Florida was “the” Spring Break destination in my hometown. When my Dad called home to tell me where he was taking my sister and I for Spring Break, the word “Poland” did not resonate well in my 12 year-old ears. “Do they have beaches?” I asked.
Looking back on this moment, which was the start of a thirst I’d develop to travel, I’m thankful for my Dad’s unusual destination. This trip – which was my first time off the continent – taught me how to sing happy birthday in Polish, opened my eyes to an underground church made of salt, and allowed me to walk around a concentration camp. Too young to realize it at the time, I came back to the States changed.
Though I bought a fur hat instead of sunglasses, the memories I made were so unlike anything I could have done in Florida. My friends were on their sixth episode of MTV Spring Break while I was buying amber from a Polish street market and practicing saying “Bardzow Gencoolio.”
Since my trip to Poland and Czech-Republic in 7th grade, I’ve been to France three times, lived in England, and visited Germany, Wales, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Canada, Mexico and Ireland. I’m extremely lucky that the lot of these trips were funded and planned by my parents. They could have spent this same money for me on new clothes or a fancy car.
What they gave me instead was an eye-opening education of the world. They gave me memories that would not wear out or lose their value. They also gave me passion to do it again. I carry with me pictures of the St. Charles Bridge with its giant statues, eating bland pretzel circles from Polish street vendors, the rain that did not begin to deplete the beauty of Versailles, and little girls kissing my hands in the Warsaw train station.
As I grew old enough to make my own decisions about how to spend my money, traveling made the most sense. It was the quickest way to learn not only about myself but also about the world outside my home. Plus, it is hilarious to constantly be reminded that what is normal to me may be abnormal to others.
I would not have come to this realization and thirst to travel without my parents’ first giving me the opportunity to travel. I’m thankful and want to do the same for my own kids someday.