel, can be very revealing. Without the comforts of home and in a constantly environment, traveling can bring out the best and the worst in our personalities.
This trip taught me more about my personal communication style, and where I have room to improve these skills. When you are spending every moment of the day for three weeks with the same people, communication is paramount. It also exposed me to new languages, political climates, and culture that I was not accustomed to. While I have been taking Spanish classes for the past seven years, using the language was a very different experience. It gave me more confidence in my speaking when I returned to the US with the knowledge that I have the capabilities to use Spanish in everyday conversation.
Navigating Europe with my sisters was exhilarating, tense, stressful, joyous, and exhausting. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Except the 30-hour flight path, I would never recommend that to anyone.
Instead of a deluge of pictures of sights and paintings, please enjoy these photos of my and my family’s heads under some of Europe’s most famous ceilings.