Fifteen years ago today, I landed in London with a group of about thirty other students and three teachers brave enough to take thirty thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds to England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland for 21 days. I was crazy nervous the night before we left, mostly because I think it took me until that day to fully realize I’d be traveling without my family and with a bunch of people I’d only met a few times at pre-trip orientation meetings. The travel wasn’t unnerving to me even then. It was just what I’ve done and always wanted to do.
That trip was so different from every other trip to Europe I’ve ever taken. I went with People to People International, a fantastic organization that runs trips around the world every summer for Student Ambassadors and now offers some trips for adults as well. It was the biggest group I’ve ever traveled with. I had the biggest suitcase I’ve ever taken overseas – even the bag I took to move to Italy for a semester was smaller. My favorite guidebook was the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to Great Britain. It was a true whirlwind trip; the pace was so fast I’d never seek to replicate it.
We began in London for several days of sightseeing. Then it was on to Peterborough in Cambridgeshire for homestays. In my homestay, I had my first taste of making and leaving behind traveling friends because my host sister and I hit it off immediately. After I got home, we wrote for a little while but then lost touch. We wrote real letters and my small town post office was not thrilled to be figuring out how to send a package to England when I decided to mail her a box of candy.
After our homestays, we spent a few days in Scotland, then north Wales, Ireland, southern Wales, and back to London before heading home. Every day was beautiful and exhausting. I got homesick some in the middle of the trip, but my suitcase was full of handwritten notes my family had hidden there to open on specific days during the trip. I had a phone card and could call home a few times. Now I’ve just forced my family to follow my Instagram account and I send them occasional emails.
It’s amazing how much has changed in the past fifteen years. I even had travelers’ checks on my first trip! I’d completely forgotten about them until I was in line for something in Spain in May and someone behind me in line was complaining about what a hard time he was having cashing his travelers checks. Dude, it’s 2015, get a debit card. But way back in 2000, so many people still had travelers’ checks that I cashed mine just about anywhere.
Thanks Mom and Dad for sending me on this trip! It surely helped me get where I am today and only increased the wanderlust I was already full of at age thirteen.
I dug through my photos and found a few from that first trip to share. All photos were shot on my first camera, a Kodak Advantix.